Reaching the final of Masterchef 2007 was a rollercoaster of emotion, with huge highs and lows, but I loved every minute and learnt a huge amount. I owe a great deal to John and Gregg who had faith in my ability when I did not believe in myself. Since competing on the programme my life has changed considerably. I now write cookery columns for two magazines, give cookery demonstrations and am just working on my 13th cook book - unlucky number for some but not for me!!! I love all forms of country cooking, using seasonal and locally sourced produce. This blog is to enable me to share with you a few of my recipes and baking ideas. Enjoy Hannah xxxx

Thursday, 31 May 2007

I have to confess that I have developed a bit of a violet obsession - it all came about when my friend Jess and I were discussing different fillings for profiteroles after the white chocolate and lavender profiteroles and she wondered whether we could make rose and violet profiteroles like the chocolates - I know that rose and violet creams are a "love them or hate them" kind of thing but we are definitely in the love camp. I also had violet tea recently and it was just delicious. So I set about on the Internet and have now amassed quite a collection of culinary violet - violet syrup and jam from France, violet liquor from a company in Scotland and a giant bag of crystallised violets! In the process I also managed to find rose and gingerbread liquor too....can't wait to have time at the weekend to experiment. If anyone knows where you can buy violet tea I would love to know as I have failed to find any so far on my quest!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

As requested, here is the recipe for tomato water from the Masterchef quarterfinals!

Serves 4 (very small portions - this is not a dish to serve to the very hungry!)

16 large and very ripe and juicy souping tomatoes

1 tbsp Caster sugar

Salt and pepper to season

1 glass white wine

Roughly chop the tomatoes and put with all juices in a pan with the sugar, lots of salt and pepper (as the seasoning will not be as strong when chilled) and the white wine. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins. Strain through muslin as many times as you can bear - I did about three strainings on the programme or ideally leave the mixture to drip through slowly overnight as this will give it a clearer colour. Pour into shot glasses and chill in the fridge.

This is yummy served with crackling straws (sadly mine burnt on Masterchef so I didn't serve them - clearly the oven's fault, not mine!) Remove all fat from a piece of pig skin (approx 30cm x 10cm - ask your butcher nicely, mine usually has some!). Cut into long thin strips with scissors. Lightly oil baking trays with some olive oil. Line up strips of fat on one of the trays and sprinkle over rock salt. Place the other tray on top and weigh down (a heavy casserole dish is ideal) so that the crackling bakes straight. Bake in a hot oven for approx 18 minutes until the crackling is golden brown. Serve a crackling straw in each glass.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Yesterday was my nephew's birthday and this was his cake. I am not usually a sugar paste cake kind of girl as I find it really difficult to work with but with the hints and tips I was given at Fitzbillies, I finally took the plunge and was so pleased with the result. Finished off with edible glitter (that sadly doesn't really show in the photo) he looked quite magical! My nephew asked why had I bought him a cake from a shop - which I took as a compliment!

Friday, 25 May 2007

Nice weather for ducks!

I have received a few photos from Penny at Fitzbillies of my time with them and really like this one of me preparing the fruit tarts - I am concentrating so hard!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

This week I have had a photo shoot for my next article for Country Kitchen magazine - one simple sponge cake decorated 4 "spectacular" ways! Not so sure about the spectacular, but thought that as you were all so lovely I would let you have a sneak preview of one of the cakes. The other cakes are a gingerbread man cake, a blue butterfly cake and a clotted cream and strawberry cake with chocolate dunked strawberries. You heard it here first!!!!

OK, I know this picture has nothing to do with ginger but I like it so much that I didn't want to not post it. It was taken on a walk through the meadows in Cambridge last week.
Zabaglione is yummy and very quick to make. We used to eat it at an Italian restaurant when I worked in Canary Wharf as it was Sarra's (my old work colleague) favourite pudding.
Ginger zabaglione
6 egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup ginger wine
Combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size bowl and whisk. Add the ginger wine and transfer to double boiler and whisk until frothy and doubled in size. Serve immediately

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

The view from our stable door!

Monday, 21 May 2007

A huge thank you to Penny, George, Gill, Tom and Pauline at Fitzbillies for such a wonderful time at their bakery. I learnt so much and am completely inspired to bake even more. The bakery was so homely, the air smelt of sugar and spices and I was so impressed that the original recipes are followed - such tradition is a rare find in these days of modern convenience. For me, it was the perfect way to spend a weekend and I can't wait to go back again soon.

Heavenly baking at Fitzbillies

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Joy of joys...I am off to Cambridge today to work at Fitzbillies bakery www.fitzbillies.co.uk for a few days and really can't wait. For those of you who don't know Fitzbillies - they make the best ever chelsea bun - see the photo (should I mention that they do mail order to any where in the world......best not!) I am really looking forward to learning from Gill and Penny and from Tom (their nearly 80 year old confectioner) and am sure that I will come back with lots of new baking skills. I know the days will be long but the thought of spending whole days baking is just heavenly and I am sooooooo excited!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Great Tits in my Mum's bird box

Last night I attended a food quiz and boy....do I feel completely unworthy to call myself a cook today. We were completely rubbish - either that or the questions were way too difficult (I would like to think the later) and I only knew the answers to about four questions out of 50!!! Shameful! I would post a few of the questions here but I know you would all post the answers and I would feel even more rubbish so I am going to spare myself from that.
Instead, I would like to introduce Mr Joshy Pickle who played a critical role in my Masterchef experience. Josh is my friend Jess' little boy who lives in our village and was my main food taster for the practice dishes. If Josh said "More, more, more" I knew I was on to a winner! He is such a cutie and has a very good palette for someone so young!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

I am going through a choux pastry phase at the moment. I have just about got over Gregg's comment on our profiterole task (another one that wasn't shown - probably because we all did so badly) that my profiteroles looked like hippos in mud. Lovely. Anyway these are a little more dainty!

White chocolate and raspberry profiteroles
50g butter
150ml cold water
60g plain flour
2 tsp vanilla sugar (or caster sugar if you don't have vanilla sugar)
2 eggs beaten
100 g white chocolate, melted
284ml double cream
1 punnet of fresh raspberries, lightly crushed with a fork

Pre heat the oven to 180oC/350F/gas 4. Melt the butter in the water in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and quickly throw in the flour and sugar and beat with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough is formed which leaves the sides of the pan. Add the egg a little at a time, beating really hard after each addition. You should end up with a smooth glossy dough. Grease a baking tray with butter and place small teaspoons of mixture a distance apart. Place the tray in the oven (Aga roasting oven bottom shelf) and pour a small amount of water onto the oven floor. This will create steam which will help the buns to rise. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove the tray from the oven and pierce each profiterole with a knife to release the steam. Dip a fork in the melted white chocolate and "spin" over the tops of the profiteroles. This will create a nice white chocolate pattern on each. Leave to cool until the chocolate has set. Whisk the cream until stiff peak and fold in the raspberries. Place the cream in a piping bag and pipe into each profiterole. Pile the profiteroles high on a plate, dust with icing sugar and serve.

Monday, 14 May 2007

I have some exciting news - I have joined the writing team of Country Kitchen magazine (my favourite cookery magazine)! This month's edition has three of my pudding recipes (Toblerone tiramisu, peach and pistachio souffle and ginger treacle tart with stem ginger and clotted cream ice cream). My next article is on decorating cakes - very me - with quince recipes and damson recipes to follow soon!

Friday, 11 May 2007

Rain, Rain go away, come again another day or so the nursery rhyme goes...and that's exactly how I feel today. Clearly summer hasn't arrived (as I had convinced myself it had) as it has rained here for three days solid. I know the garden needs it but the lane to our house is now flooded and there is no alternative but to wear wellington boots to work - not an ideal start to the day!

In this sort of weather there is nothing for it but to eat comfort food and for me that is waffles and maple syrup (with bacon if you are feeling in need of an extra lift).

Vanilla waffles with maple syrup

8oz self raising flour

3 level tbsp caster sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have it)

3 eggs separated

400ml milk

100grams butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla essence (or if you are feeling very indulgent, seeds from a vanilla pod)

Lots and lots of maple syrup and whipped cream!

In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, milk, egg yolks, vanilla and melted butter and whisk until there are no lumps. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peak and then gently fold into the batter mixture. Cook on a waffle iron brushed with a little melted butter (or a frying pan for American style pancakes if you don't have a waffle iron) until golden brown and serve with maple syrup and whipped cream....or ice cream, bacon, chocolate sauce, clotted cream and strawberries - I know I don't need to tell you that the possibilities are endless! See, I feel better already just thinking about it!

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

It is such a colourful time of year and the fields around our home are filled with yellow rape flowers which smell of honey as you drive by. A sure sign that summer is on its way!

Monday, 7 May 2007

It has been another busy cooking weekend! Yesterday I cooked lunch for 31 members of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners who were visiting Simon and Kathy Brown's wonderful gardens at Stevington. Kathy is a woman after my own heart who has published a book on cooking with edible flowers - her recipes are truly inspiring. Lunch was poached salmon with tomato roses and herb butter leaves (a la Waddesdon Manor) and some lovely summer salads, including one with asparagus, sweet cicely, daisies and geranium flowers with a lavender and white balsamic dressing.
Here are the puddings shortly before they were served - lemon and raspberry roulade, chocolate truffle cake, toblerone tiramisu, white chocolate and lavender profiteroles, clotted cream and strawberry cheesecake and a large bowl of strawberries and cream. 10 minutes later they were virtually all gone!!!
A huge thanks to my wonderful mum who came and cooked with me - I really wouldn't have managed without her and it was lovely to spend some time cooking together.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Last night I made a smoked salmon and avocado pizza for supper (quite tasty albeit a little rustic looking!)
For the topping, mixed 200ml creme fraiche, 1 large egg, 1 heaped teaspoon of whole grain mustard, zest and juice of half a lemon, 1 tbsp of chopped chives in a bowl. Sprinkle some smoked salmon and avocado on top of your proved pizza dough and pour over the creamy topping. Bake in a moderate oven until golden brown (approximately 20 minutes in my aga).

Thursday, 3 May 2007

5 Things you probably don't know about me

I have been tagged by Julia of www.asliceofcherrypie.blogspot.com for this meme so here you go:

1. I was President of the Winnie the Pooh Society at University and am a fine pooh stick player

2. I am allergic to white wine which is rather tragic

3. Reeses peanut butter cups are my all time favourite chocolate

4. I drive a blue and white nissan figaro (see photo)

5. I belong to our village sewing circle ("Stitch and Bitch") and sew a lot when I have time!

I tag my fellow Masterchefers:

www.theurbanfoodie.blogspot.com (Steven)

www.bookthecook.blogspot.com (David)

www.theboydonefood.blogspot.com (William)

www.thecheeseworks.com (Ben)

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Just back from a wonderful holiday in Germany with our lovely friends Maren and Christoph. Hamburg is one of my favourite places in the world and I love going there! My husband ran the Hamburg marathon on Sunday (3.58.22 - which is very good in my opinion!) and we were on the course cheering him on.
On Monday we ate at an amazing restaurant - Lutter and Wegner (of champagne producing fame) - where I had the best starter I have ever eaten - a "seafood plate" which was actually a cake stand which a different fish dish on each layer (tuna tartar with guacamole and wantons, scallops with wasabi and apple sauce and prawns and octopus in a smoked tomato sauce) and served alongside, an espresso cup of prawn consomme - I am getting hungry again just typing this! I definitely recommend a visit if you are ever in Hamburg.