“Goodbye 2013!” Gastronomic Pop-Up – Sunday 29th December

We are very excited to be handing over our Brixton kitchen to talented friends of F&G, James Murray & Josh Pollen, for a gastronomic farewell to the year gone by. James Murray has been cooking for 10 years, working his way up through the kitchens of Le Manoir, followed by stints at Texture, Claridges, Petrus & Roussillon before being invited to oversee the opening of a new restaurant in Chicago. James is currently  senior sous chef at NUR in Hong Kong and we’re lucky to have the “Frying Scotsman” cooking up a storm in our kitchen while he’s back in the UK for his Christmas “break”! Collaborating with James is cook, photographer, researcher and neophile Josh Pollen, director of culinary design company Blanch & Shock. Josh has worked at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, at Angela Hartnett’s Menu at the Connaught Hotel and he recently staged at Noma in Copenhagen alongside stints at the Nordic Food Lab.

Expect some serious flavour and culinary flair from these young chefs as they bring a feast of fine-dining to our Brixton home. There will be the option of pairing certain dishes with one of the year’s most exciting ales, as selected by the lovely Dave at Market Row Wines. Seriously, how better to spend the last Sunday of the year? But hurry… we only have space for a single lunch and supper sitting!

To book a table call us on 0207 274 2816 or email info@frenchandgrace.co.uk

@joshpollen @jimmy4685

GOODBYE_2013

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Menus, menus, menus

Just a quick post to keep you updated on the changes to our menus – in our Brixton restaurant (if you’re thinking of booking us out for a private party), at our Camden hatch and on our glorious, colourful street food stall. Wet your whistles with this lot!

Brixton’s Private Party Feasting Menu this Christmas (don’t forget we have weekly changing specials on the blackboard in Brixton, plus our silky smooth Volcano coffees in Brixton and Camden):

XMAS_2013

Our Camden Hatch offering:

MENU_NOVEMBER3

and our street food beauties:

logo_isolated

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We Are Family

Happy Autumn one and all!

We just wanted to take a moment on this here blog, where the F&G journey began,  to reflect on all the amazing people who have joined our team over the years. We couldn’t do what we do without them.  The growing team of F&G staff past and present have been a joy to work with and we want to thank them all for putting so much pride and energy into growing the business with us. Some special shout outs go to Joss & Char for their boundless energy and loyalty in Brixton since we opened.  To Maddy & Joel for always supporting the cooks and bouncing around the dining room with wide grins that never seem to droop! Dale & Phillippa, thank you for keeping it so warm and real up in Camden with those silky smooth coffees and infectious smiles.  Big respect to all you griddlers and slingers who joined us for the street food Summer of Love 2013 and to everyone who has jumped on board recently –  you are all fabulous.

STAFF_love

Would you like to join the team? We are currently looking for an energetic and creative chef who wants to help us grow from the kitchen outwards. Ideally we require a minimum of 1 year’s experience in a busy restaurant kitchen but we’d also be interested in hearing from food stylists and cookery school graduates. Initiative and an efficient work ethic are essential.  Please email info@frenchandgrace.co.uk with a covering letter and your CV to apply.

Über love,
Rosie & Ellie x

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The Hatch is here!

In the grand F&G tradition of turning tiny spaces into tasty places, we have ventured north of the river to open ourselves a takeaway hatch in Camden Lock Market! Thank you to everyone who contributed through our fundraising campaign. We are now open for business selling fantastic Volcano coffee and a full wrap menu. We look forward to feeding more of you very soon! R & E x

POSTER

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The Great Outdoors

Wow. That was one heck of a summer we just had back there! Now the kids are back at school, the sun is sinking ever faster and the fresh nip in the air signals the approach of Autumn. But before our thoughts turn to warming stews, soups and socks, we’d like to reflect on some highlights of an epic season.

