Place of the Month: La Fromagerie

It seems my places of the month take a mid-month approach but I have to admit I don't mind that at all - many fun things can start and end within the first or last couple of weeks of a month, most notably New Year's Resolutions... It may seem mad to talk about, particularly as I don't ever make them not least stick to them, but as so many people do I want to add another to your list! If you can't go before Christmas to get the most wonderful cheese board imaginable, please head there in the New Year and take a seat for some wonderful food and leave with a bag full of treats. I have to detail my visit recently however as around this time of year, it truly is one of the loveliest places in London to visit. 

Marylebone in winter has become my new favourite places to have a wander, both in the day for window shopping and present inspiration and in the evening for stopping for a bite to eat or a lovely glass of wine in many of the cute eateries around. They each know exactly how to decorate their little boutiques with just the right amount of sparkle all while remaining inherently classy. Only a hop, skip and a jump away from Oxford Circus and Bond Street, I feel this little corner is far too overlooked! Paul Rothe & Son is a picture perfect little deli en route from the main drag and is well worth a look round and a purchase of a little jar of something sweet!

Only a little further on down the main street, a quick left takes you to the most magical window in the area. The cheese room's golden glow shines out to the street like only it can, begging you to come inside and try the delights it holds within. Golden towers of joy are piled high, the fast moving cheese maestros with their backs to you rushing around getting everyone as much cheese as they can carry and the produce spilling out of the front door just forces you to walk in. The hustle and bustle of outside continues on inside but with a slightly more serene air - one that vanishes the closer to Christmas you get! - but the service is always impeccable, both in the cafe, the deli and the Cheese Room itself. The menus change every day at both the Marylebone and Highbury outfits so I can't explicitly recommend anything but I've had wonderful salads throughout the year and this month was no exception - a warming winter version peppered with toasted seeds and jewels of dried fruit. If you can manage a soup too then do! Using produce from the shop, they always come up trumps and you'll soon be toasty from the inside out.

So as not to completely overwhelm everyone in the Cheese Room on Christmas Eve, it's advisable to get in early and get your Christmas cheese board all sorted well before the big day. I also love being leisurely about it and taking my time chatting to the ridiculously knowledgeable guys behind the cheese (physically and metaphorically) and using them as a source of inspiration for choosing the best things to go together. I have to have a Comte and a Stichelton but everything else is left to them to have fun with. Marcel was as helpful as ever helping me choose a delightfully fruity goats cheese, a soft and rich textured cows milk cheese and a hard but mellow cheddar-esque one to finish. I'll do a little info-graphic with far more detail once I've got over the inevitable cheese coma that's waiting for me... What's also wonderful about getting your cheese properly is that you can pick exactly how much you want and if you take more notice than I do, can remember your favourites and learn about when they are best in season - something I didn't know was a thing until speaking to the guys here! As you know, I'm a big seasonal gal, so if my cheese can get in on the action, then I'll take it! 

La Fromagerie is one of those little nuggets of London I love so much, hideaways from the rest of the city but a magical part of its woven fabric nonetheless. The staff here are amazing (as I had to tell them all the week before Christmas when the Cheese queue was out the door most days all day...) and what they produce is equally as good. Look no further for all your cheesey delights but just don't forget to take your mother, or like mine, they'll be ever so disappointed ('regardless of how bloody good the cheese is...')!

A couple of the images are from La Fromagerie's own site, as I went in the dark and took terrible ones... apologies!

Cheesy Middle Meatballs Recipe

This sauce is the base for so many things I can’t even tell you! If you have the time to let it reduce for hours, then do. Top it up with water if you need to and stick any veg you’ve got lying around in it.  They go so soft and delicious, it’s hard telling exactly what’s in there so it’s perfect for fussy eaters.

The meatballs themselves are deliberately plain to let the sauce do the talking but you could easily spice them up by adding herbs or whatever you fancy. A nice variation is to use pork mince with some chopped sage running through. I’ve said it to serve 4 but with the hungry eaters in our house it usually only makes it to 2 or 3 so adjust as necessary but this amount makes about 14 large meatballs. 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

Olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloved, crushed

300g mushrooms, quartered

3 tbsp mixed herbs

splodge of tomato puree

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 glass red wine

splashes of Wocestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar

1 chicken stock cube

 

For the meatballs:

1 kg lean minced beef

1 pack mini mozzarella balls

1 egg

3 tbsp breadcrumbs

salt and pepper

 

Recipe:

1.   Sweat off the onion, pepper and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the mushrooms and herbs and cook for a couple more minutes.

2.   Add everything else including the crumbled stock cube and leave to bubble for as long as you can (1-2 hours is best).

3.   For the meatballs, squidge together the mince, breadcrumbs, egg and seasoning. Push a blob flat in your palm and stick a mozzarella ball in the middle. Close the mince around it making sure there are no gaps.

4.   Cook in the sauce for 10-15 minutes and serve with spaghetti or rice!

3 Cheese Pasta Bake Recipe

Originally when creating this recipe, I used mascarpone in the sauce too, however having made for a few big dinners in our house and not having any to hand I’ve since decided it’s actually better without! We love cheese at ours and even thought mascarpone is delicious, I think it sort of masked the flavours of the cheddar and Parmesan. So, ignore the scoop of mascarpone in the video and enjoy this utter cheese fest in all its glory. This serves about 8 as it’s so rich, so definitely serve it alongside a fresh green salad to cut through the creaminess! 

Ingredients:

500g any pasta

100g butter

100g plain flour

100ml milk

500g grated cheddar

200g grated Parmesan, plus 100g

2 balls mozzarella

2 cups breadcrumbs

150g frozen peas

1 pack streaky bacon / lardons

 

Recipe:

1.  Pop your pasta in salted water to cook for 10 mins (definitely al dente as it’ll continue cooking in its sauce). Drain and toss in olive oil.

2.  In a large pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook out for 3 minutes. Slowly add milk and beat to create a smooth white sauce.

3.   Stir in the cheddar until smooth again and then add the 200g Parmesan and the mozzarella. Stir until melted and gooey and great.

4.   Chop up the bacon and cook off until crispy. Add the peas and then stir through the sauce. Add the pasta and tip into a large baking dish.

5.  Stir the 100g Parmesan into the breadcrumbs and scatter over the top. Bake in a 200c oven for 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are crispy and golden.

Morning After Friday Night Frittata Recipe

We’ve all been there. Blood turned into beer, or at least it feels like that come Saturday morning where your body clock still wakes you up at 8, despite you only crawling into bed a few hours previous. This is a true fridge-raid and you can totally make it your own. I’ve used more traditional Full English ingredients but I’ve also been known to stick leftover takeaways in a pan of eggs so don’t limit yourself! This is even better when its made for you, so ask nicely and promise to keep the restorative teas coming all day… 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Around 500g any veg or protein you’ve got leftover from the week e.g.

100g halved cherry tomatoes

200g boiled/baked potatoes

6 rashers of bacon

100g chopped mushrooms

100g chopped red pepper

handful spinach

5 large free range eggs, beaten

 

Recipe:

1.   Grill bacon. Fry mushrooms and pepper in a glug of olive oil. Add tomatoes and potatoes to get some colour on them.

2.   Chop the bacon into the pan and add the spinach leaves to wilt a bit.

3.   Add all this to the bowl of eggs to cover it. Add salt and pepper and return to the pan.

4.   Cook over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Transfer to the grill if you’re pan has a metal handle- if not, flip out onto a plate and slide straight back into the pan to cook the other side.

Great hot or cold