Chile and cheese is a combination that's appearing on supermarket shelves across the country and there lots of online stores selling a variety of dairy-related products that pack a punch. From pepper-flecked cheddar to Jalapeño popcorn (Tyrrell's do a very good one), we can't get enough of the stuff.
I recently bought some Jalapeño chilli cheese and was pleasantly surprised by both the heat and the flavour. While such cheese is a quick and easy filling for quesadillas, I thought I'd be little more adventurous, make a simple fondue and and bake a few home-made pretzels to go alongside. There's something hugely satisfying about kneading dough and nothing makes the stomach rumble like the smell of freshly baked bread. Here's a very simple recipe which I tried out this morning. It's adapted from The Fresh Loaf, a great site aimed at amateur bakers with a number of easy to follow bread-related recipes.
1 tsp instant yeast
175ml warm milk (heat for 1 min on full power in a microwave)
1 tsp salt
Mix the yeast with the milk and sugar and leave to stand for 10 mins.
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl and add the milk mixture. Bring together with your hands (or I find a spatula quite a good mess-free alternative for this) until it forms a sticky dough. Remove from the bowl and knead for 5 - 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and pliable. Don't be tempted to add lots more flour - the dough will soon come together and lose it stickiness.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces and roll each one out to 5cm long. This allows the dough to rest before cooking.Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 10 mins. Roll again, to about 15cm and leave for another 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (200 fan oven). Here comes the tricky bit, take a length, roll it out to 20cm and make an upside down horseshoe. Fold the ends over each other twist round again before folding them up onto the circle. Place back under the towel and leave for 10 minutes. Here's a short video showing the steps.
Bring a pan of water to the boil, pick up a pretzel with a slice, and hold it under the water for 5 secs before sliding onto a baking tray. Repeat with all six and garnish with a choice of topping (try sea salt, smoked paprika, garlic and parmesan, cinnamon sugar, pecan butter glaze). Bake for 12-15 mins until the pretzels have doubled in size and turned golden brown. Remove to a wire tray and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
Mexican Fondue (serves 2)
3 tsp cornflour
1 large glass of white wine
200g chilli cheese of your choice, grated
200g gruyere (or similar), grated
Mix the cornstarch and tequila together and set aside.
Heat the wine over medium-high heat and when it begins to simmer, gradually add the grated cheese and whisk constantly until completely melted and smooth. Reduce heat to medium and add the cornstarch mix and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to whisk until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and devour with the pretzels.