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The Foraging Fox: making beetroot beautiful again

The Foraging Fox: making beetroot beautiful again

by Great British Chefs 05 October 2017

A glut of beetroot led to Frankie Fox creating a delicious condiment that now lines the shelves of shops up and down the country. We find out more about her beetroot ketchups.

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Beetroot might grace the tasting menus of many a fine-dining restaurant these days, but it’s not always enjoyed time in the spotlight. Boiled into mush, pickled in sharp, acidic vinegar and slopped onto plate after plate of school lunch, there are plenty of people in the UK who permanently turned their backs on this bright red root veg many years ago. However, in this age of culinary enlightenment, we’re much more careful and creative about how we cook it, and many of us are starting to realise just how good it can be.

One of these cooks is Frankie Fox, who co-founded The Foraging Fox with her friend Desiree Parker. Combining beetroot and apples into a smooth, vibrantly coloured ketchup, the range is now stocked in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and farm shops and delis across the UK. And while the company is still very young, the sauce has come a long way from its origins in Frankie’s kitchen.

‘I grew up in the country and was lucky enough to have a plant and mushroom expert for a dad,’ she explains. ‘We’d grow things and go foraging all the time, which meant I have a lovely childhood. When I became a parent I was working incredibly long hours in London, and I wanted to take a break and spend some time with the kids. We moved into a house on the Welsh border in the middle of nowhere with this huge ramshackle garden, and I decided to make it into a bit of a project for the children. We were growing all sorts, but the beetroots were so successful we were left with a huge glut.’

FoodTalk

Find out more about The Foraging Fox by listening to Frankie on The FoodTalk Show Podcast.

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Of course, whenever you get a glut of something, you usually turn to the stove, making as many chutneys and pickles as you can. Frankie began doing the same, but then had an idea. ‘It felt obvious at the time to combine the beetroot with all our apples and turn them into a ketchup. They go really well together and they’re both naturally sweet, and when you’re making things for your children to eat you don’t want it to be full of sugar – you want it to be as natural as possible. So, we tinkered away, and the kids were brutally honest critics. It was really fun and eventually turned into a bit of an obsession; I was taking Kilner jars round to friends and doing blind taste tests to really nail the recipe.’

It got to the point where people were telling Frankie she should see if she could sell her creation, so she booked a small producer table at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair in 2014. ‘It’s all very well trusting your friends and family but they’re usually on your side, so I wanted to have some independent verification,’ she says. ‘I spent an entire summer in this tiny little outbuilding making up samples for it, and asked Desiree, one of my old colleagues, to come along and help me out as she’d been a big part of the journey.’

The sauce proved a huge success, and Frankie was overwhelmed with the response. ‘We got lots of orders from people wanting to sell the ketchup in their shops, which was great, but then I suddenly realised there was no way I could fulfil them in my kitchen. Thankfully, the stockists were happy to give us a few months to scale up and start the business properly. It’s been an incredibly exciting but relatively short journey – we only really started in March 2015, and we’ve been pedalling away ever since.’

Going from making ketchup in a kitchen to making enough to stock in shops, however, is a big jump, and Frankie had to become an overnight expert in all sorts of areas of business. ‘I never really understood what a barcode was, and it’s actually quite confusing. You have to find the right people to work with, too – because the recipe was developed on an Aga with homegrown produce, you don’t want to lose that magic. It’s like starting over again from scratch as everything is on a bigger scale. I know a lot of people wouldn’t make the leap as they like creating something handmade and selling it at farmers’ markets, but if you want to go beyond that it takes a lot of hard work. It’s tough to let go of something you’ve developed from nothing and hand it over to someone else.’

Despite scaling up, Frankie has managed to retain that magic and it’s quickly found a place in some of the biggest food shops in the UK. The original sauce is now joined by a hot variety and a smoked version, and people on social media share the different ways they use it in their cooking, as well as serving it as a sauce. ‘I like mixing the original with olive oil and drizzling it over a goat’s cheese and walnut salad – it really brings out the sweetness,’ says Frankie. ‘With the hot one, it’s great mixed with a little crème fraiche because it’s got some horseradish in it. You’re left with this posh Marie Rose sauce that works great with hot smoked salmon and new potatoes. The smoked version I slather over pretty much everything!’

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