Listed as what’s ‘cool in food’ in various food magazines, and proving to be coming back into fashion, fondue is on the up! Something you may or may not have experienced while on a ski holiday or maybe something you remember doing in the 1970’s a fondue party is back in the press.
Alive with Flavour’s first supper club of 2019 came to me over dinner in Les Deux Alps, last Summer. A group of us were away walking for the weekend, we sat down one evening, and indulged in some ‘Apres Ski’. It was such a wonderful evening of cheese and accompaniments, we agreed it would be a very ‘hands on’ experience for one of my supper club events.
During the 18th century the origin of fondue began in Switzerland as a way to use aged cheeses and breads to feed families who had limited access to fresh foods during the winter time. Producers of cheese and bread saw their busy season was during the warm months and that the food had to be saved by villagers to be used through the cold winter months. As the cheese would age and the breads became stale it became more difficult to eat. The local villagers found that if they heated the cheese with wines, garlic, and herbs they could dip their stale bread which would soften when dipped into the flavourful cheese mixture. This way of cooking together over one pot and eating by a warm cozy fire became a Swiss winter tradition known as fondue. The word fondue comes from the French word, ‘fondre’, which means ‘to melt’ and has since then been used to reference many other types of fondue for meats, chicken, seafood, and even chocolate.
1875 was the first recorded fondue recipe in Switzerland.
It wasn’t until the 1930’s that Switzerland started promoting fondue as the national dish and in the 1950s it made it to the USA for the World Fair – Switzerlands cocktail dish, a most sophisticated meal, made with Gruyere and Alpine cheeses.
I have been researching all about cheese I spent the day with Clare at Slate Cheese in Aldeburgh, Suffolk listen to our Podcast here. If you work in London you may want to check out Paxton and Whitfield in Jermyn Street, London – a fountain of knowledge and know everything about cheese!
Raclette has more than one definition. Raclette is a Swiss cheese dish, a cultural land mark, the name of a cheese, a table top appliance, a dining experience, a great time!
Raclette is very popular in Europe, especially in the Swiss Alps and other ski regions. And that’s where it’s said Raclette came from.
Back in the days, Swiss shepherds from the French speaking Valais region needed to bring food up to the Alps that was relative cheap and wouldn’t spoil easily in the hot summer month. So they brought cheese and potatoes. While the potatoes roasted in the fire, a big piece of cheese was put close to the fire. Once it started melting the cheese was taken away and scraped of the cheese onto the baked potatoes. This was not only filling and nourishing but also delicious. In French ‘to scrape’ translates to ‘racler’ and this is where the term Raclette comes from.
Today, few houses have an open fire place, so to simulate the process we now have Raclette Melter that hold a block or half wheel of cheese under a heating element. Once melted, the cheese is being scraped off onto the prepared potatoes.
Another variety is a Raclette Grill, ‘ Pierre chaude’ which allows melting individual portions of cheese and offers a grill top to serve grilled vegetables, meat, chicken, or fish with the cheese.
It was again part of my experience in the Alps last summer and I felt it was very important to use a Raclette Melter rather than a grill which is a more familiar method.
The recipe we used for our evening was a French take on the Swiss fondue with a mix of Emmental, Gruyere and Beauford or Comte. I have also used Kirsch which gives a fruity sweet cherry or quite plummy flavour to our fondue.
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