FONDUE & RACLETTE
Two traditional Swiss recipes with local ingredients.
These traditional Swiss dishes can be made with local Australian ingredients for a get together with family or friends at the dinner table. All the cooking is done at the table, so everyone gets to talk to everyone else and you don't need to spend long in the kitchen preparing!
Makes enough for 6 people or 4 very hungry people
400g grated Gruyère-style cheese (eg Heidi Farm Gruyère)
400g grated Swiss-style cheese (eg Tilba Swiss, Heidi Farm Tilsit)
1 clove of garlic, cut into two
4 teaspoons of corn flour
squeeze of lemon juice
350ml dry white wine (eg Rocky Hall or Mimosa Verdelho) See #2
1 splash of kirsch (optional) See #2
1 pinch of Cayenne pepper or black pepper (optional)
Crusty or sourdough bread, salad and pickles
In the kitchen
Slice the bread thickly, prepare some fresh salad and pickles for the table.
Rub the inside of the fondue dish (caquelon) with garlic and discard, or leave it in the pot if more flavour desired.
Place the caquelon on the stove over a high heat, add the white wine, cornflour and lemon juice, stir with a wooden spoon and bring it to the boil. Quickly add the two cheeses and stir – keep the heat high and don't stop stirring until the cheese has melted.
If the mix starts to separate, add some extra drops of lemon juice, turn up the heat and stir faster! If the mix is too thin, add a little more cornflour to a little wine and add it to the pot.
Once the cheese has melted, add the kirsch and pepper if desired and bring the pot quickly to the burner on the table.
At the table
Light the burner, put the metal heat spreader on top, then place the caquelon on top and encourage your diners to dip their bread in on long forks, giving the fondue a quick stir as they do so.
Always take care with an open flame at the table, especially if children are present!
#1 Look for a 1.5L pottery or terracotta caquelon with a heatproof handle for cheese fondue (metal pots are really designed for meat or stock based fondues). An enamelled cast iron pot is the next best option. You’ll find them at good quality kitchenware stores or online. Special burners and burner gel are available from some hardware stores, or use a methylated spirits burner with a variable heat control.
#2 Alcohol doesn’t burn off completely during cooking - in fact about 40% of the alcohol will remain even after 30 minutes. If you’re making fondue for children, or for strictly non-drinking adults, you can leave out the kirsch and wine and substitute zero alcohol wine or low-salt chicken stock or vegetable stock. The flavour will be different, but the fondue may be more prone to curdling, so keep some extra lemon juice handy.
#3 Try adding a little of your favourite ‘secret cheese’ to the mix to make the recipe your own!
#4 If you drop the bread off your fork into the fondue, you need to pay a forfeit – a kiss or a round of drinks is traditional!
#5 When the cheese is almost all gone, keep the burner going just long enough to get a crust of golden crispy cheese on the bottom. Turn off the burner, lift the crust off carefully with a wooden or plastic scraper and share around the table - yum!
#6 Never use a metal scraper, metal spoon or steel wool in your fondue caquelon. To clean, soak it in hot water with a little detergent, overnight if necessary. Any remaining cheese should lift off easily with some paper towel.
Raclette is the Swiss equivalent of the Aussie barbecue, except everyone is in the one place - around the dinner table! It's a great meal to have for guests when you don't want to stress out and still provide everyone with exactly what they like. Experiment with whatever is in season.
Raclette cheese originated in the French speaking areas in the Alpine regions of the Valais canton in Switzerland. According to legend, local herders in the Alps set up camp for the night and the cheese that was lying around on stones melted near the open fire. Someone scraped it off the rock, tasted it and thought it tasted great. The idea quickly spread throughout the valley and the cheese became well known as ideal to melt. Other ingredients would accompany the meal like gherkins, small pickled onions and to drink: kirsch, herbal tea or local white wine. Whilst the traditional large cheese round and open grill can still be found in market stalls in Switzerland, at home the Swiss use a special raclette grill and turn it into a meal experience for family and guests.
For under the grill
150-200g good melting cheese per person, sliced in squares 8x8cm and 3-5mm thick (eg Tilba Swiss, Tilba Blue or Heidi Farm Raclette)
4-5 small steamed potatoes per person (eg Nicola or Kipfler)
For top of the grill
You can substitute anything that's in season - here are some suggestions: thinly sliced capsicum, mushrooms, small tomatoes, leg ham, prosciutto, pepperoni, prawns, sliced onions, marinated sliced chicken/beef, blanched celery, asparagus, snow peas
Crusty bread, gherkins, avocado, fresh or dried herbs, pickles, olives or salads on the side.
Arrange all ingredients on several platters so that your guests can reach them easily. Keep the steamed potatoes warm in a separate lidded dish. Turn on the raclette grill. Now demonstrate how it's done to your guests...
Put a slice of cheese on one of the raclette sliders and place it under the grill to melt. Brush the top of the grill with a very little amount of olive oil (not too much or the hot oil may spit) and add the vegetables and meat of your choice, turning them until cooked through.
Put some potatoes and your favourite ingredients from the top of the grill on your plate, scrape the melted cheese over the top and enjoy. Now it's over to your guests to do the same...
Always take care with a hot raclette grill at the table, especially if children are present!
#1 If you want to buy a raclette grill, go to or try upmarket or online kitchenware stores who sometimes stock them in winter.
#2 European raclette cheese can be found in many delis. You'll also find Heidi Farm Raclette (Tasmania) and Ferndale (NZ). You can substitute any hard cheese that melts well and tastes good! Closer to home, try Tilba Swiss, Tilba Blue and experiment with some of the spicier varieties like Kalamata, Garlic and Chilli and Paprika.
Thanks to Lis Shelley for this recipe, which she demonstrated at the 2016 Spring Nethercote Produce Market.
Photo Credits: Lis Shelley