Raclette, the cheese

Discovering Raclette (i): We had just settled into the plush seats at Two Faces at Delgany, that brilliantly restored castle/hotel at Portsea, Melbourne’s Riviera. Unused as we are to such style and service, we were still holding on to that moment of self-consciousness as the waiters scurry about and smile glowingly, and you ask about the wine list etc., and there is small talk all about, and you wonder when they will disappear so you can exchange that opening titbit of gossip etc. Suddenly I looked at the missus, glowing across the table, and said, quite loudly in retrospect: ‘This place smells like a cowshed.’ If looks could kill, I would have been stone dead.

‘It’s the cheese, you idiot,’ she hissed. I looked around, and there, at the table behind, was a couple hoeing into a dish of asparagus, over-baked with Raclette.

Discovering Raclette (ii): We had been here and there, and decided to call into a favourite cheese shop where we stocked up with all sorts, including a decent slab of Raclette, sliced very finely. I tossed the lot into the car, and we drove home, humming and whistling. We unloaded the kids and, when it was all over, their mother returned to the car, rummaging about in the mess in the back.

‘What on earth are you doing’ I asked.

‘I think one of our darlings has left something behind. The car stinks.’

‘It’s the cheese, you idiot,’ I hissed. 15–15.

It’s extraordinary when you think about it. So much of the cheese we eat and love smells like all those things on earth we prefer to leave to others: the inside of a horsebox; a pair of well-worn socks; a kid’s lunch-box after a week’s holiday; bathers in the boot; nappies in the night. Put all the above together and you’ve got Raclette.

Raclette has been made for centuries in Switzerland, but it is only since 1988 that Australian-made has been readily available, thanks to a joint venture between a Swiss company and Haberfields, a longtime milk supplier at Wodonga on the Victorian — NSW border.

The cheese itself has given its name to a famous mountain dish. The hardy Swiss mountain folk would stick a great chunk of Raclette on the end of a knife and poke it in the fire. As soon as it started to melt, they would remove it and scrape it over oven-baked potatoes. The French ‘to scrape’ is racler.

Raclette is the most perfect of melting cheese, and although its joy in a fresh bread sandwich should not be underestimated, I would not put one in your child’s lunch-box. It could cause some embarrassment.

½ dozen potatoes for mashing

½ cup milk

100g butter

bunch of tarragon, leaves pulled from the stem


black pepper

dozen slices Raclette (about 150g) — When buying this cheese, ask your supplier to slice it for you.


Cook the potatoes until just done. When they are just about cooked, bring the milk to the boil. Mash the potatoes roughly with a fork and add the milk, butter, tarragon, salt and pepper. Set aside to cool in an oven-proof dish. This can be done well in advance.


Heat the oven to 200°C. Spread the cheese over the potatoes and heat through in the oven. It should take about 15 minutes. Season with black pepper and serve.

WINE: Wine is not scared of Raclette! With these spuds the Swiss would probably serve a crisp, dry white made from the chasselas grape, or a light-bodied pinot noir. Chasselas and I have never been able to dance together, so I’d go for a pinot.