I had a press release this morning from the makers of a pre-mixed Swiss fondue called Emmi claiming that dipping was 'this autumn's biggest food trend'. I don't know quite where they got that from but if I were to get back into fondue I certainly wouldn't make it from a packet.
It's one of those things that's ridiculously easy to do once you get the hang of it - a bit like swimming or riding a bike. Basically it's simply a question of stirring grated cheese into hot wine, cider or beer but there are a few things to remember that make all the difference between success and disaster:
* you need good quality cheese - including Gruyère - though you can blend two or three
* your cheese should be at room temperature before you start
* you should add a little cornflour or arrowroot to stabilise the mixture
* you need a cast-iron pan rather than a stainless steel one
* your liquid should be almost boiling but off the heat when you start adding the cheese. (You can put it back on the heat when you've added around a third of it)
* you should stir the cheese with a zig-zag motion rather than round and round which makes the cheese more likely to ball up and separate
* you need to add a dash of something strong at the end - kirsch is traditional, apple brandy great with cider-based fondues
* you need good quality rough-textured country bread to dunk in it. Cheap bread will go soggy
* you need a glass of dry white wine, cider or beer to drink with it (depending on the alcohol you use to make it). Never drink iced water with a fondue - it will give you indigestion.
Fondue's fun but I can't really see it taking off again. It's too rich, too expensive and, to be frank, too unhealthy for today's lifestyle. It's great as an occasional treat especially on a cold winter's night but I doubt people are really going to develop a big-time fondue habit.
Or maybe I'm wrong. What do you think? Are you a fondue fan or do you think they're overrated?