Before our recent trip to Switzerland my husband asked what I was looking forward to most – without hesitation I answered Cheese Fondue. For me it brings back memories of student days in Montreux where we typically finished off a hard day of skiing with Gluwein followed by a Cheese Fondue. Fondue became part of my staple diet, along with almost daily outings to the Grand Cafe for Movenpick ice-cream sundaes – the best thing about being young was I could eat what I liked and not worry about putting on weight! Two kids later my waistline dictates that I can’t eat Fondue quite as often, but for me its still a fabulous treat.
Fondue lends itself well to all sorts off occasions – its a great casual family meal to share together with your kids (minus the Kirsch of course!), a fun and impressive dish to serve for a group of friends or the perfect romantic dinner for two. Most people love cheese fondue, but it always pays to check with your guests beforehand, as I learned the hard way when one member of my dinner party declared cheese didn’t agree with him and had a rather frugal meal of dry bread and pickled onions!
This traditional Swiss dish is not often found on menus in New Zealand it is however surprisingly easy to make at home. If you travel around Switzerland you will find the recipe will vary from region to region as each has their own special blend of cheeses. I recommend sticking to an equal mix of Gruyere and Emmental as these are both readily available in New Zealand and will result in an authentic fondue flavor. Don’t try and skimp and use cheddar or Edam as it just won’t taste right. This is the basic recipe I use:
The cheese mixture:
- 500 grams Cheese (Emmentaler and Gruyere cubed)
- 200 ml Dry White Wine (unoaked)
- 2 cloves of Garlic
- half a teaspoon Nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons Cornflour – (sieved to prevent lumps)
- 2 tablespoons Kirsch (Optional)
- Crusty White bread, cut into bite sized cubes (use a sharp serrated knife and try not to flatten the bread when slicing)
- Pickled cocktail onions and gherkins
- Black pepper
For variety you can serve a selection of raw or cooked vegetables like cauliflower, asparagus, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms or some people enjoy cubes of ham or mini sausages or even sliced and fried spicy sausage like chorizo to dip in their fondue. Personally I prefer to stick fresh crusty bread and pickled onions and rather serve a fresh garden salad as a starter to up the veggie intake.
Cheese fondue is traditionally served in a ceramic fondue pot which is kept warm over a spirit burner with long fondue forks for dipping. Don’t worry if you have a metal fondue pot, although this is meant for meat fondue is works just as well and you can always fall back on an ordinary cooking pot heated over a teapot stand.
Cheese fondue should always be served with a dry white wine or black tea. The logical reason for this is that these drinks help the cheese to be easily digested. If you drink cold fizzy drinks or beer the cheese is said to form hard lumps in your stomach and gives you a heavy uncomfortable feeling. The occasional tipple of Kirsch is also helps digest the cheese. For a fun evening you could even try dipping the bread in Kirsch before dipping it into the cheese. Just make sure its just a very quick dunk as if you soak the bread too long in the Kircsh it comes off the fork in the fondue pot. This a common hazard though whether or not you try the kirsch, loosing your bread in the pot is inevitable, no matter how carefully you load your fork sooner or later you are bound to drop a piece – the punishment is that you are supposed to kiss the person sitting next to you so a good tip is to choose the seating arrangements carefully!
If you want a truly decadent dessert then chocolate fondue is the way to go. My favorite is melted white Toblerone (one of those giant bars from Duty Free is perfect for this) with Stawberries to dip when they are in season. Again I prefer simplicity and usually stick to just chocolate and strawberries which are a match made in heaven, but you can add other like fruits banana and grapes and also marshmallows or cubes of cake.