Dig out your flared jeans and dust off your disco vinyl – we’re heading back to the Seventies with a classic cheese fondue.
I need to start off by admitting that I have a serious thing for this particular decade. Although a self-confessed minimalist, I often secretly yearn for clunky wooden clogs, pageboy haircuts, glamorous cigarette advertisements, floral-print curtains in burnt orange and chocolate brown and a Mercedes Benz 280SL Roadster in beige. But since my origins lie in the early 1990s, I have to be content with my collection of vintage vinyl and the myriad retro recipe books I’ve unearthed at church bazaars, flea markets, charity shops and in Gran’s kitchen.
Usually fiddly and very kitsch, snacking in the 1970s was all about the wow factor – huge cheese balls, mushroom vol-au-vents, scalloped watermelons used as punch bowls and perfectly piped devilled eggs. Exoticism was also in vogue, and dishes that are common today such as moussaka, lasagne and prawn scampi were deemed ultimate dinner party dishes when one wanted to impress. One of my absolute favourites out of these has to be classic Cheese Fondue. Originating in that capital of cheesiness, Switzerland, and one of the best kinds of food for sharing, this rich golden mixture of cheese and wine is the perfect accompaniment to a boozy evening in front of the fire, with Jim Croce on the turntable and a small group of fellow groovy people, each armed with their own fork. Because double-dipping isn’t cool. Speaking of which, the choice of what to dip is open to interpretation but personally I love squares of sourdough, smoked sausages, crunchy cornichons and sharp pickled onions. Boiled baby potatoes, pretzels and lightly blanched asparagus tops also work wonderfully.
For this fondue I made use of a selection of cheeses that go a little beyond Emmental and Gruyère – one can really get creative. Just remember to remove the white mould coating if using Camembert or Brie. I’ve also made allowances for those without a fondue set although for this recipe I had the use of this rather charming Le Creuset Gourmand Fondue. Easily adaptable for either a cheese or meat (oil) fondue, the cast iron bowl section can go from stove to table while the handy burner below ensures things stay melty. While no fondue is complete without wine, I prefer to omit the use of Kirsch or other spirits in my fondue as I find it unnecessary, but feel free to add your own before adding the wine.
On that subject, what wine is best to pair with the almost indecent richness that is a classic cheese fondue? Word on the street is that a crisp, dry white like Riesling, Muscadet or even a Sauvignon Blanc work best but here I’ve opted to partner up cheesiness with Chardonnay – De Wetshof’s Limestone Hill 2019 Chardonnay to be exact. Limestone Hill’s appeal lies in its combined terroir of clay and limestone soil – the former giving a masculine opulence and upfront fruit notes while the wine’s namesake provides a chalky salinity interlaced with bright citrus. One of my favourite estates in the Robertson Valley area, De Wetshof seriously makes a case for sipping on Chardonnay all year round.
Perhaps this self-confessed Sauvignon girl isn’t as unwavering as she initially considered…
Prep time: 20 mins / Cook time: 15 mins / Serves: 4-6
You will need:
- 500g of assorted cheese
- 1T flour
- 375ml dry white wine
- a garlic clove, peeled and halved
- 5ml ground nutmeg
- 5ml fine black pepper
- cubes of fresh sourdough
- roasted new potatoes
- steamed baby carrots
- sautéed mushrooms
- steamed asparagus spears
Grate all the cheese and dust it in the flour, tossing to coat. If using a fondue set, rub the halved garlic clove around the inside of the bowl. If not, skip this step until later on.
Add the wine to your fondue bowl or a small pot and set it over low heat. Once warmed through, add in the cheese, stirring occasionally, and leave to melt slowly into the wine. Stir through the ground nutmeg and leave the lid off the pot so as to let the fondue reduce slightly. This should take about 20 minutes or so. If using a separate earthenware dish (not a fondue set) then warm it now in the oven.
Rub the inside of your warmed ceramic or earthenware pot with the halved clove of garlic. When the cheese has melted entirely and the resulting fondue has a creamy consistency with a cheesy pull, pour the mixture into the ceramic pot and place over a tea light candle to keep warm and get everyone to join in the fun immediately. If using your fondue set, soak the burner pad with methylated spirits and ignite at the table. Set the burner to the lowest heat and place the fondue dish on to the stand to keep warm.
The choice of what to dip is open to interpretation but personally I love giant salted pretzel breads, small smoked sausages, crunchy cornichons and sharp pickled onions. Boiled baby potatoes, fresh spongy sourdough bread and lightly blanched asparagus tops also work wonderfully.