Monday, 4 January 2010

Eggs à la Helen

oh man, I've been really slack around here.

This is going to be a quick one, but something I've been meaning to post for a while.

I grew up disliking eggs. And to be honest, I'm still pretty fussy with them. Poached or fried eggs are fine, but as soon as I see a bit of uncooked egg white or get a whiff of egg smell I feel like I'm going to hurl.

I am happy for Neil to cook me an eggs benedict every now and again (or a royale if I'm extra lucky!)... But I guess sometimes he would prefer to have his breakfast made for him and so I challenged him to teach me how to poach an egg and how to make a hollandaise sauce.

I won't bore you with the simple details of how this was achieved. I'd say that eggs are probably one of my fear points when it comes to cooking... I don't want to waste my time if I'm not convinced they will be perfect. Neil got me spinning the water and dropping the eggs in. It took a few goes but I got there in the end.

It took 2 goes with the hollandaise and we couldn't figure out why it was always splitting. Turns out that I'm just not that strong with the whisk! But we got there in the end...

And as many will tell you I am a big fan of mushrooms - Yum. So along with the parma ham, I included a few sauted wild mushrooms.

Egg Fear - DEFEATED.

Thanks Neil.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Cheap Eats: East India, Surbiton

When Neil and I first moved to the sunny suburbs of Surbiton we were immediately impressed by the array of decent restaurants. The one thing that we were missing was a curry house. Now, that's not to say that there aren't many curry houses - there are several. The problem was that were used to finer things when we lived in Clapham. Namely, the best curry in the world - from The Holy Cow in Balham. We tried out a few local-ish Indian takeaways and we found a few that were decent enough, but none of them met our expectations.

Now you may be wondering where this is going and I will throw it out there now that East India on Brighton road is no Holy Cow. Not even close. However, we didn't give it a chance at first, due to our quest to find the new perfect curry. Then along came Maya, also on Brighton road. A clean, more expensive fine Indian food restaurant. Bingo, we have our 'posh' India restaurant.

Now - why not try the really cheap looking one? I say it looks cheap, this is mostly because of the large poster in the window exclaiming that your curry will be half price if you pay in cash. ("Dodgy" often being the first response from first time visitors). Neil, in fact, wouldn't even let me take my camera in incase they thought I was the taxman (do taxpersons carry camera's around with them?).

The decor is faded and it's rather dark inside. The staff are attentive and busy, the restaurant is usually fairly packed on a saturday night. The booze is also cheap, they haven't pumped up the price just because the food is ludicrously cheap.

I've tried a variety of curries from East India and I would say a general rule is the spicier the curry the better. That said, none of them are 'that' spicy (and they occasionally have charged an extra 50p for asking for extra spice!). On my most recent visit I chose a prawn dansak with bombay aloo, peshwari naan and veg samosa.

I was never really much of a dansak girl. I would say if I was a standard curry I was always more of a jalfraezi, or sometimes a madras. Of recent, however, the dansak has become my favourite (the times they are a-changing).

It was nice, not the best curry you'll ever have but for £10 ahead with beers included... Pretty good value.

I don't know if I'd really call this a review, more of a nod for East India. I would always choose Maya above East India for a Surbiton curry, but if you're looking for a very cheap night out - then there's nothing wrong with this little place.

There are so many reviews on the internet, sometimes I just want to know that the cheap place down the road isn't shit.


Saturday, 17 October 2009

Review - Pierre Koffman's Restaurant on the Roof

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It's not often that you can justify an expensive dinner on the grounds that it is a once in a life time opportunity, but this time it really was. The legendary Pierre Koffman has donned his chef whites once more for a period of 4 weeks (originally 2, it was extended due to unprecedented demand). The location? A temporary 'pop up' restaurant on the roof of Selfridges.

When Neil first told me that he had reserved a table, for a Friday night no less, I was gobsmacked. I told everyone with resounding responses being "wow, that is so cool!". It came around very quickly and I spent the whole Friday at work fidgety and anxious. I was SO excited.

Spending a good hour getting ready is not usually my style, but a Friday appointment in such a prestigious setting - Who knows who I might need to look good for! Once dolled up, me and the Mr headed into London far too early (as usual) and stopped off in the Mayfair Millennium Hotel for a couple of glasses of wine.

After standing open mouthed on the opposite side of the road for a couple of minutes, looking up at the rooftop restaurant we stopped off in the Selfridges bar for a wee glass of pink bubbly before making our way to the top floor.

It was pretty magical. We were greeted with warm welcomes and by name by who we later realised was Mrs Pierre Koffman (she was so lovely).


The restaurant itself was pretty impressive, the marquee was long and scattered with tables full of excited diners. You would never have known you were on a tent on the roof of Selfridges, rather it seemed like an exclusive restaurant with glittering lights and a delightful smell of fine, rich cuisine.

The experience kicked off with a sweet and sparkly champagne cocktail and gorgeous tomato bread (much needed, the last time I had eaten was 8 hours earlier and that was just a [tasty], but light, thai consomme).

Shortly afterwards the wine was chosen - a gorgeous red - which we are still trying to remember the name of. It was gorgeous... but the amount of alcohol consumed has erased its name from our memories.

The first taste of Koffman's cuisine came in the form of a lovely little langoustine broth with a langoustine ravioli. In a Marco Pierre White moment I think I declared "it reminds me of my childhood!", 'soup de poissons' was one of my favourite dishes as a child on holiday with my parents in France. It was gorgeous, a little teacup full of flavour.


