Seven years ago I had an idea to create a fusion dish, something British and Swiss at the same time and I thought a British Fondue might work.
Cheddar cheese is after all one of the best cheeses for melting but as the Swiss tend to have a closer affinity to Scotland than England I decided to use mainly Scottish cheeses and instead of white wine I substituted dark beer (these days I suggest a very black Russian Imperial Stout) and instead of Schnapps... whisky, of course! (Whisky and cheese are perfect partners but not many people think of them this way. They are certainly more friendly than cheese and Schnapps - 2 flavours that I feel fight each other.)
First the cheese. Isle of Mull is one of my favourite cheddar type cheeses, harder than typical Somerset cheddars with a paler colour and more intense bitter flavour. The paler colour by the way comes from the fact the cows that produce the milk on the islands only dairy farm have a diet richer in barley. In fact Sgriob-ruadh Farm grows barley for the local Tobermory distillery. When the distillery is finished with the barley, the "mash" is sent back to the farm for the cows to eat. More than a few customers have asked me, after tasting the cheese, if it has whisky in it!
As well as Isle of Mull I use Ardmore, a hard raw milk cheese with added Ardmore whisky, Westray Wife, an Orkney raw milk washed cheese (that gives the fondue more of a cheesy smell) and Barwheys Scottish raw milk cheddar to give a smoother "melt".
I did some taste tests with friends at home and the reaction was completely positive and the few weeks after I offered it on sale I had many returning customers, almost all Swiss declaring it the best cheese fondue they had ever tasted. Well, I don’t know about that, I just think the use of whisky in the fondue (and the bowl of whisky that you can dip your bread in) gives such a flavour explosion and of course it's very different!
The following year I heard back from some friends who had visited Edinburgh for Christmas and New Year and were surprised to see my Scottish Fondue on the menus of quite a few restaurants. Good news and ideas spread fast but it took a few more years before Swiss supermarkets started offering Swiss cheese fondue kits with added whisky!
To serve, make exactly the same was as a Swiss cheese fondue with cornflour, garlic (and a little lemon juice if you like) substituting white wine for black beer and add a generous splash of whisky before serving. Allow extra whisky for bread dipping but beware, it is addictive and very potent! As well as bread, I like to serve cauliflower florets (steamed, then grilled with a little butter) for dipping.
© Michael Jones, January 2017