Friday, 23 September 2011

The 'Tour Mont Blanc'

So, we’ve just moved house and once you get past the packing, carrying, sweat and tears there are usually a few positives. You get to go evaluate your possessions, cutting the fat so to speak, keeping only your most essential goodies and discovering memorabilia that are long forgotten. Going through our box of files and books I came upon some old snaps of holidays that took me on a meander down memory lane. One such trip was the ‘Tour Mont Blanc’, a 170km clockwise trail around the highest mountain in the Alps that starts in Chamonix, France, and winds its way through the villages and valleys in neighbouring Italy and Switzerland.

There are a number of ways of taking on the trek. We chose the camping option and used a UK based tour company that pointed us in the right direction, fed us and carted the kitchen and sink from A to B. We woke each morning, had a quick bite to eat, packed up camp and set off into the hills, usually going up. The soaring mountain peaks, creaking glaciers and immense valleys offered something new and exciting every day and there was always a refuge around the corner with a hot coffee, some fresh cake or a cold beer to give us the required boost.

The walk is tough but as long as you’re fit and confident on rocky and steep trails it’s no problem at all. We had a couple of rest days which gave the legs a breather and us the chance to explore the towns of Courmayeur and Les Contamine, grappa, wine, Raclette and all.

Centuries ago people walked up mountains to achieve higher status in their communities and a lot of mountaineers maintain that they climb mountains because they’re there. One thing that is a given is that being around the beauty and enormity of mountain landscapes forces us to appreciate the little things, like ourselves, and strolling around Mont Blanc is something that does just that.

Raclette is a Swiss and French dish that's named after a specific fatty cheese. It's a bit like a fondue, I suppose, but better because you not only get beautiful oozy cheese but also some crisp stuff, a bit like what you sometimes find on the sides of a toasted sandwich.

Easy Raclette

- 800g Raclette cheese (search for it)
- 100g cooked prawns
- some pickled onions
- a selection of cured/dried meats and hams
- some fried garlic mushrooms
- crusty bread
- some gherkins

- on a big platter, serve everything but the cheese
- heat the cheese in the oven at 180 C until gooey
- slice thick wedges of the cheese onto plates
- pop the plates under the grill for a minute or 2
- you want the cheese to have soft and crispy sections
- serve cheese plates, mix and enjoy

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