Our twist on a decadent classic, this hot cheese dip is the perfect sharing dish for spring evenings in the garden with a sundowner. A few spoonfuls of sweet Apricot Harissa lends a spicy heat to balance out the creamy, rich cheese, with a handful of olives adding an extra layer of flavour.
50g unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
350ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
30g plain flour
100ml white wine
200g Gruyère or Comté cheese, grated
150g strong cheddar, grated
3 tbsp Apricot Harissa
raw vegetable crudités such as celery, peppers and radishes, to serve
sourdough bread cut into chunks, to serve
Heat your oven to 180C fan/200C nonfan. Place a small or medium pan on a high heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onions with a few good pinches of salt. Stir to coat, then cook at a constant sizzle till softened, golden and lightly sweet and caramelised, but turn down the heat if they are looking dark around the edges. Whilst the onions are cooking combine the milk and the garlic in a small pan and place on a high heat. Bring up to the boil then turn off.
When the onions are cooked, remove from the pan to a small plate, trying to keep as much butter as possible in the pan. Keep the heat on low, add the flour and use a whisk to combine. Slowly add the warm milk to form a thick paste, then keep adding more in stages until all the milk has been added. Adding the milk in one go will make the mixture lumpy! Now add the wine to the pan, turn the heat up to a gentle simmer and whisk constantly for around 6-8 minutes, until the sauce is smooth and glossy and doesn’t feel grainy in your mouth. Add all the Gruyère or Comté and about two thirds of the cheddar. Whisk in until all the cheese has melted, then add the onions back in to the sauce. Taste and season with a little salt if you feel necessary.
To bake the cheese sauce, use a small, shallow ovenproof dish or bowl. Pour the sauce into the dish then dot small spoonfuls of Apricot Harissa all over. Now scatter the olives on the top, pushing them into the sauce, and finally top with the remaining grated cheddar. Placing the dish on a baking tray makes it easier to handle when hot but this isn’t essential. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbling and the edges have begun to caramelise.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute. Serve with crudités and bread.