Molten cheese makes for the ultimate Christmas comfort food, whether for a special Christmas Eve feast or on those lazy days between Boxing day and New Year. Here, Laura Vickers tries, tests and perfects six unbelievably delicious recipes for you to try.
Christmas is the perfect excuse to consume all your favourite cheeses in scandalously large quantities, and indulgent cheese dishes are certainly a resounding hit at parties, especially so when the cheese is gooey, bubbly and melted.
From warm cheesy canapés to decadent dishes to serve on the big day and cheese-stuffed ways to use up Christmas leftovers, here are six of our ultimate festive melted cheese recipes.
Roasted sprout gratin (serves four to six as a side)
Even sprout-haters love this rich, cheesy Brussels sprout side dish on their Christmas dinner plate – and you can also adapt this to use up leftover roasted veg. Just skip step one and chuck in any other leftovers like carrots and parsnips for a tasty Boxing Day supper.
Roasted sprout gratin
- 500g sprouts, ends trimmed and any yellow outer leaves removed
- 250g crème fraîche
- 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 75g pack diced pancetta (or quorn bacon if you'd like it to be veggie)
- 30g flaked almonds
- 3 tbsp milk
- 40g Parmesan, grated
- 40g Gouda, grated
- Halve the sprouts and put in a roasting dish with a drizzle of olive oil and plenty of seasoning. Roast on 200/180 Fan/Gas Mark 6 for 20-25 minutes.
- Panfry the pancetta and almonds for three to five minutes, until the pancetta is cooked and the almonds golden brown and coated in fat from the meat.
- Mix together the crème fraîche, mustard and milk, and season well.
- Take the sprouts out of the oven and mix through the pancetta and almonds, pour over the crème fraîche mixture and stir to combine.
- Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and pop it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted, golden and bubbly.
A boldly-fruited Barossa shiraz or weighty white Rhône will have the richness to complement the gooey cheese while working well with the main event, whether turkey or a hearty nut roast.
Blue cheese stuffed pigs in blankets
Blue cheese stuffed pigs in blankets (makes 12)
What's better than bacon-wrapped sausages? Cheese-stuffed bacon-wrapped sausages! The blue cheese goes really well with most other elements on the Christmas dinner plate, but if you're not a fan you can substitute it for Cheddar, Parmesan or basically any cheese you fancy.
- 12 long chipolatas
- 12 rashers streaky bacon
- Soft blue cheese, like gorgonzola dolce, chopped into tiny pieces
- 1 tbsp cranberry sauce (optional)
- Preheat oven to 200/180 Fan/Gas Mark 6. Cook the chipolatas in the oven for 15 minutes (turning over once, halfway through), remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- When cool enough to handle, carefully cut a slit into each one lengthways, being careful not to split the sausage in two.
- Gently push the soft blue cheese into the slit, (with a light coat of the cranberry sauce if you're using it) and wrap the sausage firmly in the bacon to secure. Try your best to make sure the bacon covers the cheese entirely to minimise leakage.
- Pop it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the bacon and sausages are cooked through and the cheese is melted. Serve with Christmas dinner.
These deeply savoury delights would make delicious canapés and we can think of nothing better than a saline-tinged amontillado Sherry to wash them down with.
Few dishes are as indulgent as this French dish from the Savoy region in the French Alps. Potatoes, bacon, soft cheese and cream combine with heavenly results, but once you've had tartiflette with cranberry sauce you'll never have it without again.
Traditionally, this is served with reblochon cheese, and this would work fine in this recipe too – but the brie is just more Christmassy (and another way to use up leftovers from the Christmas cheeseboard).
- 700g waxy potatoes (like Vivaldi or Charlotte), sliced thinly
- 4 rashers back bacon/quorn bacon for veggies, sliced into thin matchsticks
- 1 leek, chopped
- Half an onion, diced
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 75ml white wine
- A handful or two of chestnuts, lightly crushed into pieces
- 200ml double cream
- 200g Brie, sliced
- 3 tbsp cranberry sauce
- Preheat the oven to 200 / 180 fan / Gas Mark 6. Cook the potatoes slices in boiling water for five minutes, then drain and set aside.
- Fry up the onion and leek for a few minutes until soft, add the garlic and fry for one more minute, then add the white wine and allow it to bubble for a couple of minutes until reduced slightly.
- Meanwhile, fry up the bacon and chestnuts separately until the bacon is cooked, and add them to the leek and onion mix.
- Layer the potatoes and onion-and-bacon mix in an oven-proof dish (two or three layers is fine, and it doesn't have to be neat!), then dollop on the cranberry sauce and roughly swirl it through the mixture.
- Pour on the cream and lay the Brie slices on top. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the Brie is gooey. Serve with bread to mop the sauce.
