Sometimes, when it's this cold, cheese on toast just won't cut it. Sometimes, you just want the cheek-flushing warmth and sense of occasion that comes from a hefty pot of boozy, molten cheese fondue, ceremoniously plonked on its heater and surrounded by mountains of potatoes, crusty bread, crudités and meats.
I've only been skiing once and, honestly, it didn't go too well for me. My first day involved a dislocated knee, the mockery of elderly Italian men sipping their coffees and some very frustrated and very talented friends who just wanted to get to the black runs. We were quite short on money so I seem to remember we lived on omelette sandwiches and 1 euro wine...
But the Scientist and the Suit are massive fans, so I googled extensively and for one night only turned the kitchen into an "Alpine Lodge". Complete with cardboard fires, paper snowflakes and a fake snow table trim. Fondue was refused to anyone not wearing hat, gloves and sensible shoes - and the Suit even pulled on his prized ski boots.
The internet told me that people who ski like to drink Chartreuse, so I picked up some miniatures and stuck them in the freezer.
Reader, it is revolting. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless their blood sugars levels were crashing and there was literally nothing else available. It is sickly to the point that sugar crystallises around the rim and cough syrup has a subtler flavour palette.
Anyway, to the fondue. It's quite easy and you can do it in a pan if you don't have a fancy fondue pot.
Ingredients (serves 3):
300g Emmenthal, grated
200g Gruyere, grated
250g Reblochon, cubed and rind removed
150ml acidic white wine (try a Muscadet)
1 fat clove garlic, finely grated
1 glug Kirsch, Courvoisier, cognac or brandy
Sprinkling cornflour/plain flour
Serve with: get creative. We had quickly seared steak, sausage, crusty bread, boiled new potatoes drizzled with olive oil, steamed broccoli, the usual crudité suspects and asparagus.
Don't serve with: Chartreuse. A very cold white wine and perhaps some icy vodka will do nicely.
Put the garlic in a heavy-based pot on a low heat. You could also keep the garlic whole and rub the pot with it, if you're serving in the pot, but I like extra garlic. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for a few minutes.
Add the Emmenthal, spoon by spoon. Let each spoonful melt into the wine before you add the next and keep stirring.
Add the Gruyere, as above.
You get the picture, Add the Reblochon.
When the Reblochon has melted in, and really melted in, whisk the Kirsch/substitute alcohol and the flour together and then stir quickly into the fondue.
If it splits - don't worry. You can add more cornflour or, if it's really desperate (and sorry purists), you can spoon off the liquid. Just be aware that you'll be dipping in melted cheese with a little liquid and if you spoon off the split liquid, the cheese will solidify faster.
If you can, put the pot on the table under a flame. Get dipping.