Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cheesefest: every town should have one

If you despair at the stranglehold supermarkets and restaurant chains have over food in this country you should have been at the Eat Cheese cheesefest in Bristol today, an event organised by an independent restaurant involving local producers and shops.

It was held on and outside The Glass Boat, a well-established Bristol restaurant on - as the name suggests - a boat on the Welsh Back, one of a series of events the owner Arne Ringner is holding to draw attention to the fact the restaurant has been revamped and re-energised.

The clever thing about it was that it wasn't just a farmers' market about which everyone has become quite blasé these days but had a specific theme that made you feel you couldn't miss out. There were visiting and local cheesemakers: Hafod, Homewood and Trethowan's Dairy who sell other cheeses as well as their own, Gorwydd Caerphilly, and who dispensed their trademark raclette and toasties. A local deli, Papadeli was selling Spanish cheese and charcuterie, Bath Ales, a local brewer looked after the beer and Great Western Wine conducted wine tastings while Arne himself was showing how to make ricotta (below).

In the restaurant itself you could have a cheese-themed lunch at the very reasonable price of £12 for two courses or £15 for 3. Starters included French onion soup, macaroni cheese with Stilton and wild mushrooms, thyme and garlic baked Camembert with grissini; mains, leg of lamb with spinach and mascarpone and lobster thermidor with Alderwood cheddar and puds New York cheesecake with lime and coconut and mango, passionfruit and mascarpone parfait. The place was packed with couples and families who were making a day out of it.

According to Arne it was quite a battle to get the council to approve the event but it's something every town or village could do if they put their mind to it. Good for all the businesses involved and a fantastic way to promote artisan cheese.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mac'n'cheese Challenge: best original recipe

How on earth do you judge the best recipe for macaroni cheese? Should it be a subtle twist on a classic version or something radically different? Should it be comforting and creamy or have a spicy edge? I wouldn’t have believed there were so many different permutations.

For sheer originality it was hard to beat Amuse Bouche's Chocolate with White Chocolate and Lime Cream Cheese not least because he had made his own pasta but the brief did specify that originality meant your version rather than something totally off the wall. Great invention but not a mac!

James of The Cotswold Food Year also made his own macaroni for his luxurious lobster mac which was served in a half lobster shell - the perfect Valentine's Day dinner, he suggested.

Another indulgent entry was Mathilde's Mac'n'Cheese à la Française which included two kinds of mushrooms, white wine and Comté, Mimolette and Gruyère cheese

Garlic Confit did a round-up of the best macs in London in his entry ending up with a version that included sundried tomatoes, cavolo nero, cheddar and alpine cheese and - appropriately enough - lots of garlic.

Meemalee (above) introduced extra crunch and texture with her secret ingredient - a couple of packs of plain potato crisps

While Cheryl of Back Seat Gourmet made hers extra healthy and kid-friendly by sneaking in some puréed squash or pumpkin

By contrast Matt for Food For Friends Yeah! submitted his straight down the line mac'n'cheese with cheddar and honey-roast ham and Wheeling Gourmet went for an all-American version with bacon (above)

Rosie of Salad Club also used ham, pointing out that mac and cheese was a great way of using up the leftovers from a Christmas ham.

Helen of Food Stories went for broke with her 'macaroni cheese for an army', cooking a ham hock specially for her mac then cooking the pasta in the stock (a genius touch). Then she created a super-crispy topping with cheese and panko crumbs.

For others it was beer that was the inspiration. Elly of Pear Café in Bristol submitted her delicious-sounding Macaroni Cheese with Welsh Rarebit topping. using Doombar beer while Lizzie of Hollow Legs used Tanglefoot and caramelised onions in her version (above)

Gin and Crumpets went for a classic British version, drawing on old English cookery books and flavours like bay, nutmeg and mustard

Swedish Mike of Freestyle Cookery gave a Swedish version Makaronilada which is based on an easy-to-make egg and milk custard rather than the classic bechamel.

Several of you felt that macaroni cheese needs a touch of spice including Julie Broczkowski of The Magic Fridge in Ottawa who submitted her Tex Mex version.

For Vickie aka Vix it was a touch of smoked paprika that lifted her macaroni cheese above the ordinary (she also used Red Leicester along with her cheddar

And two entrants went for a Spanish vibe, using Manchego and chorizo: Scott of Scott Can Cook also added a dash of sherry to his Mac N' (Man)Chego (above) while Alex and Carlo of Recession Recipes added sweet and hot paprika and spicy piquillo peppers to theirs (below).

