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Rules of raclette: How to make one of Switzerland's most famous cheese dishes

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Rules of raclette: How to make one of Switzerland's most famous cheese dishes
Don't get into hot water over your veg. Photo: StudioM/Depositphotos
12:00 CET+01:00
It's one of Switzerland's most famous exports, and even neighbouring France has taken it to its heart, but if you fancy a warming raclette as the temperatures drop, be careful not to fall foul of the cheese rules.

Of course the Swiss take both culture and cheese seriously, as one British woman found out when she was attacked online for posting a picture of a raclette with incorrect ingredients.

So what do you need to know about the delicious but controversial winter cheese dish?

Where?

The cheese originally comes from the Valais canton, whose inhabitants also came up with the brilliant idea of melting it and pouring it all over meat and potatoes to create the dish of the same name.

But it's widely eaten throughout Switzerland now, as well as in the eastern parts of France.

When?

The dish is very much a winter thing - rivers of oozing melted cheese perhaps not being particularly appealing when the temperature is topping 30C (although an acquaintance of ours reports attending a summer wedding which had a raclette fountain in pride of place).

It's particularly popular as an après ski dish, as you will need to be doing a fair amount of exercise to burn off the calories in a raclette dinner.

What?

Here we stumble intro controversy again. 

The formation of the dish raclette is very simple - melt some raclette cheese (special raclette grills are available for devotees, although you can also melt it under the grill) and then pour it over stuff.

Exactly what you pour it over, however, is where things get tricky.

Potatoes - usually boiled - are a staple as are sliced cold meats such as ham or charcuterie. Pickles such as cornichons and pickled onions are also pretty universal as the sharp vinegary taste is perfect to cut through the richness of the cheese.

Vegetables of the non-pickled variety are a bit of a grey area, however.

 

When Brit Katie Aidley posted a picture on Twitter of her raclette with a variety of grilled vegetables and no meat she was firmly informed Désolée mais ce n'est pas du tout une raclette (Sorry, but that is in no way a raclette).

However, food historians have since pointed out that during the Middle Ages a Swiss raclette would have involved potatoes and vegetables (albeit pickled as fresh vegetables would not have been available in the depths of winter) and it is in fact the meat that was the later addition.

A few vegetables definitely lighten up what can be a very heavy dish, but maybe it's best to do this slightly furtively in your own home.

What to accompany it with?

White wine is best, or vin jaune if you're in one of the regions that produces it, as something crisp to cut through the fatty mass of cheese is nice.

There is  a belief that you should never drink water with raclette as it will cause the cheese to solidify into a giant ball in your stomach, although quite frankly we're not sure that medical science would back that one up.

But if you prefer your cheese less contentious - here six of the best winter dishes made with cheese.

 

 
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