"Heidi! Heidi! Stop yodelling, come down from that alp and eat your cheese you unruly child."

Monday 7/11/2004

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Diary and Notes

Oh, I can hear my old French grandmother Helene turning in her grave. "What's the boy doing?" she says, as she wipes a tear from her eye and shrugs in a Gallic manner. Today I'm bastardising a French classic and I don't care who I offend. Come on Chirac, come on De-Gaulle, I'll take you all on. (Except perhaps Leon Blum who looks a bit tasty with his fists). Todays feast - and it was a feast - is one of those things I am told you get on skiing holidays all over Europe. It's hot, warming, full of calories and tastes of bacon and cheese, so everyone is happy. You could eat something like this in France, Switzerland, Germany and perhaps even Basingstoke if the weather is chill and there's a glisteneing frost on the leaves. This dish is a toasty wintertime fire, after a cold trip in the snow, all wrapped up in a bubbling cheese bobble hat and herby mittens.

A quick word from the ghost of my old grande maman "He does go on all poetical every now and then doesn't he? I'm sorry about this, but what can I do? I tried haunting him, but he took some of my ectoplasm and fried it with capers and sun dried tomatoes to make a pasta sauce. Do you know what it's like being a one legged ghost? It's no fun you know."

So today's dish is a bastardised version of a great alpine classic. The recipe is pretty close to what you'd get in a French hospital having broken your arm on some death defying snowboarding jump, plus I've added a chilli just to 'move it on a bit', or in the words of Elzar - "Now let's knock this up a notch with a blast from our spice weasel." The chilli really does add to this old time classic, don't put in too much, you aren't making something hot, just a little zingy. I have to say that this dinner was delicious.

A word about the ingredients. Cheese: Purists will use reblochon. However apart from getting some posted via the internet it's not possible. I went for a Swiss feel and used raclette instead, nobody will ever know (Poor old Helene, just listen to the sobbing). Bacon: Britain has a bacon problem in that almost all of it comes pre-sliced. You really want a block of smoked streaky bacon chopped roughly into about 1.5cm cubes. Here in Germany you can get some excellent spek which is just that. If you can't get a block of uncut bacon, buy the thickest cut you can or some large pre-cut smoked lardons.


  • Tartiflette,
  • Bread and butter.

  • Roquefort and salad.

  • Marzipan cake.

  • Bottle of cheap Bordeaux.


  • Tartiflette: Potatoes, onions, olive oil, bacon, chilli, fresh thyme, black pepper, salt, raclette cheese.
  • Salad: Lambs lettuce, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, cornichons (baby gerkhins), olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, salt.


  • You'll need a frying pan that has a lid and that you can also put in the oven. If you don't have one you could use a tin with a foil lid etc... but it's just making work for yourself. Peel and boil your potatoes for about ten minutes. Let them cool in the fridge. Roughly chop your onion and dice the chilli, fry these gently in the olive oil until soft. Add your bacon chunks. Slice the cold potatoes and add to the pan. Grate in some black pepper and a fair amount of fresh thyme and a pinch of salt, stir to mix the ingredients well. Put the lid on the pan and the pan in the oven for about an hour. After an hour cover with the cheese (make sure you use a lot of cheese, as much as you did potatoes), put the lid back on and the pan back in the oven for about 15 mins. Take the lid off for the final ten mins to let the cheese brown. Serve with bread and booze.
  • Salad: People in Britain don't have salad with cheese after dinner, it's just too wierd. Also the idea of having cheese after cheese is also a bit odd. I don't care. Make a dressing from olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. The oil I used was some I'd infused with dried chillis, garlic, black pepper, rosemary and thyme and made an excellent dressing. Make sure you get the Roquefort out of the fridge at least ten minutes before eating. It's much tastier at room temperature.