The biggest gig of our street food summer saw eight of our finest F&G ladies chugging down the M4, wipers at full speed and visibility impaired by torrential hail. 4 of us travelled in a battered 80s camper called Eric with a top speed of 45mph and the others in a truly terrible van packed to the rafters, which broke down if the speedometer crept even a millimeter over 60mph. Big respect to Annabelle for driving the beast with a smile and cracking jokes throughout! Much to our surprise, we eventually reached the beautiful foothills of Sugar Loaf Mountain for Green Man Festival 2012 – our magical muddy home for 5 crazy days in August. We slept very little, worked bloody hard and met some amazing people. Bring on next year!

The team and their beautiful flatbread masks at the F&G Wrap Party (sometime around 2am on Monday morning).

We thought we may never recover. Then an email, sent from the gods of travel PR themselves, bounced into our inbox. The lovely people behind Featherdown Farms were inviting us to camp in luxury at one of their nationwide sites and experience that toe-curling term ‘glamping’ in all its ridiculous glory.  This could not have come at a better time – we were still suffering from motion sickness after a week on solid ground! We jumped at the chance to trade shin deep mud for wood floors; damp sleeping bags for freshly laundered white linen; cold baked beans scooped from the tin with a coffee stirrer for fresh seafood eaten at a table with a fork; and manic chorizo griddling for slow stove-top cooking. So we rinsed off the wellies, scooped up two girlfriends and Rosie’s 2 year old son and, glutons for long drives by now, set off for Boswarthen Farm at the very tip of beautiful Cornwall. Here’s some of our wonderful weekend in pictures:

The kitchen

Ellie in socks with smoked mackerel paté

These lazy chickens didn’t lay one egg and we paid £10 to look after them. Pah!

Camembert to be baked in the fire with garlic and white wine

View from our tent

El dishing out delicious fish stew: monkfish, bream and bass fresh from Cornish seas stewed with potatoes, cream, tarragon & kale and served with generous handfuls of blanched and buttered samphire.

Our hob and our heating.

Beautiful mulled nectarines (recipe below)

Those nectarines were so good, here’s a quick recipe for you:

4 nectarines, stoned and sliced
Slosh of white wine
2 star anise
6 cardamon pods
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cloves
1 tbsp sugar
Grating of nutmeg
Clotted cream to serve

Wrap everything in foil and place the parcel in a pan over a fierce heat to soften but not turn to mush. They took about 20 minutes on the wood stove but probably no more than 10 at home where you could also sling them in a hot oven. Serve with a big dollop of clotted cream and a glass of white wine. So good.

Our stay at Boswarthen Farm was truly memorable and we were the most relaxed we’ve been all year. Thank you to Voyager PR for inviting us and to Adrian and Maddy for taking such good care of us city folk!  Now the weather is drawing in and our stall is hibernating in storage for a while, it’s all eyes on FRENCH & GRACE as we launch our new Autumn menu, get the heaters in and welcome some wonderful new cooks to the team. Join our mailing list here for more regular updates on the restaurant, the book, the street food and other random adventures.

Love,
Rosie & Ellie

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Hock, line and sinker

As promised, we’ve dusted off our grease splattered notebooks, attempted to mend the wobbly ‘shift’ key on the work laptop and pulled our neglected blog boots back on in time for spring and all its promises. This week we’re treating you to a brand new recipe straight from the hobs of FRENCH & GRACE, a sneak preview of our upcoming cookbook and some other stuff only we know, and soon you will know and then other people might find out too…

First things first:


Ham hock, mustard and kale casserole
One of our most popular specials to date, this creamy casserole marries some of our favourite British flavours and never fails to sooth and sate the cold and hungry crowds, flocking to Brixton Village from ever further afield after the recent press deluge. Our waitresses have been asked for the recipe over many an empty bowl and it would be rude of us not to let you in on the action.

