A few weeks ago to our great delight we were invited to the launch party of French Kitchen, a new local restaurant in Wandsworth Common, run and owned by Chef David Healey. Chef David learned the trade at Westminster College and refined his skills at the Mayfair Hotel before opening up his first restaurant, French Cafe, on Ritherdon Road. This was a fantastic hit with the locals! When the Wandsworth Common venue became available the French Kitchen concept was born.
On Thursday, a slightly damp and cold evening, both Chicks & Cheese girls got together and went to the Launch Party. On arrival we were welcomed by friendly staff and a delicious cocktail; Chambord Mojito for me and French 75 for Nix. Both cocktails had a great kick to them but were well mixed and balanced.
There was a wonderful mix of old and new regulars, bloggers, journalists and even the Deputy Mayor. Mingling with the locals and the Deputy Mayor was interesting and we learnt a lot about the local area and why the regulars just keep coming back to French Kitchen. And we saw why they do. The canapes were a lovely and diverse selection, our favourite was the deep fried Bresse blue, obviously, cheese!
The wine served was their house wine; 'La Croix' from France. The white is a Vermentino/Sauvignon Blanc blend, crisp with delicate nutty fruit flavours. The a red a Grenache/Merlot, smooth with cherry fruits and meaty flavours. Good choice for house wines. Both at £4.50 a glass and £18.50 a bottle, very reasonable for London prices.
The a la carte menu is a good mix of French classics and "crowd pleasers" and decently priced. We can not wait to go back and try everything. The steak frites with Bordelaise looks especially good at £16.95, which all the regulars raved about.
On leaving we were each given a gift bag each with a vacuum pack portion of their coq au vin and their onion and beetroot marmalade. They served this with their foie gras parfait on French bread. We can not wait to try out both of them.
Well done everyone involved on a great new opening. We wish you every success in the future.
All our love,
Stephie & Nix xxx
Check them out at - http://frenchkitchenandbistro.co.uk/
So who else out there lacks inspiration when it comes to making dinner on a week night? I totally feel your pain! What I have taken to doing lately is designing a weekly menu and writing it on the whiteboard on the fridge. Firstly, so that I know what groceries I need to buy for the week and secondly, when I mooch over to the fridge thinking to myself that there is nothing in there and that I need to go out to Waitrose and buy some exciting food it reminds me I already have groceries and need to get my A into G and sort out dinner. Or so I tell myself. This last week was no different. Well in a way it was. I stuck to my menu and made what I had planned to make.
Sunday we were on our way home and were both starving so we popped into Tesco and grabbed 2 pizzas with some dip and off we went. I knew I had bought groceries that had been delivered on Friday evening but I was in a snacking mood so pizza it was. Granted it was only 14:30 in the afternoon so not quite a crime. Pizza was washed down with a cup of team, a nap and I woke up 45 minutes later thinking to myself the husband would be hungry soon. I had no desire at this point in time to cook. You know that meme of the crazy grey haired cat and the tag line is..."when you wake up from a nap not knowing what year it is." Yip I was that cat. So I dragged my sorry butt off the couch and started to sort my brain out. Washing got put away, swept the floor, fussed around some other bits and pieces and before I knew it it was after 6 pm. The moment of truth. OK, OK, I was going to have to make dinner.
What did I have in the fridge? Lamb mince, 3 aubergines, pomegranate, spinach, yoghurt and tahini. A theme me thinks. Yes there was a distinctly Persian theme to the ingredients in my fridge so I got cracking. I have a great recipe for stuffed aubergines with lamb from a Riverford Farm box I got a while ago and the majority of the ingredients to hand so I got cracking. It was delicious! As Kyle says, "winner, winner lamb dinner." Apparently a theme in the family as 3 out of 4 ladies in our family were making a variation of lamb on Sunday night. So we had aubergines stuffed with Persian lamb, pomegranates and tahini, yoghurt dressing, spiced couscous and wilted spinach.