Linda of With Knife and Fork went for a regional British version with her Lancashire Macaroni cheese with Lancashire cheese (obviously) and black pudding

Feast on Scraps by contrast went for a blue cheese (Gorgonzola and Stilton) and broccoli version with fresh Strozzapreti pasta.

Finally a couple of entries from dedicated mac'n'cheese aficionados.

Hilary of We Heart Mac and Cheese entered her Cheese Drawer Mac and Cheese using no less than five different cheeses (Cheddar, Gruyère, Jack, Smoked Gouda and Parmesan), topping it with a scattering of smashed crackers.

And Susan of Food Blogga sent us the tasty Italian Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta and Fontiago she had submitted to a new Wisconsin Macaroni and Cheese Blog which may provide further inspiration if your appetite for mac'n'cheese is not yet sated!

So, some amazing recipes! Thank you all for taking the trouble to take part and for all the time and effort you've put into your entries. I do hope I've included them all. Do mail me if yours has slipped the net or if you find the link to your site isn't working

Cookery writers Xanthe Clay and Marlena Spieler, author of Macaroni and Cheese, will be joining me in the unenviable task of selecting the winning recipe. As I mentioned we didn't manage to persuade Emma Bridgewater to donate her lovely macaroni cheese dish but it seems such an appropriate prize I'm going to get one for you anyway. Good luck!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mac’n’cheese challenge: best use of artisanal cheese

While it’s always fun to invent a new recipe I thought it would be good to have a category which encouraged you all to use British artisanal cheeses. There was of course some overlap - some of you mentioned specific cheeses in your entries for best original recipe - and some made good use of cheeses outside the UK but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Interestingly Neal’s Yard proved to be the favourite place to source your cheeses and Montgomery's Cheddar the most frequently featured cheese:

Donna D combined it with Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire in her blog My Fitness Year. (Not that mac'n'cheese immediately strikes you as part of a healthy eating regime but as Donna says, moderation in all things!)

Ms MarmiteLover offers the alternative of Green's of Glastonbury cheddar or Montgomery for her classic version which she says is "perfect for sitting in front of the telly watching something a bit crap like 'I'm a celebrity' or 'Big Brother'. It's great duvet food."

Sig of Scandilicious combined Montgomery with Wensleydale, Gorwydd Caerphilly and Stichelton in her ingenious version (above) which employed crème fraîche rather than having to make a cheese sauce. (Nice pix of the individual cheeses too.)

Sharmila of Sharmila on Food opted for Montgomery’s Cheddar, Ogleshield and Isle of Mull Cheddar for what she said "resulted in the most wondrous cheese sauce", capped by a few drops of white truffle oil.

And Scott of Scott Can Cook seems to have single-handedly kept Neal's Yard in business with his researches into different cheeses - again ending up with a Mac and Montgomery cheddar version.

In fact James of The Cotswold Food Year was the only one not to use Montgomery coming up instead with his wickedly indulgent Truffled Macaroni Bries. (Before you oject, as I did, he points out that he did in fact use St. Eadburgh, a Camembert-style cheese from Gorsehill Abbey Farm. He just liked the play on words of Macaroni Bries ;-)

This category will be judged by Jess Trethowan of Trethowans Dairy who are donating a gift box of artisanal cheeses to the winner.


Mac’n’cheese challenge: most mouthwatering pix

I created this category of the mac’n’cheese challenge for those of you who didn’t particularly want to create their own original recipe but might like to post a picture or series of pictures of a favourite version.

As I’ve mentioned some of the pix that were submitted with the recipes were pretty gorgeous but it seemed fairer to restrict this category to a those who made it a central feature of their entry.

There were three of you:

Gail of One Million Gold Stars made her adaptation of Simon Hopkinson’s tomato-topped recipe in a cute heart-shaped dish

Kavita of Kavey Eats shot a series of photos of a Nigel Slater recipe against a warm red background

And Rob of Eat Pictures, who has the advantage of being a part-time food photographer, created a very flashy slideshow of a version that he had created especially for the challenge to overcome the problems he perceives in shooting mac'n'cheese. (You can read his reasoning here)

Food photographer Marie-Louise Avery (aka marieloua on Twitter) will be judging the entries.


