[Y]ou’re either a snow person or you’re not. And I don’t mean people like my lovely mum, who worries about falling over and breaking something when it gets icy. I’m talking about people who genuinely don’t like it, who shake their heads in annoyance when they can’t get to work, whose hearts don’t leap at the thought of a snow day. Killjoys the lot.
I’ve always been a snow person, before I’d even experienced it firsthand. Growing up in Australia, even the idea of snow was magical and unicorn-like. It didn’t help that my parents and assorted relatives, who emigrated in the 60s for the princley sum of ten pounds, would lovingly describe feet of snow and days off school. We also sat through full turkey dinners on swelteringly hot Christmas days. So, it was no surprise that I fell in love with the Alps from the very first time I planted a ski pole in the snow there.
A first ski season as a chalet host turned into five seasons, and my obsession grew until I did back-to-back winters in Europe and New Zealand. From the pretty alpine chalets to the hearty Savoyard mountain fare, I was completely and utterly hooked. I still am, which is why I own a complete fondue set, purchased in Carrefour and lovingly carried back on the train by my husband, who shares my obsession. Even though my ski season days are long gone, I still still keep an eye on the snow reports and I know that this year has been a year for bumper snow across Europe. To celebrate the final weeks of the season, we sparked up the fondue set for a final cheesy celebration and it was every bit as good as the genuine article. We accessorized our fondue with traditional Savoyarde accompaniments – pickles, green salad and cured meats, which arrived by post in the most timely way, from Nikki and Hugh at Chalet Savoie Faire. (You can read about our summer Alpine shoot here).
This recipe lists the traditional cheeses for fondue but don’t get too particular about it – we actually threw in plenty of extra scraps, including a few parmesan rinds. Don’t be afraid to freestyle it with the dipping items. We also have carrot, celery and radishes and the kids love to dunk broccoli ‘trees’ and pretend they have snow on them. Bon apetit and leave your seventies skie suits at the door!
- 400g grated gruyere cheese
- 400g grated emmental cheese
- (substitutes include Vacherin, Reblochon & some people swear by a few triangle of Laughing Cow)
- 250ml white wine
- 2 teaspoons cornflour
- 2 tablespoons kirsch or vermouth or any eau de vie
- 1 clove garlic (peeled)
- ground black pepper
- grated fresh nutmeg to taste
- stale or lighted toasted french stick cut into cubes
- radicchio or other bitter salad leaves
- (kids also enjoy dipping broccoli and so do I!)
- Start by rubbing your fondue all over with a piece of cut garlic.
- Then add the wine and the chopped or grated cheese and heat gently until it just boils. Use a little more wine or the kirsch/spirit to mix the cornflour into a paste. Stir the paste into the mixture and simmer until the cheese thickens.
- Add your nutmeg and black pepper to taste. You can also add a little salt at this stage. I actually prefer to add a vegetable stock cube to give a lovely savoury edge and greater depth of flavour.
- Simmer gently for 15 mins before serving.