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 July 2008

Watermelon Ribs

I recently made Watermelon marinaded ribs with a recipes from Jared Ingersoll. His book Sharing Plates is awesome and a lovely read. Penny Williams, the chef who ran the cookery school in Bali had worked with him and if her cooking was anything to go by, this book definitely had to be a winner. It is!
In the book Jared makes beef ribs with watermelon which are smoked. I am sadly not into smoking - I wish I was but have never had time to investigate this process properly. It is on my list of things to learn! Instead I adapted the recipe and made pork ribs roasted in the oven. Although I am sure that by smoking the flavour of these ribs would be even better, there were nevertheless delicious and you could actually taste the watermelon! Fruity and juicy - we will definitely be making these again!
Watermelon Pork Ribs
flesh of half watermelon, seeds removed and crushed with a fork
3 dried chillies, crushed
1 tsp ground allspice
1 stick cinnamon
3 tbsp pomegraneate molasses
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tomatoes, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar
16 pork ribs
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Place all the ingredients except the ribs into a large bowl and mix well. Add the ribs and leave to marinade over night. Remove the ribs from the marinade and place with a roasting tin with a drizzle of olive oil and bake in a hot oven for 2 hours, the turn the heat down and cook for a further 30 minutes until the ribs are cooked through. Baste often with the marinade whilst cooking. These would be equally good on the BBQ.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Over a year ago we bought some woodland next to our house so that we could create a woodland garden. We have finally made a start on clearing it (I say we in the loosest possible sense - I was responsible for making drinks and cakes and I sawed a few logs!) and after a few days it is transformed. Where we couldn't walk before because of piles of dead wood and nettles, there is now clear soil. After a bit of rotivating and compost over the next few months, it will be ready to plant bulbs (snowdrops, bluebells, crocus and daffodils) and woodland grass seed. Hopefully by the spring it will be a lovely spot to sit and unwind. The bonfire was at times a little wild/ferocious - it burnt for over 24 hours as we carried on stoking it the following day. Luckily no damage was done!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Clotted Cream Lemon Curd Ice Cream

In this glorious sumer weather, ice cream is a must in our house hold. I am very lucky to have been given a super dooper "instantly ready to freeze" ice cream machine by my husband earlier this year - no longer are we restrained by having to wait 8 hours for the bowl to freeze! One of our favourites is a tub of greek yoghurt frozen with some honey and chopped nuts. It is ready in 20 minutes! We all loved this lemon curd ice cream so much that it had all gone before we had a chance to take a picture!

225g clotted cream
200ml double cream
300ml greek yoghurt
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 jar good quality lemon curd

Place all the ingredients (but only half the lemon curd) into a bowl and mix to a smooth cream. Freeze in an ice cream maker until just set then stir through the remaining lemon curd to make lemon ribbon swirls through the ice cream. Transfer to a tub in the freezer to set. If you do not have an icecream maker, place the mixture in a tub in the freezer and whisk every 20 minutes until the ice cream is almost set and then fold in the remaining lemon curd.

Friday, 25 July 2008

This edible flower movement is catching - imagine my surprise when I was in Waitrose and their lovely staff came and asked whether I had tried their new floral cupcakes - Rose Geranium and Lavender and Lemon? I nearly fell over in shock! We of course immediately had to buy some to try. Not bad at all (I would say I prefer mine...but then I am biased) but good on Waitrose for getting a bit experimental in their bakery!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Thanks to the lovely anonymous poster for the hints on making the strawberry tree! I will definitely be making a Ferrero Roche or Quality Street one at Christmas! To make one yourself all you need it a 15cm wide flower pot, some strong tape and newspaper, some quick drying cement, a 40/50cm length, 2/3 cm wide wooden dowel, a 20cm diameter oasis sphere, some silver foil, ribbons to decorate, 5 punnets of strawberries and lots of cocktail sticks.

Cover any hole in the bottom of the flowerpot with thick tape, place on a sheet of newspaper, mix up the cement or plaster of paris and fill the pot three quarters full. Insert the dowel rod into the centre and hold upright until the cement sets (quick drying cement is essential otherwise you will be holding it for a long time!). When the cement has set, press the oasis onto the top of the dowel. Cover the oasis with silverfoil and decorate the pot and dowel with ribbons. Place a cocktail stick into each strawberry and press into the oasis as close together as possible. Although the strawberries need to be added at the last minute, make sure you allow yourself 30 minutes for doing this - it takes longer than you think as I found out!!!

