A Fondue Party to Feed Friends

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A fondue party – sounds very sixties, but it’s a terrific way to entertain – so easy to prepare, interactive and lots of fun. A melting Cheddar Cheese fondue is comforting and irresistible. The classic is made with a mixture of Gruyere and Emmental, with some dry white wine, Kirsch and potato flour – easier to achieve in Austria or Switzerland than over here. 

However, one can make a delicious Cheddar cheese fondue in minutes. Place yourself strategically at the table, because if you accidentally drop your bread into the pot, you must kiss the person on your left.

A fondue set is not completely essential but its much easier and more glam if one has a set complete with burner, fondue pot and long handled forks. It will last for years and can be whipped out at moment’s notice when you want to feed lots of hungry friends with the minimum of fuss and bother.

The process is simple, just grate the cheese, crush garlic, chop some nice fresh parsley, have a pot of Ballymaloe country relish or a homemade tomato chutney and drop of dry white wine at the ready.

A Fondue Bourgignon is a different process, the meat, succulent cubes of beefsteak are cooked at the table and then dipped in a variety of sauces – garlic mayonnaise, horseradish sauce, béarnaise sauce would all be delicious.

Cubes of lamb also work well, served with an onion sauce and perhaps an apple and mint jelly. You’ll need lots of ventilation for fondue bourgignon and be careful to transfer the meat onto your plate, rather than eat off the fondue fork which can be blisteringly hot. 
Another of my favourite suppers, but not exactly similar is Raclette. For this you will definitely need a Raclette set to melt the slices of special Raclette cheese to scrape over your cooked potatoes, an accompanying green salad and perhaps a few pickles are all that are needed.

Chocolate fondue is rich and decadent, you’ll need lots of fruit and how about some squishy marshmallows to dunk in the last of the chocolate – sublime and so easy.

Ballymaloe Cheese Fondue

Myrtle Allen devised this Cheese Fondue recipe made from Irish Cheddar cheese. It's a great favourite at Ballymaloe and even though it's a meal in itself it may be made in minutes and is loved by adults and children alike. A fondue set is obviously an advantage but not essential.
Serves 2
2 tablesp. white wine
2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teasp. Ballymaloe Tomato Relish or any tomato chutney
2 teasp. freshly chopped parsley
6 ozs (170g) grated mature Cheddar cheese 
Crusty white bread
Put the white wine and the rest of the ingredients into a small saucepan or fondue pot and stir. Just before serving put over a low heat until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Put the pot over the fondue stove and serve immediately with fresh French bread or cubes of ordinary white bread crisped up in a hot oven.

Fondue Bourgignon

Serves 4
This meat fondue is fun for a small dinner party.
900g (2lb) trimmed fillet or sirloin of beef cut into 2.5cm (1inch) cubes (just before service)
Sauces
Garlic mayonnaise 
Horseradish sauce 
Bearnaise sauce 
a selection of freshly cooked vegetables and a green salad

A Fondue set

Half fill the fondue pot with olive oil. Divide the cubes of meat between 4 bowls. Place the fondue lamp on the table, light it and put the saucepan of hot olive oil on top. Provide each guest with a bowl of meat cubes and a plate and 1 or preferably 2 fondue forks in addition to their other cutlery. Each guest spears one cube of meat at a time on their fondue fork and cooks it to their taste - rare - medium, or well done.

Serve the sauces, vegetables and salad separately

Bearnaise Sauce

A classic sauce – also great with a steak or roast beef
4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
4 tablespoons dry white wine 
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots 
A pinch of freshly ground pepper 
1 tablespoon freshly chopped French tarragon leaves
2 egg yolks (preferably free-range) 
115-175g (4-6 oz) butter approx., salted or unsalted depending on what it is being served with

If you do not have tarragon vinegar to hand, use a wine vinegar and add some extra chopped tarragon. 

Boil the first four ingredients together in a low heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water immediately. Pull the pan off the heat and allow to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.

Whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece; it will gradually thicken. If it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly ‘scrambling’, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped French tarragon and taste for seasoning. 

If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to a coating consistency. It is important to remember, however, that if you are making Bearnaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce!

Another good tip if you are making Bearnaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot. 

Keep the sauce warm in a pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you want to serve it. 

Horseradish Sauce

Horseradish grows wild in many parts of Ireland and looks like giant dock leaves. If you can=t find it near you, plant some in your garden. It is very prolific and the root which you grate can be dug up at any time of the year.
Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.
Serves 8 - 10
2 -3 heaped tablesp. grated horseradish
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard
3 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
8 fl ozs (250 ml/1 cup) softly whipped cream

Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not overmix or the sauce will curdle. It keeps for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn=t pick up flavours in the fridge.

This is a fairly mild horseradish sauce. If you want to really Aclear the sinuses@, increase the amount of horseradish!

Chocolate Fondue

Serves 6 approx.
8 fl ozs (250ml) best quality cream
8 ozs (225g) milk or dark chocolate or a mixture, chopped roughly
A selection of fresh fruit – bananas, strawberries, raspberries, kumquats, pineapple, mango…..
A fondue set
Bring the cream to boiling point in a fondue pot. Add the chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until it has completely melted. Set the pot on the fondue stove. Serve a selection of fresh fruit in season. Dip the whole, quartered, or sliced fruit into the melted chocolate and enjoy.

