Now I have my own place, I'm really enjoying having people round for dinner. I love cooking - pretty sure that's established - so throwing a dinner party is the perfect opportunity to try something new. This is, actually, a big no-no for having company, according to other people, but I like to live on the wild side. Plus, it's rare that I'm going to make an exciting dessert or decadent starter when it's just Matt and I, so having people around is a good excuse! Also, all my friends are nice, so if I mess it up, I know they won't be mean if they end up with beans on toast. Hasn't happened yet!
Santander challenged me recently to throw a dinner party and I didn't take much encouragement. They are promoting some research they've commissioned about the real cost of holidays - for instance, the average daily spend in Barbados is £109 (excluding accommodation) but in Poland or India, it's just £30. I've not been to either, but in the USA it's £87 which sounds about right to me! You can use a Santander 123 credit card to help fund your next dream trip, as it provides 1% cashback at supermarkets, 2% cashback at department stores and 3% cashback at petrol stations, national rail and TfL. I use the 123 current account for my bills, as I get money back on those too - it's SO worth it (so even though they asked me to say this, I do vouch for it).
Back to the food! So, they asked me to pick a country from those that they surveyed to theme my dinner party around, and in the spirit of trying something new, I went for Switzerland. Well, sort of in that spirit. It was also in the spirit of melted cheese, for Switzerland's best known dish is fondue. FONDUE.
LOOK AT THE FONDUE.
Now, I could have just prepared a vat of fondue, called it a Swiss dinner party and spent the rest of the supermarket gift card I was sent on wine - so tempting - but I wanted to do this properly, and I feel a dinner party should have three courses. Can you imagine the scandal if you only did two? THE SCANDAL. So I did a lot of research and found some authentic recipes for my starter and dessert, too.
My starter was Zweiebelewahe, which is a bacon and onion tart. Sidenote, "Zweibeln" is one of my favourite German words. It means onion and it's super fun to say if you put a little squeak into the first syllable. Zweeeeebeln. See? Ah, all those year 8 memories coming back.
I found the recipe here, but made a few tweaks and adjustments for my vegetarian friend. It's basically a quiche. But a good quiche!
Swiss onion tart (recipe from here)
320g ready rolled shortcrust pastry (feel free to make your own)
600g (about two and a half) onions, finely sliced
300ml single cream
100g grated Gruyère cheese
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Serves 8 as a starter, 4 as a main
Optional: Bacon. The recipe said to crisp beforehand then cook the pie with the bacon on top, but we left this part out to be veggie friendly. I bought Quorn bacon, but Quorn bacon is a disturbing substance that I did not trust. Look at it:
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C / Gas mark 6
2. Heat the butter in a saucepan and cook the onions for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until soft and sweet. Remove them to a plate. You can do these the night before to save time and refrigerate if you wish - that's what I did.
3. Butter an ovenproof pie dish (around 25–30 cm/10–12 in diameter), and carefully place the pastry over the dish, trimming off any excess.
4. Beat the eggs and cream together in a mixing bowl then add the cheese, salt, pepper, and onions. Stir well.
5. Pour the mixture into the pastry base and cook on the bottom shelf of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed up. (Ours smoked quite a lot to start, but I suspect it had dripped a little into the bottom.)
6. Leave to cool for around 20 minutes, then serve slightly warm with salad.
My dessert was Chocolate Mousse, which annoyingly I can't find a Swiss translation for. It was unlike any mousse I've made before - no cream, and included four whole eggs (even the yolks). But it was so tasty and really satisfying to make, as once I started folding in the egg whites the consistency started to change to become mousse-like with lots of bubbles. Also, it has sherry in it. And I love sherry! It took me about 10 minutes to make, so I'll definitely be doing this one again. Unbelievably though, I took no photos! I blame the wine, obvs:
Swiss chocolate mousse (recipe from here)
100 g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
40 g butter
50 ml sherry
4 eggs, separated
2. Stir the sherry into the chocolate, along with the egg yolks until well combined.
3. Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then gradually fold through the chocolate mixture. You'll see the mixture evolve and change into a mousse-like texture - it's very satisfying.
4. Pour the mousse into individual dishes, cover them in clingfilm and refrigerate overnight, and serve straight from the fridge topped with a square of chocolate, and whipped double cream if you remember and don't leave it in the fridge like I did because you'd already opened the fourth bottle of wine by this point.
What's that? Ohhh, the fondue. Well, I had a little look around and there are tons of recipes online, but then I figured if one person knows what they're talking about with melted cheese, it's Nigella. And you know what? She did not disappoint.
Cheese Fondue (recipe from Nigella Lawson)
300 grams chopped and de-rinded gruyere cheese
300 grams chopped and de-rinded camembert
300 ml white wine
2 teaspoons cornflour
Splash of water
1 clove garlic (peeled)
1. So it turns out that de-rinding camembert is hard, even if you do end up with lots of rind to eat. Once you've managed that, pop all the cheese into the fondue pot or a saucepan along with the wine, and heat until boiling by which time the cheese should have melted.
2. Turn the pot down to a simmer. Add a splash of water to the cornflour to make a paste, then add to the fondue pot along with the garlic clove.
3. Season with the pepper and nutmeg, stir well and place the fondue pot over a flame at the table.
We served the fondue with tart Granny Smiths, lots of bread (part-baked baguettes are my top tip), new potatoes (as they do in France), cherry tomatoes, dates and grapes. Finishing the mousse after all that was an arduous task, but we managed it. I'm so proud of us.
Thanks for helping me throw an epic dinner party, Santander! Unfortunately now I'll never be hungry again... I need to lie down.