Serves 8
2 large unsmoked gammon knuckles (rinsed)
2 bay leaves
Pinch each of fennel seeds, cloves & pepper corns
Glug of olive oil
2 medium onions (red/white or one of each), sliced
1 pinch fennel seeds
1 small white/green cabbage, sliced
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
Splash of white wine vinegar
1.5 litres chicken stock
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, drained
Pinch of grated nutmeg
3 large handfuls of curly kale, chopped into strips
Sourdough toast, caperberries & olive oil to serve (optional)

Cover the knuckles in water (or better still, cider), throw in the bay leaves, fennel seeds, cloves and pepper corns, cover and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2-3 hours until the meat starts shrinking away from the bone. Drain, leave until cool enough to handle and shred the meat, discarding any fat or gristle along the way. Set the shredded hock aside for later.

Pour a long glug of olive oil into a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onions, a pinch of fennel seeds, the sliced cabbage, thyme leaves and nutmeg and stir until everything is soft and pale. Add the garlic and white wine vinegar and stir for a few minutes before pouring in the stock. Bring slowly to the boil, stir in the mustard and beans and leave to simmer for 5 minutes before adding  the shredded ham hock and kale. Simmer for another 5 minutes and then remove from the heat, stir in the cream and give everything a generous going over with the pepper mill. Taste and add more nutmeg/mustard/seasoning to taste.

Serve with toasted sourdough, caperberries and a drizzle of olive oil.

Now if pig’s knuckles don’t turn you on, then how about this:

That’s right, two of our mighty wraps (lamb merguez or halloumi) for a tenner. Not only that but each wrap earns you a stamp on your F&G loyalty card and the tenth is on us. Now that’s generous and, if you live, work or waste your time in Brixton during the week it makes total sense. In other exciting restaurant news, from March 16th we will be staying open until 11pm so we won’t have to decant you and your wine out onto the streets of Brixton before you’ve asked for the bill! You might even have time to for a coffee and one of those amazing puddings from the blackboard photo up there.

Some of you are starting to make impatient grunting noises about the book and we’re very sorry to say that publication has been delayed by a month. We’re so impatient to hold the thing and get it up on a shelf in the restaurant for all to see but we’ll have to hold tight until late May – at least we’ll have t-shirt weather by then and you can get straight on with cooking our favourite spring/summer recipes. In the meantime, here’s a cheeky preview exclusively for you, our loyal blog readers:

We’re so pleased with the look and feel of every page – it truly feels like our book and we really hope you like it too. Well that lot should fill you up for now and we’ll be back shortly with news of our Spring menu and other exciting changes at F&G, plus more recipes of course and no doubt a bit of profound moaning and astute weather analysis! See you soon.

Rosie x

Posted in Bowl food, French & Grace, Markets, Press, The Book | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

There are no words

There are no words to describe just how challenging our new venture, French & Grace, has been for us. Which is why there have been no words on this blog of late. We haven’t been able to come and write here, even if we’d wanted to (which, we must admit, we haven’t) such is the diversion of our modest restaurant. If we had written a blog post about the opening and running of F&G, you wouldn’t have liked it. It would have read something like this:

“Urch. Morning again.”

“Can’t get up.”

“Must get up.”

“But I can’t.”

“There’s nothing you can do about it.”

Kind of Beckettian, but without the mud. If that internal monologue doesn’t do the feeling justice, I distinctly recall every single morning feeling as though I’d been clobbered round the head with a bottle of vodka in the minutes between collapsing in bed and waking to the ringing of the alarm clock. It didn’t help that we were driven to drink through the latter parts of 13 hour shifts – which ran back to back for 4 days, every week – but drink or no drink, it was hard, hard work.

And it still is. It’s required everything of our joined mental faculties to keep on top of the orders, the staff, the cooking, the cleaning, the logging of fridge temperatures (it’s glamorous.) Those who saw us at the start witnessed the un-pretty, deeply etched bags from under our eyes which have just about lifted, and I’m sure they’d be kind and comment on the running of the place feeling more smooth. We must be kind on oursleves too, and enjoy the progress along with the journey. Not only that but we’ve started to claim back wedges of the social lives we had stolen from us in October and that too feels good. Slowly, carefully, we are finding what is called ‘a balance’, and this, after all, is half the point of being self-employed.