Mac’n’Cheese Challenge: Best drink match entries

So what do you drink with macaroni cheese? We added the drink pairing category as an afterthought at the suggestion of The Wine Sleuth who nobly agreed to judge the entries. In the event there were only four but all interesting ones. Most people would probably reach for a bottle of red but only David Greenman of the Arch House Deli in Bristol suggested that: a Gigondas such as Domaine la Haute Marone would do the trick. "Not too overpowering, fruity, with a tang of spices and herbs and not too expensive it would perfectly complement a macaroni cheese made with a strong cheese such as Lincolnshire Poacher or a Keens Cheddar." (David doesn't have a blog so I've listed his entry here - scroll down to the end of the post)

Two of you suggested white wines: Andrew Barrow of Spittoon an English white to go with his version of macaroni cheese which is finished with parsley and lemon zest - Oakengrove Vineyard Dry White 2006 which he said ‘worked perfectly’ as a ‘delicious palate cleanser leaving you wanting more of both the wine and the food. (The Spanish red he tried was less successful, he said)

Lucy Bridgers opted for a white burgundy with her more classic ‘mac’ on her blog Wine, Food and Other Pleasures- a Rully 1er Cru 2000 Les Cloux from Vincent Girardin which she said was “absolutely delicious with the rich macaroni cheese: luxurious, yet poised and elegant.”

And Garlic Confit also went for a contrasting style of wine - a Provençal rosé on his/her blog - a Chateau Du Galoupet, Cru Classé Rosé, 2008, Côtes de Provence which he/she (I'm not sure which) reckons is the perfect pairing for a classic mac.

My only disappointment was that there weren’t any beer or cider entries. I think the latter, in particular makes a great match for macaroni cheese.

Denise of Wine Sleuth will be judging the entries this week and the winner will receive a copy of my Cheese Course book!

What do you like to drink with your mac'n'cheese. Do you prefer white to red and if so what type? Or would you reach for a beer or a cider?


Monday, January 25, 2010

Mac'n'cheese mania

Well, the challenge finally closed with a rush of late entries and if you needed any proof that we're a nation fixated on macaroni cheese this contest provided it in spades. 35 of you found time to enter - 23 in the best original recipe category, 3 for the best photograph(s), 5 for the best use of artisanal cheese and 4 suggested drink pairings.

All pose their problems for the judges. The range of ideas in the original recipe category from a Tex Mex mac to a chocolate one (no kidding!) will make Xanthe Clay's and Marlena Spieler's task a tough one. On the other hand it would have been good to have had more entries in the photo and wine pairing categories but as we had some great entries I've decided to award a prize nonetheless.

Some of you may feel that the pictures in some of the recipe submissions are worth of inclusion. I'm inclined to agree but as I didn't invite you all to enter more than one category I don't think we can take them into account. Sorry - those of you who took great photos will just have to bask in the admiration of your peers.

What's going to happen now is that I'm going to put up a series of posts on the entries in each category over the next couple of days then will confer with the judge(s) for that section to come up with a winner. The bad news is that I didn't manage to persuade Emma Bridgewater of the worthiness of our cause (a decision it inexplicably took them two weeks to reach) so they won't be donating us their very splended mac and cheese dish but as I don't want to disappoint you I'm going to get one for the winner anyway.

To kick off the coverage here are three recipe entries which were submitted directly and did not appear on blogs and one drink suggestion. The first two are for the original recipe category, Ms MarmiteLover's for the Artisan Cheese one.

Macaroni cheese with Welsh Rarebit topping
This comes from Elly Curshen of the Pear Café in Bristol


For topping:
25g butter
25g flour
150ml milk
150g mature cheddar cheese, grated
150ml Sharp's Doombar Cornish beer
1 tsp English mustard powder
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
2 egg yolks

For cheese sauce:
25g butter
25g flour
200ml warm milk
2 tsp senap (slightly sweet Swedish mustard - I used a semi grainy one)
150g grated mature cheddar cheese

250g (dry weight) macaroni


Make rarebit topping first;

1. Make a roux with the butter and flour, and leave to cool.
2. Bring the milk to the boil, then whisk it into the roux. Bring to the boil once again, whisking to make sure there are no lumps.
3. Add the cheese, beat in and remove from the heat.
4. Reduce the beer, English mustard and Worcestershire sauce until you are left with approx 2 tablespoons of thick liquid then add this mixture to the cheese sauce. Season well with salt and pepper and beat in both the egg yolks.
5. Leave to one side

