Sunday, 22 June 2014

World Cup Food Challenge: Switzerland - Beer Fondue

Switzerland.  Home of the Swiss Army Knife, Red Bull, Toblerone, tax havens, and armed neutrality.  Birthplace of the Red Cross and the cuckoo clock.  It is also the home of FIFA, so it's not really surprising that they qualified for Brazil 2014.

Switzerland are the last of my four countries for the World Cup Food Challenge, but Tonight's Menu is one that I have been greedily looking forward to.  Anybody who knows me will be able to confirm that I am a lover of Cheese.  Given the choice I will go for a cheese board over any dessert on a restaurant menu.  I'm a paid up member of Homage 2 Fromage, Leeds' wonderful cheese club.  For my birthday this year Z bought me a cheese making kit.  It should be of no surprise that I chose fondue to represent Switzerland.

The decision wasn't automatic though.  Fondue was on the back burner whilst I was looking for other dishes to cook, when I found the recipe for "The Best Swiss Cheese and Beer Fondue".  Cheese and beer? Now you're talking.  I've only had fondue a couple of times in the past and the most memorable time was memorable for all the wrong reasons.  Too much booze overpowered the cheese.  The idea of a beery version was too good to miss out on.

The recipe is specific in relation to the cheese that's required, but when it came to the beer, it just says beer.  Dark beer, light beer, hoppy beer, I really didn't know what they had in mind.  I contacted Beer Ritz via Twitter to see if they stocked any Swiss beer, but the answer was no.  I was at a loss and started googling Swiss beer styles to see if I could get an idea of the type of beer that I should use.  I had settled on using a Helles style light lager when I was contacted by John from 1936 Biere.

John had seen my conversation with Beer Ritz and, being the seller of a beer brewed in Switzerland, was quick to get in touch and tell me of his wares.  He pointed me in the direction of Lazy Lounge who stock 1936, both bottled and on draft.  I hot footed it to the pub, bought the last six bottles of Swiss beer in the region*, and stashed it in the cellar until it was needed.

Yesterday I sourced the cheese for my fondue.  A trip to George and Joseph in Chapel Allerton is always a pleasure.  Stephen (cheesemonger extraordinaire) had reserved me a block of Reserve Gruyere de Jura and suggested Ogleshield Raclette as a suitable replacement for Emmental.  The two grated blocks of cheese were slowly melted into the beer, nothing could have been easier.

The only thing left was to decide what to dunk into the cheesy goodness.  We went for the obligatory bread, radishes, carrot batons, gherkins, and pickled onions, all washed down with the rest of the 1936.  The only rules were no double dipping and no sabotaging anybody else's dunk by knocking their bread off their fork and into the fondue.

Switzerland are not yet out of the world cup. A win against Honduras could well be enough to see them through to the knockout stages.  I'm not sure I'll be able to top fondue as a Swiss meal but I'll have to give it a go.  I will be going out to buy a fondue set though.  The orange beauty in the photo belongs to Nick, from Homage 2 Fromage, who was wonderful enough to let me borrow it for tonight.

*I also had a cheeky half pint of it while I was there.  Well it would have been rude not to.

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