Fond of a Fondue? Welcome in autumn with a big dipper night

Baked squash with cheese fondue... this week's Weekend Foodie recipe, plus a one for a Black Cherry Trifle
Fond of a Fondue? Welcome in autumn with a big dipper night

Di Curtin's Baked Squash with Cheese Fondue

AS autumn kicks in, and we are again plunged into the Covid-19 crisis with a second wave of infections, government advice is to reduce our social contacts as much as possible and limit the amount of people in our homes.

As the nights begin to draw in, the urge to retreat into our own safe havens and light the fire is usual. So perhaps it won’t be quite as hard to follow the health advice to curtail this virus as it was in March, when spring was just emerging.

If you are deciding to restrict your movements and forgo a night out, a family night in is always made better with great food. For this weekend’s column, I’ve been looking through my recipe files to find a seasonal feast that feels like a restaurant treat, bringing warming autumnal flavours and a lively social element to the table in equal measure!

When fondues first came onto the food scene back in the 70’s, we were totally confused by the alien nature of this communal and extremely convivial way of eating. Most of us of a certain age remember those early kitsch fondue sets often given as gifts, but left gathering dust in the cupboard when no one really quite knew what to do with them!

This weekend, I’m reinventing the fondue for a family big dipper experience, minus the fancy fondue set - and created in a Covid aware way. My recipe for this melted cheese classic has a natural squash ‘bowl’ to hold it - perfect for dipping pieces of bread, crackers and raw or cooked veggies into the melted cheese mix - then you eat the bowl afterwards! Saves on the washing up.

This time of year, your local farmers market can yield homegrown smaller varieties of squash, now coming into season. These make great individual servings for the melted cheese.

Following one retro dish with another for pud. My easy trifle recipe has a chocolate muffin base soaked in coffee, layered with black cherries, custard and cream. It makes a non-alcoholic version everyone will love. Take my word for it!

BAKED SQUASH WITH CHEESE FONDUE

Ingredients (Serves 4) 4 small squash Olive oil for brushing Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper For the fondue:

250g mature Cheddar, grated 200g Emmenthal, grated 2 level tbsp cornflour 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed 150g creme fraiche 2 tbsp white wine or milk Method:

Cut the tops from the squash to make lids and set aside. Scrape out all the seeds and stringy bits. Brush each one lightly with olive oil on the top edge and inside. Season. Place in a baking dish snugly and top with lids. Bake in a pre-heated oven, Gas 4 180C 450F for 20 minutes or until the flesh is beginning to tenderise.

Cover the squash with foil if it gets too brown, to prevent burning. The lids will be ready first, so remove them from the oven and keep warm.

While the squash is baking, mix the cheese and cornflour in a bowl. Add the spring onions, garlic, creme fraiche and wine or milk. Stir and season.

Remove the squash from the oven and spoon the fondue filling into the centre of each.

Return to the oven, covered with foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until fondue is runny.

Serve warm with crusty bread and other dipping ingredients.

xxx

BLCK CHERRY TRIFLE

Ingredients (Serves 4) 8 mini chocolate muffins 6 tbsp sweetened black coffee 400g can black cherries, drained 350mls ready made fresh custard 300mls cream 50g dark chocolate, grated Method:

Slice muffins and place in the base of a trifle bowl.

Spoon coffee over the muffins and leave to soak in.

Layer the black cherries on top of the muffins.

Whip half the cream and fold into the custard and pour over the cherries.

Leave in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Finally, whip remaining cream and make a layer on top of the trifle. whipped cream.

Top with grated chocolate to serve.


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