Next, make the cheese sauce;
1. Make a roux with the butter and flour, and leave to cool.
2. Bring the milk to the boil, then whisk it into the roux. Bring to the boil once again, whisking to make sure there are no lumps.
3. Add the cheese and mustard, beat in and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta (3 minutes less than stated on packet, so it is just a little underdone)

When pasta is cooked, drain and add to pan of cheese sauce, stirring well to coat.
Pour into a baking dish (needs to have capacity of approx 2 litres)
Spread the rarebit topping on top of the pasta and bake for 15 minutes at 180, followed by 4-5 minutes under a hot grill, to really crisp up the top!

Serve with peas and the rest of the bottle of Doombar!

copyright Elly Curshen 2010

Mex and Cheese
From Julie Broczkowski of The Magic Fridge, a catering company in Ottawa. (Yes, the fame of the Mac'n'cheese challenge spread that far!)

I adore Mexican food, and this is my Mex take on Mac&Cheese.... Mex and Cheese? I am a cook, not a recipe writer, so my measurements leave something to be desired.

12 oz. (1 box) of whole wheat macaroni (cooked and drained)
A big blob of butter (1/4 cup?)
An onion, chopped finely
1 tablespoon of finely chopped or pressed garlic, 2-3 large cloves
Enough flour to soak up the butter, until the mixture still flows, but not quickly
3-4 cups of milk, depending on how thick you like your sauce
3-4 cups grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, or a mixture
½ cup cream cheese
2-3 tablespoons Epicure Selections Nacho Cheese Dip Mix (only available in Canada) or nacho/fajita/taco seasoning
1 can (19oz) lentils, drained and rinsed
1 can (3.5 oz., I think) chopped green chiles (I use Old El Paso brand)

Melt butter in a pan, sauté onion for 3-5 minutes until very soft and slightly browned. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add flour and stir briskly to combine well; cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of milk and whisk briskly. Cook until it thickens, then add more milk until it is the consistency you like (the cheese will make it even thicker, so take that into account). Stir in 2 cups of grated cheese and add the cream cheese. Whisk and/or stir until cheeses are melted and combined. Add seasoning, lentils and green chiles. Add cooked macaroni, stir well, and pour into a large greased casserole. I like to use a wide shallow one for a better crunchy topping to macaroni ratio. Top with the rest of the grated cheese and bake 20-30 minutes at 400° until cheese is bubbly. If it isn’t browning on its own, put it under the broiler for a minute. Wait 5 minutes to let it cool a tiny bit before serving.

Ms Marmite Lover's mac and cheese
This is the mac and cheese I made with Greens of Glastonbury cheddar for my 9/11/I love New York night. The cheese was very strong but one person said it was the best she'd ever had . . .

Boil 500g of large macaroni in salted water. Slightly undercook, they will continue to cook when baked. Drain and spread the macaroni on a baking pan or large oven proof dish. In another pan: put in half a pack of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons of flour, sauce flour if you have it. Stir it around, making sure it doesn't burn. Then gradually add 250ml of full cream milk till the sauce becomes a thick liquid. Then add 600ml of double cream, 300g of strong cheddar such as Montgomery or Greens of Glastonbury. Add a large tablespoon of french grain mustard or any mustard you have. You can also add a few shavings of nutmeg if you wish.When the cheese is melted you can take this off the heat. Pour the sauce on the macaroni.Bake for 10 minutes on a medium heat. Add another 100 or 200 grams of cheddar on top. Bake or grill for another ten minutes.

Other options: I like to add green pickled peppercorns which adds heat and bite. Pretty much everything can be changed in this's just an indication. You don't have to use cheddar. Use whatever you have in the fridge. You can make it slimming by using half fat milk and replacing the cream. But really this is a lovely comforting winter's dish, perfect for in front of the telly watching something a bit crap like 'I'm a celebrity' or 'Big Brother'. It's great duvet food.

And if you wanna get fancy schmancy, serve with salad - rocket or lambs lettuce with walnut oil and lemon juice and a lovely white wine such as gewurztraminer.

