The origins of the cheese fondue can be found in Switzerland, France (Rhone Alps) and Italy (Piedmont and Aosta Valley). The earliest known recipe for a fondue as we know it today was found in Zurich in a book published in 1699. Not surprisingly the Fondue Savoyarde contains cheeses from the Haute Savoie and Savoie regions of the Rhone Alps. These are typically Beaufort, Comte and Tomme de Savoie. The word fondue is a French word meaning melted which is derived from the verb Fondre (to melt). A cheese fondue is normally cooked on a portable stove brought to the table to create a sociable meal of dipping pieces of bread on long forks into the delicious melted cheese and wine mixture. Tradition has it that there are forfeits given to those losing their bread in the fondue pot; if a man loses his bread he buys the next drinks and if a woman loses hers she must kiss her neighbours! The local Savoie wines are used in the fondue and are a very good accompaniment for the fondue.
There are many recipes and variations of cheeses and quantities, I bought my cheeses from a local delicatessen in Les Gets – La Cave Getoise and asked his advice about his favourite cheeses for a fondue, he is a Getoise (someone who comes from Les Gets) but one of the cheeses he recommended is Swiss! He grated them all for me too, which saves a lot of time. So I thought I’d give it a try and here is the recipe I used for 4 people around 700 – 800g of grated cheese in total. It was delicious!
FONDUE SAVOYARDE RECIPE
400g Beaumont – a French Gruyere
150g Vacherin – Swiss
1 1/2 teaspoons cornflour
a small glass of Kirsch
1 bottle of dry white Savoie wine – I used Apremont
1 garlic clove
1 large loaf of bread cut into 2-3cm cubes
Mix the cornflour with the Kirsch.Rub the peeled and cut in half garlic clove around the inside of the fondue pan, normally a large Le Creuset or heavy-bottomed type pan. Pour in half the bottle of wine and bring to the boil. Add the Kirsch and cornflour mix stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until it lightly boils. Slowly add the grated cheese, alternating with a little wine. Make sure the mixture is hot enough to melt the cheese but doesn’t re-boil as this could curdle the cheese.
NB: I made the fondue on my hob and then when piping hot and ready I put it on the portable stove for serving and to keep warm at the table – bon appétit!
all photos are copyright ©Caro Blackwell