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Shaun Hill

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  1. I'm delighted and relieved that the Walnut Tree's latest incarnation is doing reasonably well. I spotted the thread and thought it easiest just to explain my involvement and how this fits in with other stuff. I pitch up at the Walnut Tree most days from just before midday until shortly after the last main course has gone at night - I live 60 miles away. I rarely take a day off - one a fortnight perhaps though my ambition is one a week, usually a thursday - and am shaking the pans during the service rather than merely in attendance. There's a head chef, Roger Brook who worked at the Walnut Tree
  2. I was called yesterday morning by the Sun for comment on all this, presumably because the Walnut Tree in an earlier lifetime took a bashing from Gordon Ramsay and that I could be relied on to take a swipe back. My view was that cooking stocks, sauces, stews and most pastry somewhere off site made lots of sense financially, that the margins he achieves are his business - if the price for a meal is too high the place will fail - and that eating at one of his spots is optional not compulsory like the rates. I did say that the Kitchen Nightmares programme in my opinion was becoming formulaic and c
  3. Shaun Hill


    possibly I'm the only person who doesn't much care for Pacojet machines. I don't think they make good ice cream, merely frozen mousse with soft texture. A recently churned ice cream made the usual way tastes and feels fabulous - better in my opinion
  4. Peter Kromberg who was the first head chef at Intercontinental in Hyde Park Corner has died of a stroke aged 67. I was chef tournant then sous chef under him when it opened - I most liked the months before opening when we practised recipes rather than serving diners - and had a great respect for his crafstmanship and capacity for sheer hard work. Sad that he has gone
  5. Shaun Hill

    Bill Baker

    Bill Baker who owned and ran Reid Wines near Bristol died last night. He was a giant on the British restaurant scene and will be a great loss
  6. Yes I turned up to drink all that free booze. It was an enjoyable evening I too found it difficult to hear anything on the PA system and it was an extra delight not to be personally in the running for anything - takes any pressure or embarrassment away. I don't think you should take these things too seriously. Yhey're meant to be fun or at most thought provoking
  7. I'll be closing Merchant House sometime next Spring, probably around early March, regardless of whether it sells as a restaurant or house or even whether it sells at all. It's been a joy - mostly - for the past ten years but when the feeling comes that it's time to change then that's what you should do. I have no real idea what happens next or where and don't intend to start looking until January. The work here needs me to have my mind fully engaged on the immediate practicalities of cooking the food. My view is that the estate agents are optimistic in the asking price as the house is worth on
  8. What I find stimulating these days is the momentum and excitement that food and cooking now generates. A series of restaurant meals here or anywhere will show bright minds at work on what are basically the same ingredients worldwide. Not all is successful naturally but enough works or intrigues to keep the brain ticking on what's possible and what's good to eat. A big change from 20 or 30 years ago when my trade was still largely the refuge of no hopers
  9. I always cook cauliflowwer in florets so that the thick stalks don't need to be considered when judging the cooking time. Like all members of the cabbage family there is an element of rankness in the smell and flavour and this combines perfectly with spices like cumin, cinnamon and coriander so I'd be tempted to cook the cauliflower, drain it, then dust with some combination of middle eastern spices and finally brush with light sesame or olive oil before cooking out the extra ingredients with a short spell under a grill or in the oven. As ever the disadvantage of giving some robust treatment t
  10. Veal shanks - sold as shin of veal - are excellent plainly roasted. Th ideal tecnique for the others is pot roasting. Pot roasting is really an extension of the braising process but implies large joints rather than cubes of meat. Try to add the minimum of extra liquid, especially at the start, so that the meat will produce its own juices rather than poach in stock or wine. It's a slowish business but worth it.
  11. Interesting question with several aspects some of which I'll try to tackle. Many of the ingredients you list are as much about texture as flavour and this is an aspect of the meal that is worth consideration in any case. Ratatouille could be blended into a sauce but maybe one with too much going on at once. Better to think in terms of reworking the ingredients so that one of the major players takes a more leading role or has its texture altered. You could deep fry all three - aubergine courgette and peppers - in a light batter and set them on a tomato and garlic sauce, you could stuff the cou
  12. The amount of olive oil a ratatouille type concoction will take without looking greasy is entirely dependent on the ratio of oil to non oil liquid - juices from the tomato, stock, wine or whatever - in the pan. What you are seeing when there is a pool of oil rising is an imbalance between these two in the same way as a curdling mayonnaise, either too much oil or too little stock. Whisking in hot water or wine, a tablespoon at a time, will put things right. The same can happen if the ratatouille is kept warm for a long while or reheated as the non oil liquids will gradually evaporate leaving th
  13. I think that your method is spot on. The difficulty with coarser or bigger green leaves is the trade off between fresh tasting and soft texture. Unlike the method for most greens I use minimal water and then add olive oil or sesame to the drained result. If you shake the pan around whilst doing this the oil will form a temporary emulsion with the remaining droplets of water and steam. The advantage of this is that all the seasonings will distribute themselves evenly as with mayonnaise. The best aspect was that you take care of the vegetables not just whatever meat or veg is centre stage. Not e
  14. I would be loathe to split the fish and add stuffing to the middle unless it was say some lobster mousse replacing the bones in turbot or sole. The advantage of the spice and chipotle mixture on the outside of the fish is that it will take the main blast of heat and much more of the cooking process than the more delicate flesh underneath. It tastes better that way I think the best bet is to increase the amount of spice paste that you cover the fish with in proportion to the thickness of the fish and if necessary carve it into slices after cooking - maybe even use a pastry brush to spread the
  15. I sympathize with your plight and wonder whether the effort in preparing octopus is actually justified by the result or whether they are best left to annoy other sea life whilst we tuck in to some tender and delicious squid. I have always used one of the methods you have already used and discarded, dropping the octopus into boiling water for a minute or two then rescueing it to somewhere cool, repeating this two more times then simmering for an hour. At this point the octopus is ready to be cooked again - and for another hour - as part of some stew. Have you thought that this is as good as it
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