Raclette — the DIY cheese dinner

What is raclette? It is an uncooked semi-hard cheese and its name is derived from the French verb racler, which means to scrape. There are lots of factory made raclette cheeses, however the one I am recommending is made by a very famous cheese maker Marcel Petite and comes from the Jura mountain region in France.

Raclette also refers to a way of eating that originated in Switzerland in the 19th century. According to the legend Swiss herdsmen put slices of the cheese on hot rocks around the campfire and melted the cheese to make it easy to pour over bread. It is a fun meal to prepare, it is cheap, it is very nourishing, and it is a great way to get kids to eat cheese. The cheese is sliced into thin slices, melted, and poured over baby new potatoes. It is accompanied by gherkins and an air-dried beef called viande de Grison. You could use ham instead of the air-dried beef. The idea is that diners put their own slice of cheese on the pan or hot stone, so it’s a form of fondue without the mess.

The perfect way to cook it is with a raclette grill, which has six tiny non-stick pans, and you slide your portion under the grill until it bubbles. In the absence of this you can simply use any pan under a hot grill. The cheese is €22 per kilogramme and available in Sheridan’s. If you want to buy a grill there are loads on eBay for less than €20. Sheridan’s has ordered some and you could put your name on one there.

While in Sheridan’s try some of their home made duck liver parfait. It is like a very rich pate and made from duck livers, brandy, port, butter, garlic, eggs, shallots, and thyme. It is probably the best of its kind that I have eaten, and made in Sheridan’s own kitchen. Put this on some warm toast and it really is delicious. It is €33 per kilo but I usually ask for €5 worth which will serve three to four people.

A new Italian restaurant has opened in Clarinbridge. It is behind the Centra supermarket in what was once the site of the Clarinbridge Crystal shop. The views from Ristorante Dai Romani (telephone 091 776172 ) are spectacular, overlooking the estuary. The décor is really lovely and the 20-feet high ceiling creates a great feeling of space. My recent meal there included the best minestrone I have had, top class centre cut fillet of beef, and a truly wonderful panna cotta. I also sampled a take-away pizza some days later and for €10 it was first rate. The philosophy of Ristorante Dai Romani is to cook without any bought-in stocks or bouillon, minimum interference with the best produce, and that you should leave feeling satisfied but not stuffed. It is only open a few weeks and you will need to book early for a weekend night as it is getting very busy. It also has one of the best children’s menus I have seen. I wish them well as it is a difficult time to open a restaurant, however if they keep up this quality they have a winner.

Finally, are you dying to go out to dinner but in the need of a partner? I recently met Eileen Sweeney who set up a company called Dinetomeet.ie You simply register your interest with them, and when they are hosting a dinner in Galway you will be offered the chance to partake and attend with a partner of similar interests. The cost is €75 to register and in Galway the venues are usually either Vina Mara or The Malt House. Needless to say you could be partnered with your worst nightmare, however the fact that the seating is at a large party table you will be able to chat to others. On the other hand it might be the stuff of dreams!

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