One of the great things about rediscovering traditional food and cooking is learning to embrace all the natural fats we were once warned are the root cause of all our current ills. Of course there are those who always knew, instinctively, that abandoning butter, cheeses and drippings was nonsense. Then again there were many, myself included, who for years spurned melted cheeses, butter or other delicious animal fats convinced they would clog the arteries and make us fat.
Now I know that low-fat alternatives are just phoneys with artificial flavourings thrown in to mimic the delicious taste of natural animal fats whilst failing to deliver the necessary nutrients. If you’re going to indulge – indulge in the real McCoy!
Best of all kids love the conviviality of sitting around the table poking sticks into a communal pot.
Probably not something to be eaten every day of the week given that few of us toil in Alpine fields during the day or hack at timber with a heavy axe in sub-zero temperatures – but then again an occassional winter treat such as this can’t do too much harm – so enjoy and feel relaxed in the knowledge that these traditionally consumed meals are not the evil monsters they have been made out to be in the past.
Although we always associate a cheese fondue with Switzerland in fact the tradition of melting cheese in a pan with some added flour and wine is wide-spread across the Alpine region – from Switzerland to Austria, France and Italy. Choose which ever hard Alpine cheese pleases you the most – Le Gruyère, Emmentaler, Appenzeller or (if your budget stretches that far) Comté.
Because the cheese is melted over a pan many of the live bacteria in the cheese and natural enzymes will have been killed off though the fat soluble vitamins will remain in tact. Serve this alongside some crusty, sourdough bread, salt gherkins, sauerkraut, a fresh green salad and some grapes all of which will add a light touch to the richness of the melted cheese.
Hard Alpine cheese such as Le Gruyère, Emmentaler, Appenzeller, Tilster or Comté – 200 gr per person.
A dry white wine – 100 ml per person.
2 cloves of garlic – or more if you love garlic.
Corn flour or arrow-root – 1 tea-spoon per 200 gr of cheese.
Salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cut the two cloves of garlic in two and smear them around the heavy pot crushing the juices. When finished leave the crushed garlic at the bottom of the pan.
Add the wine, salt, pepper and corn-flour or arrow root into the pot and mix until all the flour has dispersed into the wine.
Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.
Cut the cheese into cube sized pieces – it goes quicker than grating and melts just as well.
Add the cheese to the simmering wine and stir until all the cheese has melted.
Grate some nutmeg into the mixture and bring to the table.
Do not fret if you do not own a fondue set. Just use any heavy-bottomed pan you have to hand. Place two or three tea-lights in the centre of either a roasting pan or a baking tray. Place a grill over the tea-lights to rest the pan with the melted cheese on. The tea-lights are amazingly effective at keeping the cheese warm and at just the right consistency. This tip came courtesy of Beatrice and she’s not wrong – I can guarantee it works. Definitely cheaper than a fancy fondue set – but then again fondue sets are so much fun so if you see a good one going at a great price on e-bay, or jumble sale or second hand shop or if you can persuade your parents or relatives to part with their 1970’s fondue set – go for it!