We don’t go just for the food, but a trip to the Alps would never be complete without all those delicious Alpine dishes. After memorable mornings and exhilarating afternoons on the slopes, there’s nothing better than drifting under the snow-covered rafters of a snug mountain hut for some local grub. And whether it’s photos, food or just funny memories, it’s nice to be able to take a piece of your holiday back with you. We think these Alpine-inspired recipes are a great way to relive those mountain moments at home.
This mouth-watering masterpiece of the Alps originated in the Aravis valley - also the home of Reblochon cheese. But although it’s become synonymous with the Alps, it’s not actually all that traditional. Tartiflette was in fact only born in the 1980s, when Reblochon trade union needed a way to help boost sales of the cheese. But we don’t mind – like many things from the 80s, it’s amazing! Although recipes vary from village to village, it always contains cheese and potatoes, and normally bacon as well.
• 800g waxy potatoes, skins on
• Approx. 230g reblochon cheese
• 140-170g bacon lardons
• 15g butter
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 60ml dry white wine or dry vermouth
• 90ml double cream
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. It’s best to use potatoes that are all the same size so that they cook more evenly. Boil them in their skins for exactly 20 minutes, until they’re just starting to get tender. Make sure not to overcook! Rinse with cold water to stop them cooking once you’ve taken them off the heat.
2. While still warm, peel the potatoes, and using a very sharp knife, cut them into slices about 2cm thick. Then cut the slices into rough cubes.
3. Melt the butter in a large frying pan, and then cook the lardons over medium-high heat until crisp and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the bacon fat in the pan.
4. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
5. Cook the onions in the bacon fat over medium heat, stirring regularly, until slightly golden. Drain in a strainer, pressing with a spoon to remove as much fat as possible, and leave them there.
6. Pour off the fat in the pan, return the bacon and onions, and add the wine. Cook over high heat until the wine is nearly evaporated.
7. Add the diced potatoes and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly until all the ingredients are well mixed together.
8. Add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Try using a little more salt than you might think is necessary, at least 1/2 teaspoon. Stir all the ingredients together for a minute.
9. Lightly butter the inside of a 10- or 11-inch earthenware baking dish. Add the potato mixture and smooth the surface.
10. Cut the Reblochon in two down across the top so that you have two half moon shaped pieces. Put one half away to use another time. Use a sharp knife to lightly score the crust of the remaining half every 2-3 cm. Then carefully slice horizontally through the centre, so that you have two halves again.
11. Place the two pieces of cheese crust-side-up on top of the potatoes so that they form a circular cheese again. Cover the dish tightly with aluminium foil and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour.
12. After removing the foil, stir the cheese (with the crust) into the potatoes, and mix well. Place 10-15cm under the grill and cook until golden brown on top.
Although perhaps less typically Alpine, the heavenly croque monsieur is a prominent dish in the mountains. There are many variations – including the famous ‘croque madame’, which has a fried egg on top – but the original is a simple toasted sandwich made the French way. It’s easy to make and perfect for those chilly winter days when you need something hot but haven’t got time to make it!
For 1 sandwich
• 2 thick slices French bread
• 10g butter
• 55g Gruyère, thinly sliced
• 55g ham, thinly sliced
• 10ml Dijon mustard
Butter one side of each slice of bread and spread with mustard. Place ham on one piece of bread, and cheese on the other. Place under the grill, and when the bread is crunchy, place the cheese side on top of the ham. Serve immediately.
Soupe à l’Oignon
Another wonderful, warming speciality in the restaurants of the Alps, French onion soup has been enjoyed since Roman times. The caramelised onions give the soup the delicious, rich flavour that makes it so addictive. Luckily, it’s also surprisingly easy to make.
• 4 large onions
• 850ml of beef stock (to make a vegetarian version, try a home-made onion stock)
• 120ml white wine/Sherry
• 20g flour
• 30g grated Gruyère
• 4 slices French bread
• 1 clove of garlic
• 20g butter (for the soup)
• 10g butter (for the croutons)
Method: The soup
1. Slice the onions and sauté them gently in the butter. You mustn’t rush this part! Stirring regularly, let the onions brown very gently for about 30 minutes
2. Add the flour and stir.
3. Add a quarter of the stock and stir for a while. Add another quarter of the stock, and the wine, continuing to stir. Finally, add the rest of the stock and then turn down the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.
Method: the croutons
1. Crush and chop the garlic. Butter each slice of bread on one side, and then rub the garlic into the bread.
2. Divide the cheese between the slices of bread and place under the grill for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread toasted.
3. Serve the soup immediately with the croutons on top.
This is the perfect hearty dish for cold nights. Although typically made with Raclette cheese and scraped from a large wheel onto your plate, you can make this at home by substituting it for Compté or Gruyère if you can’t find Raclette.
• 500g Raclette/Compté/ Gruyère cheese
• 1kg new potatoes or Charlotte potatoes
• 1 jar good quality French cornichons
• 1 jar of pickled pearl onions
• 2 good quality French baguettes
1. Scrub the potatoes thoroughly. You can peel them, or choose to leave the skins on for added nutrition.
2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt and then the potatoes. Make sure the potatoes have ample room.
3. Allow to boil for 25 to 30 minutes. You can test them by piecing them with a sharp knife or skewer.
4. When they’re cooked, drain the water but leave the potatoes in the pan until you are ready to use them. Pull off any loose skins.
5. Cut the cheese into 2cm cubes or slices. You can cut them into smaller pieces if you want to speed up the melting process.
6. Place the cheese onto a metal or oven-safe glass plate or pan and place under the grill until the cheese is just melted.
7. Scrape or pour the cheese onto individual plates, and serve with the vegetables and potatoes.
Many true Alpine-food devotees will feel that fondue is the region’s real signature dish, and although you might need a fondue set to get you started, this can be turned into one of the simplest, tastiest and most fun meals in existence! You can make different fondues depending on what kind of pot you have – a small ceramic one lit by a tea-light is all you need for chocolate, whereas a larger pot with an alcohol or gel burner is better for melting cheese.
Basic Alpine Cheese Fondue
• Fondue pot
• Fondue forks or wooden skewers
• 1 clove garlic, halved
• 350ml dry white wine
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• 2 teaspoons kirsch
• 230g Emmental
• 230g Gruyère
• Cubes of French bread
1. Rub the sides of a heavy saucepan with the cut sides of garlic, and then discard the garlic.
2. Add the wine to the pot and allow to simmer over a moderate heat.
3. Stir the cornstarch into the kirsch in a bowl.
4. Add the cheeses to the cooking pot gradually, and stir constantly (in a zigzag pattern rather than with a circular motion) until the cheese is melted and creamy. Do not allow to boil.
5. Add the cornstarch mixture to the fondue and stir.
6. Bring the fondue to a simmer and continue to stir until the mixture is thickened – for about 5-8 minutes
7. Transfer to a fondue pot over a flame and serve with the bread for dipping.
This makes a lovely basic fondue, but if you’d like to test out a twist on the original you can always try using different cheeses – or even using beer or whiskey instead of wine. You can also experiment with different foods for dipping – try chunks of courgette or aubergine, artichoke hearts or potato wedges, or even something sweeter such as pear slices instead of bread. Be creative – you might discover something amazing!
Posted on Wednesday 12 Dec 2012