Tuesday, March 18, 2008

dinner party from hell

We were invited round to our neighbours for a fondue last night - a sober, uneventful evening we predicted, especially as they're both retired - but it turned into the dinner party from hell.

Our host had made a jug of punch for apéros, containing (we were informed later) a bottle of dark rum and half a bottle of bacardi, and by the time it was finished, all six of us were laughing hysterically, skirts were inching up (the old dears' anyway) and shirt buttons were being loosened from the flush of inebriation and the heat of the wood-burning stove.

After drinks, we weaved our way to the kitchen table, where I was directed to sit between my hosts on a very narrow bench against the wall, which only just allowed me to park my buttocks. A shelf sticking out three inches at neck height behind me meant that I had to bend forward over the table to keep my butt on the seat.

When I thought things couldn't get any worse, Madame appeared with a pan of oil (it was a meat, not a cheese fondue) which she balanced precariously on a tripod over a bunsen burner right in front of me. It was like being in a badly written French farce. There I was, surrounded by drunks waving fondue prongs, leaning into a vat of burning oil with nowhere to run. The next 40 minutes passed in a blur as I tried not to think about the consequences.

I may be in therapy for some time!

Here's my recipe for cheese fondue, which is much safer.

Serves 4
1 clove garlic, halved
8 oz/225 g grated emmental cheese
8 oz/225 g grated gruyère cheese
1/2 pint/290 ml white wine
1 tbsp kirsch
bite-sized pieces of bread for dipping (see Top Tip No 2 below)

1. Rub the inside of your fondue pot with the clove of garlic. Add the wine and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and gradually stir in the cheese until melted.

2. Add the kirsch.

3. Dip the bread into the fondue using a fork or fondue prong.

Top Tip No 1
Always make sure, when seated, that you have at least one clear exit route.

Top Tip No 2
Use small pieces of bread otherwise you'll end up with a giant cheesy rubber-band in your mouth and you'll choke.

Top Tip No 3
When the cheese is finished, add a raw egg. It cleans the pot and makes very tasty scrambled egg.

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