Blue Peter eat your heart out!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Kathy Brown and I have very kindly been asked to attend the new RHS Flower Show at the Inner Temple in London in September to promote using edible flowers in cooking. From 1866, the RHS held a flower show at Inner Temple until 1912 when it transferred to Chelsea. It used to be a very grand affair with high teas and beautiful plants. Kathy and I are using this as an opportunity to launch our range of floral cakes, petal breads, floral ice creams (lets hope the weather is good!) and floral cocktails. We are having lots of meetings at the moment planning what to sell and designing recipes. I have no doubt it is going to be lots of fun (and hard work) and we are really looking forward to taking part. We are coming up with ideas for names for our brand - any suggestions gratefully received!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Today was Gareth and Amy's engagement tea party - how very English! Amy today learned how to make a cucumber sandwich - perhaps this will now catch on in the States!
The strawberry tree was a success and managed to stay upright despite the wind.
My Aunt (pictured below) made a lovely sunflower flower arrangement which made a stunning centrepiece and decorated the tent with icy swags and pink and green lanterns. It all looked so pretty! Mum had made delicious strawberry scones and I had made enough cake to feed an army! All the cakes were test recipes for the book and they all have the seal of approval - even the chocolate chilli cake! Washed down with glasses of strawberry punch, we all had a lovely afternoon, despite the English weather! Gareth and Amy were given matching T Shirts from one of their friends which said "Help, I'm in debt" "and Engaged" - a very apt present if you are followers of their blog

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

"Here comes the bride, All dressed in white"! We have received wonderful news from my brother's holiday in Morocco that he has proposed to Amy and she has said yes! She must be mad (only joking Gareth). I am very happy for them both. In true Gareth quirky style, he did not buy her a ring but gave here a bag of metal and a stone and some lessons with a silversmith to design her own ring. I hope Amy liked this off the wall idea! We all knew that Gareth was planning on proposing and there is an engagement party planned at our house on Sunday to celebrate. Not wanting to tempt fate, I have not really started planning it yet until we knew she had said yes! Now I have no excuse and had better get organised. The centrepiece is going to be a strawberry topiary tree - it is something I saw when we were driving past a wedding in France and I spied it from the car window - I have no idea how they did it but am going to try my best to recreate it in place of an engagement cake! I will post a photo and instructions if we get it to work! Congratulations again Gareth and Amy xxx

Monday, 14 July 2008

Yesterday we made Cherryade - this drink always reminds me of Christmas as a child when the milkman would deliver a crate of fizzy pop a few days before Christmas eve - cherryade, limeade, cream soda, dandelion and burdock! We would go mad with excitement! This is a more summery version - made with fresh fruit, rather than E numbers!

Real Cherryade

juice of 4 lemons and zest of 1 lemon
3 heaped tbsp caster sugar
12 cherries, halved and stones removed

Place the lemon juice, zest, sugar and cherries in a heat proof jug and cover with 500ml boiling water. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally, so that the sugar dissolves. When cold, fill the jug with still or sparkling water and ice to serve. A perfect summer drink!

Friday, 11 July 2008

It has been a bit hectic this week. On Wednesday I gave talk to 60 lovely ladies from the WI - cooking for John and Gregg was easy in comparison with cooking for the WI! I was petrified! Still they ate every last crumb I had prepared so I can't have done too badly. I even got to sing Jerusalem - which I had always thought was a WI myth - clearly not! Another lady also spoke at the meeting and talked about the WI being the "Keeper of Crafts" now that needlework and cooking weren't being taught as much in schools and how some members of the WI are spending time in schools teaching these skills. This is such a wonderful idea.

Last night I was invited to Freddie and Charlotte's book launch in London of the Great Big Veg Challenge book. It is such a lovely book and filled with wonderful vegetable recipes and photographs. Two of my recipes have made it into the book - I didn't realise this until I saw the book yesterday and was so thrilled

Thank you Charlotte for your lovely words!

I wanted to take Freddie and Charlotte a present to celebrate their achievements so baked a batch of cinnamon and apple cupcakes, decorated with vegetables. All packaged up in a trug they looked quite pretty and Freddie had soon tucked in!

Thank you Freddie and Charlotte for a memorable evening!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

I love sweet peas and just adore this picture of my mum picking sweet peas in her allotment. A small pot will fill the house with delicious scents of summer. Sadly their pretty petals are poisonous and cannot be used in cooking - although you can use garden pea flowers which are lovely in salads. Such a shame as they would look beautiful crystallised with sugar!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Strawberry Cointreau Charlotte

This dessert, with a pretty pink bow, would make a lovely alternative for a summer birthday cake. Topped with fresh summer berries, it almost looks too good to eat. The orange flavoured mousse is a perfect match for the sweet summer berries.

Serves 8 preparation time 30 minutes, plus chilling and 20 minutes baking

115g/4oz caster sugar

115g/4oz butter

2 large eggs

115g/4oz self raising flour

1tbsp powdered gelatine

2 tbsp water

225g/8oz caster sugar

285ml sour cream

350ml double cream

200g/7oz cream cheese

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Juice and zest of 1 small orange

3 tbsp Cointreau or other orange flavoured liquor

1 packet of Savoiardi/trifle finger biscuits

450g/16oz strawberries and summer berries to decorate

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/180/375F. Grease and line an 8 inch spring form tin. Using an electric hand mixer, cream together the butter and caster sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating with the hand mixer after you add each egg. Sift in the flour and add the orange and lemon zest. Using the mixer on its lowest setting, gently incorporate the flour to the cake mixture. Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes until a knife comes out clean with no cake batter on when you insert it into the centre of the cake. Remove the cake from the oven and drizzle over 2 tablespoons of Cointreau and cover the cake with a clean damp tea towel. Leave the cake to cool completely. Whilst the cake is cooling, prepare the mousse filling. Quarter fill a small saucepan with water and heat gently. When the water is simmering, mix the gelatine and 2 tablespoons of cold water together in a mug and place the mug into the sauce pan to gently heat the gelatine. Stir the gelatine until it dissolves but do not overheat otherwise it will loose its setting quality. Using an electric whisk, mix together the caster sugar, sour cream, 250ml of the double cream, the cream cheese with the lemon and orange juice and the Cointreau to a smooth cream. Add the liquid gelatine to the cream mixture and whisk well with your hand mixer. Keeping the cake in the spring form tin, wrap the sides of the tin with cling film to prevent any spillages and pour over the mousse. Transfer to the fridge for 3 hours or over night to set. When the mousse has set and you are ready to serve, remove the mousse cake from the tin and whip the remaining 100ml of double cream to stiff peaks. Place the cake on a serving plate and attach the biscuits around the edge of the cake with the double cream. Secure in place with a ribbon bow. Top the cake with the fresh berries and serve.

Monday, 7 July 2008

I have a new computer system and it has been giving me a headache! It doesn't like blogger and wouldn't let me upload any posts! Luckily it seems to be working this morning which is a relief. I had a lovely quiet weekend (apart from watching an epic Wimbledon final - pleased for Nadal but sad for Federa - I thought they both should have won). I spent a lot of time writing recipes for the book and have now written 267 recipes - only 98 to go so I feel as if I have broken the back of it! Somehow over the next 3 months, I have to cook them all. That means 4 recipes a day!!!! We are going to be eating a lot of cake and cookies in this house between now and the end of September! I was thinking of setting up a stall outside my cottage to sell them, together with my eggs, but I think they would be taken by the crows. We did think we had an egg thief - although I was never convinced as the eggs were just disappearing, without the egg tray being taken. There was no evidence of any shell or egg, so we thought it couldn't be an animal taking them! My neighbour Pam finally discovered what had been happening when she spied a crow with one of her duck eggs whole in its beak! Naughty crows! Now my eggs for sale are kept inside! This was a lovely Gold Finch outside my office window last week. I hope you all had a nice weekend xxx

Thursday, 3 July 2008

A few photos from our afternoon teas at the weekend. Our guests feasted on Rose and sour cream dark chocolate cupcakes, Violet fondant fancies, Rose and lavender drizzle flowerpot cakes, White chocolate coconut lavender flapjack, Cucumber sandwiches, Thyme flower mushrooms, Mini poppyseed scones with smoked salmon and peashoots, lavender shortbread, rosepetal scones with clotted cream and strawberries, baby meringues with rose petal cream, violet tea and violet prosecco. Cooking for 70 people is quite a large task - my poor Aga did not know what had hit it! Kathy gave wonderful tours of her garden and we jointly gave cookery demonstrations on using edible flowers in cookery - lovely ice bowls and petal ice cubes, lavender dressing, petal salads, lavender chicken, marigold petal bread! We had such a lot of fun and were asked by the guests if we could do another event at Christmas - mulled wine, mince pies and logs fires - with some Christmas cooking demonstrations. Having said never again on Saturday morning, my mind is now busy coming up with ideas of what to cook for a winter tea party! Will I ever learn to say no I wonder!!!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The postman has just delivered a parcel. Normally when he knocks it is boxes of boring files for work but today it was a completely unexpected parcel from my dear German friend Maren. You may recall the lovely picture of poppy seed cheesecake that appeared on my blog a few months ago. I faithfully promised to post the recipe when I had discovered how to make "Mohn Bak" (Poppy Seed Paste) at home, rather than using the packets from Germany. This has proved more difficult than I imagined! Maren and I have been e-mailing backwards and forward as the pastes I made never had the same texture as the packet mix - they are too crunchy and just don't work. My parcel today contained the solution - Maren has found the piece of equipment I was lacking - A poppy mill!!! I can safely say that I must now have every kitchen gadget under the sun! I am hoping this is the answer to the paste.

It has a great recipe translation on the box which made me smile - "How to make poppy-filling (pie) - one recipe from 105 years old book of recipes. Poppy to mill and then boil with milk. To cool and join suger. To make filling more thick, give please milled gingerbread. Further you can give succcessive: rum, cinnamon, muscat, honey, plum jam, lemon crust, clove". Perhaps this is why I have been going wrong. Anyway off to the kitchen to experiment!

The parcel also contained some other lovely baking goodies, some poppy seed chocolate, vanilla sugar, marzipan carrots and zebra chocolate rolls, cake candles with hearts and shamrocks on and napkins (and some packets of Mohn Bak just in case I still can't make the poppy seed paste work) Thank you lovely Maren - your parcel made me smile so much!!