This is no time to mess with the concept that 'what grows together goes together' and the alpine freshness of a Jura white will have the right amount of acidity to cut through the richness of umami cheese and salty lardons.
Chorizo and sweet pepper mini grilled cheese sandwich canapés (makes 16 canapés)
The grilled cheese sandwich is one of life's simple pleasures, but in recent years it's become quite the trendy comfort food. If you're looking for tasty, unfussy nibbles for a Christmas party, these are crowd-pleasers (served whole it's also a very moreish lunch for those post-Christmas days when you're lounging around catching up on the festive telly.) The bacon jam, available in most supermarkets, is optional but adds an extra dimension of deliciousness.
Chorizo and sweet pepper mini grilled cheese sandwich canapés
- 4 slices sourdough bread
- 16 large chorizo slices
- 125g ball of mozzarella cheese, finely sliced
- 2 slices Emmental cheese
- 6 sweet piquanté peppers (from a jar – go for as spicy as your personal tastes allow), sliced into bits
- 2 tsp chilli jam (if you have it)
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 3 tsp bacon jam (optional)
- 1 tsp oil
- Spread a layer of chorizo on two of the sourdough slices.
- Top with sliced mozzarella and Emmental, then the sliced sweet peppers.
- Take the other two slices of sourdough and (if using) spread some chilli jam on one side. Then press, jam-side down, on top of the cheese and chorizo stacked slices.
- Mix together 3 tbsp mayonnaise with 3 tsp bacon jam. Spread it thickly on the outsides of both slices of each sandwich.
- Heat the oil in a pan, and fry the sandwiches for two to three minutes on each side, until the bread is crispy and golden and the cheese stringy and melted.
- Carefully slice into mini bites and arrange on a plate or wooden board (with some extra chilli jam or bacon mayonnaise for dipping, if you want).
Keep it Mediterranean with a succulent Spanish garnacha or deeply pink rosado.
Goats cheese, walnut and fig jam tartlets
Goats cheese, walnut and fig jam tartlets (makes 16)
Simple to make, pretty to look at and utterly delicious, these are perfect Christmas party food bites. It's advisable to make an extra batch because one is never enough.
- 1 packet of readymade puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tbsp fig conserve/jam
- 8-10 walnuts, broken into small pieces
- 200g soft goat's cheese (with a rind), cut into 0.5cm-thick discs
- 4 sprigs thyme, leaves only – plus more to garnish
- Runny honey, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 220 /200 fan / Gas Mark 7. Cut out 16 circles of puff pastry using a cutter around the size of a jam jar lid (we actually used the rim of a wine glass).
- Make a firm indentation with a slightly smaller cutter/glass (around 2cm from the edge of the pastry circle). Transfer to an oiled or baking parchment-lined baking tray.
- Prick the centre with a fork and brush the pastry with beaten egg.
- Spoon about half to one teaspoon of fig jam onto the inner circle of pastry.
- Sprinkle on the walnut pieces and top with a disc of cheese.
- Sprinkle over the thyme and some black pepper.
- Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the cheese is melted.
- Serve on a slab/board sprinkled with more thyme leaves and drizzled with some runny honey.
A medium-sweet Madeira or Sherry will chime beautifully with the unctuous fig jam and moreish goats' cheese here.
Swiss family fondue recipe
Swiss family fondue recipe (serves 8)
Our recipe for this classic winter dish is sourced from two Society staff-members with direct experience of living in Switzerland – it doesn't get more authentic than that!
- 3 baguettes, chopped roughly into cubes
- 450g Gruyère cheese, grated
- 450g Vacherin cheese (from Fribourg or Jura if going proper Swiss, or Franche-Comté if going French), grated
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 450ml white wine – ideally an everyday fendant, or a good bet is our Piemonte Cortese 2016
- 1.5 tsp cornflour
- 3 tsp Kirsch
- 3 tsp ground white pepper
- 1.5 tsp paprika
- 1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
- Halve the garlic cloves and rub around the fondue pan. Pour the wine into the pot, add the cornflour, and slowly warm on a low heat over the hob.
- Once hot, add the cheese in batches until melted, stirring constantly.
- Crush the garlic and add to the pot along with the chopped shallots.
- Add the Kirsch and stir through. Season with pepper, paprika and nutmeg.
- Light the flame in the fondue burner, and transfer the pot to the centre of the table. Enjoy by dipping cubes of bread into the cheese (soak the bread in Kirsch beforehand for an added kick!)
You'll need a glass of something seriously refreshing to tackle the full-on cheesiness of fondue – the hedgerow-tinged breeziness of an English white or sparkling, or a dry Alsace riesling will keep things fresh until the last drop.