If you’ve been ski-ing in the Alps recently you’ll have enjoyed, like me, some of the food specialities of the region. It’s simple mountain fare, with various combinations of melted cheese, charcuterie and potatoes, guaranteed to pack in the calories you’ve burned after a muscle aching day on the slopes.
Although we were in a self-catering apartment on our recent holiday in Val Cenis in the French Alps, we ate out in a local restaurant on one night of our stay. There’s generally a family friendly selection of familar dishes but inevitably there’ll be a part of the menu set aside for Savoyard specialities.
For starters there’s Salad Savoyard, which is a salad topped with croutons, lardons (small chunks of fried bacon) and cubes of the local cheese. Then for the main course you can go the melted cheese route or the grilled meat route. Melted cheese is either the fondue made of local cheese mixed with white wine into which you dip your bread and sometimes vegetables, or the tartiflette which is sliced potatoes baked with bacon, cream and local cheese, or the raclette which we tried.
For the Raclette, a half of the hard round local cheese is melted under a small table-top grill and the melted cheese is scraped onto your plate – it’s named after the French word racler, to scrape. It’s served with waxy boiled potatoes and cornichons (small pickled gherkins) and sometimes some air dried ham and salami.
If you go the grilled meat route, then a platter of sliced raw meat is cooked on a table top grill and served with chips, different sauces and a salad. It’s known as a pierrade, referring to the way in which the meat would have traditionally been cooked on hot rocks. My husband and I had the raclette, the kids had the pierrade which suited them fine as the meat was very plain to suit their unadventurous palates.
Inevitably, the traditional Savoyard meal’s completed by a tarte au myrtilles or blackcurrent tarte. During the day we didn’t really stop for much to eat as the mountain restaurants were extremely expensive, but if we did have anything it was a hot chocolate and a crepe to warm us up before we hit the piste again.