Then last night, Monday night, I got home and felt the dreaded fear of the fridge. Really? Did I really have to cook? Again? Could I not go and buy some fun stuff? But wait! I still had fun stuff in the fridge that just needed a little love. Low and behold there were still aubergines. As I was feeling a Persian persuasion I got cracking with a recipe from Sabrina Ghayour's Persiana for Mirza Ghasemi. This stuff is manna from heaven. It's SO good! The menu then grew organically. I made hummus, Shirazi salad, cacik (cucumber, dill, garlic and yoghurt dip) and balsamic pickled beetroot. Meat Free Monday was pretty darn tasty and Kyle told me I could make mirza ghasemi again any time. He loves bit of mezze anyway so it was a win win.
So all in all a win for my weekly menu, a win for not going out and buying more groceries and a big WIN for aubergines. A simple ingredient that made for 2 super tasty suppers. Awesome aubergines.
Baked Aubergine with Spiced Lamb, Mint and Pomegranate - Serves 2
If you are vegetarian you could substitute the lamb with a tin of chickpeas
1 aubergine, cut in half lengthways
oil for frying and roasting e.g. sunflower, or a light olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
250 gr lamb mince
1 large garlic clove, crushed - I always use 2 for good measure
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried mint
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chilli falkes
1 400 gr tin of whole tomatoes
2 Tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
1 pomegranate or pomegranate seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Score the skin of the aubergine in a criss-cross pattern. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place skin side up on a baking tray and bake for 40 - 45 minutes until the flesh is soft and tender. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a heavy frying pan. Fry the onion on a low heat for about 10 minutes until translucent and sweet. Add the lamb and stir-fry on a medium high heat to brown. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, mint, paprika and chilli flakes. Stir for 2 minutes. Add the tin of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes, add a splash of water if needed to stop the meat drying out. Once the aubergine is cooked, remove from the oven, scoop out as much of the flesh as you can, keeping the skins intact. Add the aubergine flesh to the lamb mix. Simmer for 5 minutes. Check the seasoning, spoon the lamb into the aubergine skins. Sprinkle with toasted almonds, pomegranate seeds and some more dried mint. If you like finish with a tahini dressing of 1 tsp tahini, 2 Tbsp natural yoghurt, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, salt and pepper. Adjust until it tastes good to you. Drizzle over the the lamb. Serve with couscous and wilted greens or a leafy salad.
Mirza Ghasemi - Serves 2 as part of a mezze meal or 4 as a side dish
I adjusted this recipe from the original by Sabrina Ghayour to suit our needs
1/2 head of garlic, peeled, bashed and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 Tbsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp caster sugar
Maldon sea salt or sea salt flakes of your choice
1 medium, free range egg, beaten
Handful of broken walnut pieces to garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 7. Place the whole aubergines in a roasting tin and roast for 40 - 45 minutes until the skin is crisp and the flesh soft right through to the centre.
Put a good drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic slices and slowly cook, ensuring you cook them through rather than "browning." Once the garlic begins to colour stir in the tumeric. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, or until they break down and are cooked through. Turn off the heat and put to one side.
Once the aubergines are cooked slice them stalk to base and using a large spoon scoop out the flesh. Stir this into the garlic and tomatoes. Put this back on a low heat and heat the mix through for 5 minutes, mash the vegetables with your spoon or a fork as you go. Add the tomato puree, sugar and salt to taste. Cook all together for a further 6 minutes on a medium-low heat.
Make lots of holes with your fork in the mixture and pour the beaten egg straight into the pan. DO NOT mix it all together. Let the egg sit and cook through until opaque for about 6 minutes. Once cooked give the mixture a stir, remove form the heat and leave to cool for 10 - 15 minutes. This dish is best served warm, not piping hot. Garnish with the walnut pieces and serve with flatbread.
I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. Have some fun with them and above all enjoy eating them!
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain