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Shaun Hill

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Posts posted by Shaun Hill

  1. A day's notice is good. That way any different ingredients can be bought and there will be time to slot in the different mise en place needed.

    Of course some chefs are bloody minded about this sort of thing but then alsosome punters are stupid - assuming a small restaurant carries a vast array of stuff not on the menu is dumb - so it evens out.

    I would have no worries over cooking for someone who needed everything boiled - my expertise stretches that far - and think it not too difficult to come up with some relish type sauces to make the meal interesting. Similarly, no worries over vegetarians or those who have been told that pregnant women can only eat pasteurised, well done and very safe food. But I have to tell you that there are a lot of strange diets out there. And only a limited amount of time to cook everyone's dinner.

    Here I'm easy with, say, a couple of my seven tables coming up with a list of difficulties especially if there is a large table where diabetic granny is along for the celebration. If it goes  much beyond that I start to wonder if this is a restaurant or a clinic

  2. I  have a great deal of time for several chefs here and  abroad.

    Michel Roux for his craft skill. Franco Taruschio for his unaffected joy in cooking, Michael Caines for his tenacity and Richard Corrigan for his good way with pigs insides.

  3. The budget and paraphernalia is cheaper in the main cabin but I don't think the food is worse. It's the technology which is restricting. Food safety is a big issue and as everything has to be reheated - a potentially dangerous business - it gets heated an awful lot to be on the safe side. Really it is only stews and curries which take to this without damage.

    Second your palate is slightly numb at altitude so things have to be well seasoned or spicy - hence all that South East Asian type food on offer.

    Third, there are no trained catering or cooking crew on board. In Economy that is okay as the grub comes on a moulded plastic tray anyway but in Business and first it has to be reheated in foil containers and transferred to plates by cabin crew. This has to be kept as simple as possible

    Fourth restriction, is space. The dishes must be flat - no tower cooking here - and fit the heated trays for cooking. Even the plates and bowls for business class must match what will be neede for menus on the return journey.

    There is a long way to go before any airline can claim success I'm afraid. But it's nice they try

  4. I have to say I was nervous cooking for Michel Roux here. But once the service starts there is no time for anything as self indulgent as that.

    I did see "Chef" once or twice and enjoyed it. It was not like real life though. I would never have had time during the service for the long winded and withering scorn that Lenny Henry poured on the waiters and crew. Shorter and more robust comments only. In truth Faulty Towers was much closer to the reality.

    As far as cheese is concerned I am a big fan of almost all cheese -it's the perfect fast food. English Cheeses have made great strides but the finest are still hard cheeses like Cheddar or Lncashire. I haven't had a piece of Stilton I thought was great for some years though and wonder if the Listeria crisis some years back did't affect production methods adversely

  5. The system works like this. First I come up with dishes which I cook and they photograph and eat. There's a bit of chat over practical problems and then things go into reverse - they cook and I eat. There's a bit more talk over differences between the two and then the dish goes on the menu.

    The real advantage for the airline is not PR for the likes of Corrigan or myself are not very well known but a chance to stimulate those who actually make the food to try harder within the possibilities of an aircraft flight.

  6. It's interesting that you should think this - and perceptive - for most people in the restaurant trade think I have moved into semi-retirement. In fact I have never worked so long or hard. The numbers of people catered for may be small but the number of tasks needed to make it all come together is large - as large as a bigger restaurant.

    My system is this. Tuesday to Saturday I work from am til late doing just the kitchen tasks - this Q and A is a rare exception and involves no specific time or travel. Sundays I clear the place a bit, do the books and answer correspondence. This doesn't take long and the rest of the day is free

    Mondays I do all other things. Last monday I went to Heathrow to present dishes for Concorde. The monday before I did a photographic session for a book,.  It's easy enough if you turn down anything that will not fit into this pattern.

    But living on top of the shop has drawbacks and I get calls at 7am on a sunday from people wanted to discuss possible bookings and I like being on holiday a couple of times a year to do none of these things

  7. The current set up suits me though it was wished on me by circumstances and lack of cash. I don't feel trapped into the kitchen because it costs me little to close up if I need to be somewhere else. In practice of course I do this only four or five times a year apart from holidays.

    Every so often I feel it would be good to have a different set up so that I could make a different repetoire of dishes - the sort of stuff which would be awkward single handed but quite feasible with a small brigade. But the feeling has never lasted long enough for me to do anything about it. I do of course cook up ideas for British Airways and their set up couldn't be more different, bulk cooking in advance and reheating on board.

    I cook for money for otherwise I would have a spot of problem with my bank. Sadly

    Also I like the free travel that comes with the work

  8. probably simmering for foods that are asked for boiled are rarely good if you actually boil them for any length of time. Keeping a pot just under the boil needs a bit of attention but the results in ham, beef, fish or even veg are noticeably better. Also it is regularly the small points which make a difference in cooking - no point a wonderful relish to partner your shin of veal if the meat has the texture of boiled rags

  9. Cooking  dishes en croute is easy and usually improves a dish as whatever is inside the pastry stays moist with its protection. However you cannot prod the interior to find out how far it's cooked in the way you can with a piece of meat or fish. So timing is important. Also you are best to seal whatever piece of fish or meat you are using in a pan and let it cool  before wrapping the pastry around if you want a roast feel rather than a stewed one to the dish.

    Flambe is pure theatre and imparts little extra to actual taste. If you fancy this final flourish to you dish my advice is to warm the booze in a ladle separatel, light it and then pour it, already flaming, onto the food in front of your guests. You have more control that way and will probably waste less precious brandy or whatever

  10. A restaurant meal has marked similarities to a theatrical experience. They both cost money and both involve goodwill on the part of performers and audience alike to succeed.

    My favourite diner is one who has come to enjoy the meal. This may seem trite and obvious, what I mean is someone who is interested to take the place on its own terms and get the best from it.  

    I am as unimpressed by those who wish to chuck money around as I am by those who order one coffee and then drink from the cup alternately to save money - one of each of these types this week thus far.

    Although, I don't tour the tables, I do get a lot of feedback from Anja and our waitress Saskia on how they think people are enjoying the evening. It is an enormous boost if things are going well and a worry if the only sound is clinking cutlery and whispers

  11. You are almost certainly undersalting the dough. Bread takes quite huge quantities of salt and tastes of little without it.

    That aside there is little other than the type and quality of flour. I use Doves Farm organic strong white as my standard flour and like the taste of honey in small quantities rather than sugar. I've always used fresh yeast and can buy it from local bakeries - dried yeast goes off almost as fast and the fresh product can be frozen without damage or deterioration

    Good luck

  12. I have thought about your question and have surprising difficulty with an answer. I prefer hens' eggs and eat a soft boiled egg no more than once a year.

    I do use and like to use plenty of egg in cooking though but always as ingredient for its physical properties rather than flavour. Thus my favourite recipes dependent on egg would be things like ice cream or mayonnaise neither of whicj would satisfy a real enthusiast

  13. In fact I attended one of the molecular gastronomy conferences in Sicily a few years ago and wrote the intro for one earlier than that. I found it interesting and of course enjoyed the free trip to Sicily.

    The majority of those attending were scientists, some from Universities and some from a major flavour company, Firmenich, in Switzerland. There were three chefsat my session, an american called Fritz Blanc, frenchman Pierre Gagniare and me. Most interesting I thought were Harold McGee who wrote "Curious Cook" and "On Food and Cooking" and american food writer, Shirley Corriher who both were able to communicate on a level below nobel prize standard for people like myself on the reactions of food during cooking and the nature of flavour molecules.

    My interest was slightly different from others in that I didn't particularly wish to stretch the boundaries of what's possible rather I wanted to know why gravy works and why tastes which are rank or rotten - in cheese or well hung meat for instance or from musk in the perfume industry - are appealling

    The sessions were the brainchild of a Hungarian born physicist called Nicholas Kurti who died a few years back

  14. No problem. The recipe came from Sharrow Bay in fact. I empoyed their pastrycook at one point and was happy to assimilate quite a few of their puds.

    Butterscotch Tart

    150gr short pastry

    250gr demerara sugar

    250gr butter

    1 cup water

    2 tablespoons plain flour

    4 tablespoons cornflour

    1 tin condensed milk

    2 eggs - separated into yolks and whites

    150ml double cream

    cinnamon and grated chocolate

    Preheat the oven to 180C

    Line a flan ring with the pastry and bake blind

    Heat the demerara sugar - allow it to start to burn then add the butter and let these two boil together briefly

    In a separate saucepan mix the condensed milk with flour and cornflour. Heat together until thickened and cooked

    Pour on the sugar and butter syrup and stir to the boil

    Stir in egg yolks then sieve the butterscotch mix into the precooked tart case. Allow to cool

    In separate bowls whisk the egg whites and cream then fold one into the other.

    Sprinkle cinnamon and grated chocolate on top

    points to watch

    This is fairly straightforward to make but creates a lot of washing up in the process. Use a non stick pan to cook the condensed milk and flour together and stit constantly, it will almost certainly  catch  bit anyway but this wont matter

    You needn't let the demerara sugar burn if you like the butterscotch really sweet. T

    I dont put any dried beans on pastry when baking blind so need to press down the pastry midway through baking.

  15. The move to Shropshire was only daring in that there is a smaller population to draw from than say London for there are the same proportions of people with food problems  or even any real interest in food other than as fuel around the country I would think.

    The difficulty is not that they like it boring but that they are frightened by food. For instance I prefer my lamb underdone but if I'm visiting auntie and get it well done then I'll eat up like a good boy even if I don't enjoy it so much. Most of your punters who want it very well done would rather walk on hot coals that eat it with blood flowing.

    Tell Jason that my other choice of locale to set up shop was Galway but I couldn't afford the property prices. Even less people there I'd have thought

  16. It's possible that I get treated slightly differently if I'm in a place that I'm known in. Chefs are regularly hospitable types and not just competitive types so a few extra courses of what I neglected to order can appear.

    Very nice too

  17. I prefer simple but have to say that achieving a simple result can be quite complex and that there is little in the way of safety net for you simple sauce or soup if the stock is underflavoured or greasy.

    However there is room for everyone's individual idea of perfection and most chefs love elaboration as a vehicle for craft skills and a round of applause. Who can blame them.

    My own take is that unnecessary extra garnishes or even flavours in a dish only act as clutter

  18. Most inspiration comes from either a new arrival, seasonally or whatever in what produce is available or from some change in technologu. For me, the liquidiser openeed up loads of possibilities and I use it to make several sauces - it can emulsify oils like olive or sesame into a sauce to produce a creamy effect without the cloying characteristics of too much added cream or butter.

    I would be deluding myself if I didn't think that the ideas and recipes of others doesn't play a part as well. Interestingly I pinched an idea once from a book called Secrets of the Great French Restaurants by Louisette Bertholle for a bourride made with chicken rather then fish but thickened in the same way with garlic mayonnaise and found that Marion Jones from Croque en Bouche had the same dish - pinched from the same book - on her menu.

    I read fairly widely and eat out where possible and will take anyone's good idea. No problem

  19. Nutrition plays a very minor role in menu consideration for I'm in the entertainment business more than the refueling and recuperation business. That said a good menu usually ends up nutritionally balanced in any case as people tend to move from fish or veg onto meat and veg then fruit or dairy product in the natural course of things.

    I make my menu after I have done the shopping and fit the flavour combinations around whatever seemed best when buying. I usually have one safe option, a piece of rack of lamb or suchlike for those who dont want too much fish or game and are worried by offal.

    The menu also represents the workload and the likelihood of catastrophies during the mealtime service. Most chefs - myself included - sail too close to the wind in the amount of choice or degree of complexity involved but it keeps things exciting in the kitchen and hopefully in the dining room

  20. I have worn white chefs' clogs since I worked at Carriers restaurant and still buy them from Briggs Boot stores in Kendal - actually they call themselves Briggs and Shoemines now.

    I think my feet would have given up otherwise. Also, in the past, the clatter they make has meant that my cooks could hear me coming from some distance and stop saying anything mutinous that we all might have regretted

  21. When I look in the shaving mirror I can see that all the chefs are on duty.

    Actually my wife Anja now bakes the bread and makes some of the puds but I'm not sure she'd want to be described as solid, even metaphorically.

    In previous jobs as Head Chef, though, it has been tremendously important to have loyal and dedicated cooks alongside. Most importantly they needed to be on the same wavelength and understand what you considered essential, what peripheral.

    If you were to eat at the Manoir or Ramsay's and there was no seasoning on the food, you wouldn't think that the chef had a duff crew on that session, you would think that the man himself was overrated. So it all has to work as if from the same hand. And that is of course what sorts out the heroes from the rest

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