And a wine pairing suggestion from David Greenman of the Arch House Deli in Bristol

On your best drink match for Macaroni Cheese, I’d suggest a 2005 Gigondas such as Domaine la Haute Marone. Not too overpowering, fruity, with a tang of spices and herbs and not too expensive. Better value than a Chateauneuf. Would perfectly complement a macaroni cheese made with a strong cheese such as Lincolnshire Poacher or a Keens Cheddar.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ribblesdale goat

Before I get submerged in a week's macaroni cheese mania (the final deadline is tonight if you're thinking of submitting an entry) I just wanted to report on the cheese I've been eating this weekend: Ribblesdale goat which my daughter brought down from York for me.

As you can see from the picture it's not much to look at, even when the clingfilm is removed. It's one of those cheeses which is coated in wax which I imagine is what gives it its semi-soft, almost spreadable texture - almost like a posh Dairylea. The taste however is fantastic - rich, mellow (it lacks the acidity of most goats' cheeses) and moreish. It's absolutely impossible to stop nibbling it as I've found to my cost.

They don't appear to have a website of their own but according to one distributor Cheeses Direct it's vegetarian and, interestingly, can also be frozen. Not that it would last that long in this household.

What do you think about waxed cheeses? A good or not-so-good idea?


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A white blue cheese

This cheese sounds like something out of Alice in Wonderland: a white blue. I found it in the Co-op under their slightly annoying 'truly irresistible' label which includes products that are perfectly OK but not that exceptional.

It comes from Butlers Cheese in Lancashire whose normal blue is the orange coloured Blacksticks Blue, a pleasant mellow cheese similar to a Shropshire Blue. The Blacksticks White is similarly buttery but has rather more bite. At £2.19 a 150g pack it's more expensive than basic supermarket Stilton and to be honest no better.

It would be good - and this is really damning it with faint praise - for cooking, say, a blue cheese sauce or dressing or in a salad or a quiche. In fact I might very well do that.

It is vegetarian though and - good for the Co-op - uses GM free rennet though I'm not sure how widespread the use of GM rennet is.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ultimate mac’n’cheese: the state of play

As those of you who’ve followed the Challenge on Twitter will know I’ve extended the deadline for a week - to give a few hard core mac’n’cheese enthusiasts who I know have been struggling to meet the deadline a bit more time to get their entries in (and to see if I can line up the prizes without dipping too heavily into my own pocket!)

The prize I’m after is this brilliant mac’n’cheese dish from Emma Bridgwater which will go (if I can persuade them to donate it) to the creator of the most original recipe.

Of equal if not even greater desirability is the cheese selection being offered by the lovely people at Trethowan’s Dairy which will include their own Gorwydd Caerphilliy, Stichelton, Keen’s cheddar and Ragstone, which will go to the winner of the best use of artisanal cheese category. But as things stand (see below) there aren’t enough entries to justify awarding a separate prize.

The same applies to the picture category and winematching category but if there’s a sudden late rush of entrants - and I hope there is - each of those prizewinners will get a copy of my Cheese Course book.

So far we’ve had 17 entries, 12 of which are in the original recipe category, 3 for photographs, 2 for artisanal cheese and 1 wine pairing Three have sent them in by email, the rest - and you may have spotted some - have been posted on blogs

So if you think your recipe for macaroni cheese is the best, have a brilliant idea for what kind of artisanal cheese to use in it or type of drink to pair with it, you’ve got another week to get your ideas winging my way (the deadline is now 11.59 pm on Sunday January 24th). You could be the supreme mac’n’cheese champion!


Friday, January 15, 2010

Keen's crumpet #fail

When I was at Dean Street Townhouse earlier this week I spotted that they had Keen's crumpets with picalilli on their High Tea menu. As it was dinner time and I was reviewing the restaurant I didn't take advantage but it certainly sounded good. But what would it taste like?

I had a stab at home which I have to say wasn't a raging success. I toasted the crumpets lightly on both sides then buttered the upper side and toasted it again so the crumpet wouldn't go soggy. I piled it up with grated Keen's cheddar and melted it on the top rack of the Aga (not the best way to toast anything quickly but the only available option). Then I spooned a dollop of picalilli on the top as you can see above.

It was - how shall I put this? - underwhelming. Even having toasted the crumpet beforehand it was too soft and the picalilli - a rather posh brand called Mrs Bridges - not nearly mustardy enough and too sweet.