We didn't have to wait long before our starters arrived. I opted for a posh prawn cocktail (Cocktail of Scottish Lobster and avocado with lemon jelly). It was light and fresh and had just the right amount of acidity. It didn't set the world alight, but I suppose you wouldn't expect a seafood cocktail to do that. It did just what it said on the tin and I can't complain about that. The lobster was plentiful and wonderfully tasty. Neil went for a fricassee of wild mushrooms and snails with bone marrow. This was my second choice and I only didn't go for it because I wasn't sure about the bone marrow (having never tried it before). He really enjoyed the dish, and from my taste of it, it was packed full of strong flavours (I adore mushrooms with anything!).

As has happened at all of the top restaurants that I have been too, I have started to feel very full very early in the meal and so my incredibly rich main course of English roast rose veal cutlet with girolles was a little daunting when it appeared in front of me. However, it was stunning. Rich, full of flavour, wholesome and not dainty in the slightest! The potato side dish was an absolute delight. I love creamy, rich food. A great dish, surprising too, it's not what I was expecting from the rooftop restaurant.

Neil had chosen his main course before he had even had breakfast on friday morning. There was no choice for him - it was the classic pigs trotter dish, and nothing else.


There was no let down here at all, he came away from the meal saying it was one of the best he's ever had. It was, for me, the first time I had tasted a dish like this. The taste was fabulous. Not quite sold on the texture yet, though, but of course that is a matter of learning (you will not know this, but just 3 years ago I was a vegetarian).

Dessert was, unfortunately, the only point during the meal that I chose badly. That's not to say there was anything wrong with my 'walnut tart with chestnut honey ice cream'. Oh no, that was some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted and the tart was crispy, deep and squishy all at the same time. The only issue was that it wasn't really what I fancied. I have no idea why I didn't go for the chocolate dessert I had seen photos of on other blogs. I think it was the feeling of fullness from the main that put me off, but that's probably what I should have gone for (although then I would have missed out on that delish honey ice cream...!). Neil's Pistachio ice cream with pistachio souffle was divine. I would have also gone for this dish, if he hadn't bagged it before me. Light, large, fluffy and green! So gorgeous.

It really was a night to remember. Rich food, hearty and good portions - a nice change from cute angular dishes we see so often now.

The most exciting thing is the thought that I have tasted that food. Food that I will never get the opportunity to eat again. Not on the roof of Selfridges anyway.

Thanks for reading.

Oh and pls nb. that the photos are shit because they're from my iphone - I didn't think that my camera was elegant enough to go with my dress ;)


Thursday, 15 October 2009

Comfort Food - Sausages with Lentils


The first time that I cooked this meal for Neil I was convinced he'd hate it. In fact, he loved it. I think he had a bit of a cold at the time and this was warming, surprisingly wholesome and super tasty. It was soon the dinner he looked forward too the most. Unfortunately, the last time that I cooked it I screwed it up with over-seasoning (usually not a problem for me, quite the contrary in fact) and by over-cooking the sausages. It put me off and I didn't cook it again for, well, it must have been at least a year.

Feeling under the weather, I thought the boy needed a treat and so I decided to pull an old trick out of the bag and cook this comforting dish once again. It sounds simple and it is, a healthier (but not lighter, necessarily) alternative to that old favourite sausages & mash.

The recipe is adapted from a Good Food Magazine recipe and goes as follows:

4 x sausages (I used Marks & Spencer sausages - 2 good quality pork sausages, and some lesser quality pork and herb sausages - they all needed using up!).
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 Streaky bacon rasher, chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 celery stick, chopped
1 fresh thyme sprig
100ml chicken stock
250g beluga lentils
2 tbsp creme fraiche

1. Rinse and drain the lentils. Add the lentils and water to cover to a pan and cook for 20 minutes.
2. Heat a shallow pan, fry the sausages in their own fat, over a low heat until at least 65'C throughout.
3. In the mean time, heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the bacon for 2 minutes. Stir in all of the veg and the thyme and cook for 8 minutes
4. Add the stock, simmer again for 8 minutes.
5. Drain ht lentils and stir into the veg mix. Heat - stir in the creme fraiche.
6. Serve with the sausage and a dollop of mustard.


I'd like to say that this brought back memories of wonderful dinners of days gone by, but unfortch I fucked it up a little.

I think the major problem was the inclusion of the beluga lentils. I had always previously used a can of green lentils, but in an effort to save money I used a box that we already had in the store cupboard. The other mistake was that I didn't drain the lentils before stirring them into the veg. I only made this decision because there was very limited liquid, and I thought the dish could benefit from a little wetness. I was wrong, it just lost a little flavour.

Oh well - Tomorrow we are going to Pierre Koffman's Restaurant on the Roof - Hopefully he'll do a better job than me ;)

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Do You Remember The First Time?

Several months ago my partner Neil Rankin entered into the world of food blogging. Watching from a distance (and sometimes hiding behind the camera), I've read his blogs with such interest, often having already tasted the delicious food that he creates. I am not a newcomer to the world of social networking, having already been addicted to many blogs, journals and mini-message sites (you can find me on Twitter here), but I've been toying with the idea of starting a food blog of my own for a little while now.

I love cooking and eating, food is a big part of our lives. Well, duh, I live with a chef after all. We spend a lot of our spare time hunting out new restaurants, markets or just cooking up feasts. I am not anywhere near as accomplished a chef as Neil, but I cook for him often. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's damn right awful.

My blog will document the food that I cook, and I'll probably throw in a restaurant review here and there. I'm quite a keen photographer, so whenever I can sneak my massive camera away with me I'll be sure to take plenty of pics. My blog name 'Cowgirl Cooks' has come from my love for the Tom Robbins novel 'Even Cowgirls get the Blues' - sadly, I'm not a real cowgirl.

Well - tonight it's Neil's turn to cook, and it smells like it must nearly be ready! Tomorrow, I'm cooking though, I'll be back with an update for you soon.