This week, however, Britain is experiencing a cold snap and we have no customers. It’s so cold in the mornings that the oven goes on – door open – to heat the room up and loosen the solid bottle of olive oil from Brixton’s arctic grip. Stamping around with nine layers and several cups of tea, the morning prep and shopping trip gets underway. And then I wait. And in come some staff. And we wait together. We serve a handful of brave local workers who manage to take off their coats and relax over bowls of hot specials and mugs of tea. But then they go, and we remain. It’s a bit of a shock, having enjoyed the surprisingly fruitful weeks of a busy January. But then that’s business, and quite specifically, Brixton Village. Come the warmer winds, our customers will quite rightly return.

Anyway, the point of all this is that it’s been quiet of late and we’ve missed the blog. We finally have a chance to say something during this period of chilly reflection and we would like to state that it’s our aim to really get back to writing this year and to make time to upload, photograph and share some new recipes – maybe even some from the book?! For now, though, here’s a snapshot of what we’re doing this month at F&G, in a bid to lure you down for a tasty lunch with us. Come on in – the oven’s on!

Ellie

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Our new home in pictures

Today marks our first day off for weeks so this shan’t be too lengthy a post. We just wanted to thank you all for your patience and support while we’ve been absorbed in the crazy business of setting up FRENCH & GRACE.

Designing and building a beautiful, functional restaurant in a run-down arcade, with only 191 square feet to play with, has been a challenging, exhausting and exhilarating experience, to say the least. The process has aged us prematurely, ruined our hands, killed our social life and stopped us sleeping but, as we open the shutters to the restaurant we’ve dreamed about for years, we could not be prouder.  We’re looking forward to staying still for a while and getting back to our duties of cooking and sharing recipes here on the blog where the journey began.

People came, people cleared their plates and licked their lips, people read the papers and people said thank you. This made us happy! See you soon.

F & G

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Hungry? Here’s why.

You poor, hungry people. We know – we left you, totally abandoned, discarded like the dirty wrapper on a late night kebab. We’re sorry. We’re hungry too. These last 2 months, since our sojourn in Italy (seems like years ago – where on earth did the summer go?) have been dominated by back to back bookings with our street food stall; mornings at the market, afternoons at the hob, then endless nights at the computer, tapping away at our book. We’ve barely slept, and definitely missed out on a social life, but now we can finally reveal that it’s all down to the fact that WE HAVE A SHOP! The wife and I – that’s Rosie – did a deal on a tiny unit in Brixton’s wonderful Village, the indoor market. And yes, we’re planning on opening in early October, Friday 7th to be precise.*

* We needed a little longer than we anticipated to get everything just right and will open to the public on Saturday 15th at Midday. See FRENCH & GRACE for more details.

We’re excited and scared all at once, and so very, very thrilled to be able to put down some roots in a space that we’ve watched and thoroughly enjoyed as it’s grown over the last two years. It wasn’t all that long ago that we hosted a day and night’s residency at Cornercopia, just round the corner, and we longed for a shop of our own. So now we have one! We fought tooth and nail with our proposal to get in there, and we’re well under way with the build. Watching the tiny, dark red butcher’s shop that it used to be becoming a Salad Club hangout and kitchen-restaurant on a miniature scale (believe, it’s 191 compact square feet) is a beautiful thing. We have anguished over paint colours, tiling, floor coverings, suppliers, refrigeration systems, you name it.


And no, we’re not quite there yet – there is a great deal of work to be completed still, but we’re on our way, and it feels darn good. No longer will we have to ferry pots and measuring jugs between our kitchens. We have a shared, loved workspace to cycle to in the mornings where we’ll pull up the shutter, get the coffee on the hob, and attend to our daily cooking, ready to share with you, the people we’ve allowed to go hungry for too, too long. We look forward to serving up our hearty, colourful Salad Club style street food and home cooking, and will be open for take aways, supper bookings and all sorts in between.