Raclette 
Raclette cheese – allow about 6ozs per person
freshly boiled potatoes -3 – 4 per person
Lettuce - 3 – 4 leaves per person
Pickles, optional - 3 – 4 per person
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Raclette Stove
Put the Raclette stove in the centre of the table and turn on the heat. Cut the cheese into scant 3 inch (5mm) thick slices and put a slice onto each little pan.

Meanwhile serve freshly boiled potatoes and crisp lettuce on hot plates to each person. Just as soon as the cheese melts, each person spoons it over their potatoes and put another piece on to melt. Raclette is great fun for a dinner party.

Darina Allen’s back to basics recipe

Home made Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is what we call a 'mother sauce' in culinary jargon. In fact it is the 'mother' of all the cold emulsion sauces, so once you can make a Mayonnaise you can make any of the daughter sauces by just adding some extra ingredients.

I know it is very tempting to reach for the jar of 'well known brand' but most people don't seem to be aware that Mayonnaise can be made even with a hand whisk, in under five minutes, and if you use a food processor the technique is still the same but it is made in just a couple of minutes. The great secret is to have all your ingredients at room temperature and to drip the oil very slowly into the egg yolks at the beginning. The quality of your Mayonnaise will depend totally on the quality of your egg yolks, oil and vinegar and it's perfectly possible to make a bland Mayonnaise if you use poor quality ingredients.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of English mustard or ¼ teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
8 fl ozs (250ml) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) - We use 6 fl ozs (175ml) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1
Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don't get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the Mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Aoili or Garlic Mayonnaise and variations

ingredients as above
1-4 clove of garlic, depending on size
2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Crush the garlic and add to the egg yolks just as you start to make the Mayonnaise. Finally add the chopped parsley and taste for seasoning.

Note: Here is a tip for crushing garlic. Put the whole clove of garlic on a board, preferably one that is reserved for garlic and onions. Tap the clove with a flat blade of a chopping knife, to break the skin. Remove the skin and discard. Then sprinkle a few grains of salt onto the clove. Again using the flat blade of the knife, keep pressing the tip of the knife down onto the garlic to form a paste. The salt provides friction and ensures the clove won't shoot off the board!

Basil Mayonnaise 
Pour boiling water over ¾ oz (20g) of basil leaves, count to 3, drain immediately and refresh in cold water. Chop and add to the egg yolks and continue to make the Mayonnaise in the usual way.

Tomato and Basil Mayonnaise 
Add 1-2 tablespoons of aromatic tomato pureé to the Basil Mayonnaise.

Chilli Basil Mayonnaise 
Add a good pinch of chilli powder to the egg yolks when making Garlic Mayonnaise, omit the parsley and add the basil instead. Great with salads and sandwiches.

Spicy Mayonnaise
Add 1-2 teaspoons Ballymaloe tomato relish to the basic mayonnaise. Add ½-1 teaspoon chilli sauce to taste.

Wasabi Mayonnaise 
Add 1 - 2 tablespoons of Wasabi paste to the eggs instead of mustard.

Roast Red Pepper Mayonnaise 
Add 1-2 roast red peppers, seeded and peeled (do not wash)
Purée the red pepper flesh, add purée and juices to the Mayonnaise. Taste and correct seasoning. 

Wholegrain Mustard Mayonnaise
Add 1-2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard to the basic mayonnaise.

Lemon Mayonnaise
Use lemon juice instead of vinegar in the basic mayonnaise.

Fennel Mayonnaise
Rick Stein introduced us to this delicious sauce. Add 3 teaspoons Pernod and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fennel bulb to the basic mayonnaise recipe.

Dill Mayonnaise
Served with salmon, prawns….. Add 3-4 tablesp. freshly chopped dill to the mayonnaise.

Darina Allen’s Top Tips

New seasons Goat cheese
We’ve been enjoying the new season’s goat cheese for the past few weeks. Just yesterday Tom Biggane and his son William delivered me two wheels of Clonmore cheese. This semi-hard cheese is made from the milk of their own free-range goat herd, hand-milked by his wife Lena on their farm near Charleville.

This cheese has a delicious mild, goaty aroma, with a wonderful rich depth of flavour – we ate slice after slice Available from Sheridans in Dublin and Galway and IAGO in Cork’s English Market. Tel. 063-70490 for details of a stockist near you.

Our Irish farmhouse cheese makers have done much to change the image of Irish food and brought honour to Ireland for the past 20 years – there are now around 100 in virtually very county in Ireland. They are represented by CAIS, the Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Guild, whose Chairperson is Mary Burns of Ardrahan, (029-78099). Big congratulations are due to Mary for recently getting the award of Irish Farmhouse Cheesmaker of the Year at the IFEX Exhibition at the RDS.

In Kenmare look out for JAMS Café –
This busy cheerful café just off the main square serves a wide range of snacks all day – salads, hot dishes, juicy sandwiches, an array of tempting cakes, pies and desserts and a choice of coffees.
Leitrim Food Fare 2003, 19th June 2003 12pm – 6pm Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon 
Sample and savour the extensive range of wholesome and delicious food produced in Co Leitrim. Cookery Demonstrations by celebrity chef Neven McGuire. 

Coming up soon at Ballymaloe Cookery School
Course Schedule 2003 
Ballymaloe Buffet Course 15-18 June 
Barbecue Course Parts 1 & 2 – 26 & 27 June
A Taste of California 30 June
A Day in Tuscany 1 July

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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