Happy New Year and a dollop of baked Vacherin

I’m (just slightly belatedly) wishing you a wonderful 2014 with touch of snowy, winter glamour from the 1930’s.

Granny Skating in Switzerland

We’ve been pretty holed up in not-so-sunny Bristol so I’ve delved into the album for this fabulous picture of Granny and family skating in Grindelwald, Switzerland. I’ve always loved this photo;  Gran (2nd from the left) was evidently going through a tomboy stage, whilst cricket jumpers and plus fours were quite obviously de rigueur for the chaps at the time. I was going to post a mulled wine recipe so as to accompany the picture with a bit of Swiss style but, having faffed around getting down to the writing, it now seems a little unseasonable. It’s probably fine to drink gluhwein on the slopes but it really only seems good for pre-Christmas quaffing back here.

My nod in the Alpine direction will be a box of the amazingly delicious Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese. I know that I’ll be sick of all the predictable January detox talk in a couple of weeks time, although right now I’m happily living on wintery, raw vegetable salads and frugal lentils (accompanied with Stilton   –  everything with Stilton, we only have about 2 kg to go!). But back to the Vacherin which, with just a few minutes in the oven, becomes an almost instant cheese fondue.

Hot cheese is such a guilty, artery-clogging pleasure and thankfully this is just worlds apart from the deep-fried Camembert that used to turn up on every pub menu with sickly jam alongside. I never really got it, frying an already fatty indulgence, a bit like the Glaswegian battered Mars Bar – or was that a myth? (Naughty Nigella certainly includes a deep fried Bounty Bar in her book “Nigella Bites” – ooh I just couldn’t)

I’d plump for a French rather than Swiss Mont D’Or  (the cheese is produced in a region straddling both countries) as the French version is often unpasteurised, look out for “lait cru”, and the cheese has much more tang. The small 1lb /450g ish cheese comes in it’s own little wooden box, rather like a Camembert minus the waxy wrapping paper, since in this case contact with the spruce container flavours the cheese as it matures. So you’re ready to go, no washing up, you already have the box to heat up and serve the cheese in.

So, fire up your oven to around 200ºc /Gas Mark 6 . Slice up a clove of garlic. Take the lid off the box and make a few slits in the top of the cheese, slip in the garlic and splash with a few drops of wine. You could add a few fresh thyme leaves now too. Put the cheese in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes and then bring to the table and devour. This is seriously moreish but with plenty of good bread, some new potatoes (I love Anya or Pink Fir Apple) and maybe a few cornichons to dunk and dollop it will make an indulgent starter for 4, or a serious blow-out for 2. Lie back and watch your cholesterol hit the roof – you could always have a great big green salad to follow.

(It’s wise to wrap the bottom of the box in a bit of foil whilst it heats through, just in case of leaks)

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