So now you see we weren’t ignoring you, we just had a lot of projects to hurl oursleves into. We’ve had enormous help from several great groups of people whom we’d like to thank: namely Raph, Rosie’s husband, who has been on his knees with a hammer and saw these last few weeks, advising, measuring and building the thing. Then there’s the unforgettable assistance and support of The Princes’ Trust who’ve helped us onto our business feet with a whole wealth of sensible, practical courses and spreadsheets. We face their Dragon’s Den approval committee on Monday to see if we can bother them for a loan – Deborah Meaden, here we come!

So yeah, we’ve built up an appetite too. As of today, OUR FINAL BOOK DEADLINE (ach!), we may just be able to carve out some time to start posting blogs again. We’ll be nipping off throughout September to rear our heads on the festival scene first (West Norwood Feast, Alex James Presents HarvestAbergavenny and Real Food Harvest Festival) and then we’ll be right back with you, ready to open up the shop, and in one place for once. Sort of. After that, we’d really appreciate it if you could sort us out with a holiday, yeah?

Ellie

Posted in A bit on the side, Hearty fare, Markets, Salad travels, Secret suppers, The Book | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Under the Tuscan Sun

Buongiorno tutti! The title of this post seems to have sprung from the part of my brain designed for storing the names of bad 90s films, but we’ll go with it for now…
We return from shooting our summer chapter in glorious Tuscany a few pounds heavier, ever so slightly browner and full of the joys of summer kitchen behaviour. As expected, we were thoroughly spoiled with an abundance of beautiful, fresh ingredients everywhere we turned. From the roadside grocers to the aisles of the cavernous Esselunga, we were like hyper children in a sweet shop–filling our baskets with the ripest melons, the greenest spinach, the softest cheese and the freshest anchovies to inspire three long days of hardcore chopping, kneading, steaming, blanching, drizzling, writing, shooting and eating high up in the hills.

As we’ve learned from buying our vegetables from British farmers recently, quality produce needs very little done to it. Simplicity was key with these recipes and with a few clever combinations, kicks and spices here and there, our food was soon ready to face the camera. And the camera loved it! Sadly we can’t unveil any of the recipes just yet–you’ll have to keep banging your knives and forks on the table until April, 2012.

Laura Edwards works her magic while El looks on

With the news yesterday that food inflation has risen to almost 6% in the UK, it was a relief to be paying much fairer prices for food and drink during our stay in Italy. Obviously, the Tuscans are blessed with a temperate climate, thus a long season of abundant crops, but if you shop carefully and seasonally in the UK at the moment you can avoid being stung quite so hard. While we wouldn’t dare preach about seasonality and understand that your mood and what’s at hand are likely to be the biggest influences on what you eat, in pricey times it makes more sense than ever to buy what’s abundant, fresh and fair to both the customer and the producer.

Take British tomatoes, for example. They’re overflowing at the moment and prices in your local supermarket should reflect that. Check out The Tomato Stall for amazing mixed boxes of Isle of Wight toms in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. I know this somewhat defeats the object, but, if you manage to save a few pennies on tomatoes next time you shop, perhaps you could consider investing in a tub of buffalo mozarella? Once through the tills at Esselunga, Ellie and I proceeded to devour a tub of these *impossible to avoid testicular sounding description* with the greedy abandon of Brits abroad. If you can manage to make it home with yours, picking up some basil along the way, then we would suggest whipping up a capresé with your loot. Don’t put your tomatoes in the fridge if you’re using them the same day–they lose their flavour and wonderful greenhouse scent when they’re cold.

Capresé for 6-8
400g mixed tomatoes
200g buffalo mozarella
10-12 basil leaves
Quality olive oil
Salt and pepper

I know this is child’s play but for the sake of consistency… Roughly slice and season your tomatoes, tear over large chunks of mozarella and plenty of basil, drizzle with quality olive oil, grind over some pepper and serve with pretty much anything on a summer’s table.

In other Salad Club news, it’s feeding time at Zoo Lates this Friday, and again on Friday 22nd, where we’ll be serving up our delicious chorizo and halloumi flatbreads. Keep your eyes peeled for future dates and arrivederci.

Rosie

Posted in Salad travels, The Book, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment