Almost a year ago, when I’d been blogging about cheese for just a few weeks, I was invited to a Fondue Secret Supper Club by a North London couple called Les Greedy Cochons. It felt terribly daring at the time, partly because it was in the badlands i.e. north of the river and partly because Secret Supper Clubs sounded far too hip for the likes of me, who hadn’t been out for the best part of a year since I had my youngest baby. I was most definitely not feeling like a hipster.
Nevertheless, in the name of cheese correspondence, I ventured forth into the lights of the gleaming metropolis, bottle of Gewürztraminer in hand. The result was an evening of authentic Swiss fondue and jolly company (fortunately there was only one person there young enough to actually be my child). The half of Les Greedy Cochons present that night was a Swiss man with an evident passion for all things food-related and so, as I swigged back the last of the kirsch and staggered off into the night, we swore to meet up again over some fromage.
So when I was invited as a guest to Les Greedy Cochons Raclette Night, I jumped at the chance, partly to say hello again and partly because I had never tried Raclette before. The website Raclette Corner describes its namesake as ‘a Swiss cheese dish, a cultural land mark, the name of a cheese, a table top appliance, a dining experience, a great time!’ which seems to have it covered. The cheese Raclette is a semi-firm, salted cheese made from cow’s milk which has a slight feet-ish smell about it but nothing you’d go so far as to describe as pungent.
The dish Raclette is thought to date back as far as 700 years, when it was originally called Bratchäs, Swiss-German for ‘roasted cheese’. Swiss cow herders from the Valais region would move cows to the Alpine pastures for grazing and they needed food that was both transportable and wouldn’t spoil in the hot summer months. In the evenings around the campfire, they would place the cheese next to the fire and, as it started to melt, scrape it on top of some bread or potatoes. This is where it gets its name from – in French racler means ‘to scrape’.
With the Swiss credentials of Les Greedy Cochons (or 50% of them, at any rate) there was no danger of things being anything less than authentic. The cheese was from Jumi in Borough Market who produce it in the Emmental valley, just a few miles from Bern and intriguingly state that ‘the milk is transported with the help of tractors, horses or even a dog.’ We loaded our plates with gherkins, pickled onions and salami and then waited for Monsieur Le Greedy Cochon to add new potatoes and a rich gooey layer of melted Raclette. Here is his whopper of a Raclette machine:
And here is the first portion of Raclette, sprinkled with some smoked paprika:
It’s fair to say that I made quite a Greedy Cochon of myself and, I think, managed to clock up seven helpings. But seeing as everyone around me seemed to be keeping pace I like to think that it was the deliciousness of the food rather than my gluttony.
If you fancy joining Les Greedy Cochons on one of their Raclette nights, you can find them at Les Greedy Cochons or @Greedy Cochons. There is also talk of a Continental/British cheese-off so watch this space!