Thwarted, I tried them with Marmite (thinly spread, topped with cheese) which was better and with Colman's English mustard, a considerable improvement but there was still a 'What's the point?' element to the whole exercise. Good toast (we buy sourdough) would have been a much better base for all three.

Maybe the DST has some secret recipe for the cheese topping. Or maybe they make it as a rarebit but if I were you I wouldn't bother. Try the very tasty twice-baked haddock soufflés, which I imagine include at least a smidge of Parmesan instead.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Barely Buzzed - a very American cheese

As regular readers will know I've recently been checking out the cheese scene in New York so I found it fascinating to read this feature on US cheese culture in Harvard Magazine to which my good friend, fellow blogger and food anthropologist Scandilicious alerted me.

It mentions the work of Heather Paxon, an academic at the Radcliffe institute who is writing a book on American cheese culture. One of the most interesting observations she makes is that Americans understand the concept of terroir in a very different way from Europeans. "Where European cheeses are standardized by region, encouraging uniformity, American artisanal cheesemakers’ stock in trade is individuality" observes the article's author Elizabeth Gudrais.

You couldn't find a better example of that than Barely Buzzed, a cheese that I think it's safe to say you'd never find in the old world. It's made by a company called Beehive Cheese in Utah run by a couple of guys who used to be in IT and real estate.

The unique aspect about the cheese, which I tasted in New York, is that it's rubbed with a mixture of ground Turkish coffee and lavender blended by the Colorado Legacy Coffee Company (which is run by the cheesemaker's brother). It has the curious but appealing effect of making the rind taste like chargrilled steak and the interior of the cheese richly nutty and caramelly - a bit like eating a rather tasty cold cheeseburger. I don't normally like flavoured cheeses but I thought it was great - as did one of the city's cheese gurus Tia Keenan who put together the cheese programme at Casellula.

You shouldn't of course assume from this that all American cheese is wacky, simply that that American cheesemakers perceive no boundaries in terms of the style of cheese they can make. Which makes for exciting eating.

What's the most off-the-wall cheese you've ever eaten?


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cheddar and Cider Fondue

With all this snow we might as well be in Switzerland so why not give in to the sub-artic temperatures and make a warming fondue? Interestingly I found when I was researching my cheese book (Fiona Beckett's Cheese Course) that cider was just as good a base for a fondue as wine and British cheeses like Cheddar worked just as well as the conventional Gruyère. So here's my West Country version from the book.*

The key thing to remember about a fondue is to have your cheeses at room temperature before you start, to take the pan off the heat before adding the first batch of cheese and to stir in a zig zag motion rather than round and round (which makes the fondue more likely to separate). Once you’ve got the knack, it’s simplicity itself.

Cheddar and Cider Fondue
Serves 2-3

About 425g finely sliced or coarsely grated cheese for example 150g mature Cheddar, 150g Double Gloucester and 125g Somerset Brie, all with the rinds removed
2 tsp potato flour or cornflour
175ml dry but fruity cider (I used Sheppy’s Dabinett)
1 tbsp Somerset Cider Brandy or Calvados
Freshly ground white or black pepper
Crusty brown rolls, cut into cubes and apple wedges to serve

You will also need a cast iron fondue pan or saucepan and a burner

Toss the sliced or grated cheese with the cornflour. Leave until it comes to room temperature. Start off the fondue on your cooker. Pour in the cider and heat until almost boiling. Remove from the heat and tip in about a third of the cheese. Keep breaking up the cheese with a wooden spoon using a zig-zag motion as if you were using a wire whisk. (Stirring it round and round as you do with a sauce makes it more likely that the cheese will separate from the liquid).

Once the cheese has begun to melt return it over a very low heat, stirring continuously. Gradually add the remaining cheese until you have a smooth, thick mass (this takes about 10 minutes, less with practice) If it seems too thick add some more hot cider. Add the cider brandy or Calvados and season with pepper (preferably white, as the grains won’t show). Place over your fondue burner and serve with small bite-size chunks of wheatmeal or granary bread rolls. Use long fondue forks to dip the bread in, stirring the fondue to prevent it solidifying. Have wedges of eating apples on hand to refresh you in between mouthfuls.

What to drink: A dry or medium dry cider will go perfectly with this.

You can buy a signed copy of Fiona Beckett's Cheese Course direct from Ryland Peters & Small at the special price of £16.99

Photograph by Richard Jung.