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

Friday, 29 August 2008

Whilst I have been cooking, Sacha has continued with our woodland clearance project and has done an amazing job. It is clear enough now that we have a gardener coming in early September to plant woodland grass seed and lots of bulbs - I can't believe that very soon it will feel like a proper part of our garden. We have invested in two hammocks - strung on adjoining trees they make a perfect spot for relaxing and were money very well spent! With both of us lying there it feels as it we are pirates sleeping on a ship (OK sometimes my imagination runs away with me I know!). I am convinced that it would be a good idea to sleep outdoors in them although I am yet to persuade Sacha. There is a lovely view over head of trees and sky and I could happily spend hours and hours gazing up.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Rack of Treacle Glaze Pork

2kg French trimmed rack of pork
1 tbsp treacle
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to season
1 onion, peeled and quartered
250ml ginger wine

Pour boiling water over the skin which will help the skin to crisp and then pat dry with kitchen paper. Score the skin with a sharp knife and mix together with treacle, mustard and honey to form a smooth paste. Spread the paste over the meat and season with salt and pepper. Place the pork in a roasting pan on the chopped onions and bake in a hot oven (Gas Mark 7/220C) for 20 minutes. Pour over the ginger wine then turn the heat down to Gas Mark 4/180C for a further 1 1/2 hours until caramalized. Cut the rack and serve with hot buttered sweetcorn.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

It has been a while since I last wrote on my blog - recipe testing has become all consuming but I am pleased to report that there are only 41 recipes left to test! I long for the day when I get my life back and can curl up on the sofa for a whole day with my sewing and watching girlie DVD's. Sadly that day is a while off yet!!! It will be all the sweeter when it comes though. I don't know why but the lower the number remaining to be tested becomes, the more daunting it is. For some reason saying I have to do 41 recipes between now and Sunday seems far worse than saying that I need to test 365 recipes in 5 weeks! What a punishing schedule I have given myself - but it is the homeward strech now. I must say a huge thank you to all those of you who read this blog who have tested recipes for me - this would not be possible without you....my heart is too full for words - thank you xxx

I just had to post these pictures of Josh and Rosie with their magnifying glass cookies - this is one of my favourite recipes in the book! Peppermint glass that you can see through - we had great fun playing with these and they didn't break (which must be a miracle!!!) The children were licking the glass like lollipops - very cute!

Monday, 18 August 2008

This weekend I was happily baking away (nothing new there!) when the kitchen was overtaken by wasps. I have to say that it is a good job that I am not particularly scared of wasps, otherwise I would have lost valuable baking time. Most of them were attracted to the strawberry jam which reminded me of a book I loved when I was little - the Giant Jam Sandwich. You may remember it? A village was plagued by wasps and so they baked a giant loaf of bread and made lots of strawberry jam and then trapped all the wasps in an enormous sandwich. "Suddenly the sky was humming, All four million wasps were coming, they smelled the jam, they dived and struck, and they ate so much that they all got stuck" I am wondering whether I am going to have to start a similar project - the Giant Victoria Sandwich - if I am ever going to finish this recipe testing in peace!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Sharing the Love

What an honour - Lovely Julia at A Slice of Cherry Pie has awarded ‘Hannahs Country Kitchen" the Arte Y Pico award. This is so kind as Julia's site is a great source of inspiration for me. In turn, I’d like to award it to:

Operation Night Brace (OK so I know i am biased as it is my brother but Amy and Gareth's blog really makes me realise that I could spend a lot less money than I do and still be happy - their project is truly inspirational) Keep going guys and that loan will be gone before you know it

The Genius Academy - which has some lovely stories about home teaching

A Year at Oak Cottage - Marie - your recipes always inspire me and your blog plays Michael Buble loudly at me which just makes me smile everytime!

I Heart Cupcakes - whose passion for cupcakes is even greater than mine

Jam and Clotted Cream - for stunning cakes and general all round niceness

and finally (OK I know this is 6 and not 5) Rita - whose emails of support during my book writing have been invaluable

The rules of the award are:

1. Choose 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and their contribution to the blogging community.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and link to the blog that presented her/him with the award.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize has to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show these rules.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

The sheep have reappeared in the field behind our house - it is so nice to have them back. I have now found out from the farm that they are retirement sheep who just get to live out the rest of their lives grazing. Oh to be a sheep! They were looking into our kitchen window very attentively...perhaps they could smell all the baking and wanted a slice of cake!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Orchard Meringue Pie

Serves 6 – 8, preparation 20 minutes, baking 1 hour

300g/10½oz plain flour

200g/7oz salted butter

230g/8oz caster sugar

1 egg yolk

3 egg whites

1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon

3 cooking apples, cored peeled and thinly sliced

3 dessert apples, cored peeled and thinly sliced

3 pears, cored peeled and thinly sliced

A cup of blackberries

200g/7oz light brown sugar

Pre heat your oven to Gas Mark 5/180C/375F and grease a 10 inch deep loose bottomed pie tin. To make the butter pastry, rub together the flour and butter between your finger tips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 60g of caster sugar and egg yolk and mix to form a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Once chilled, roll out the pastry and line the pie tin. Cover with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 10 minutes until the pie crust is golden. Remove from the oven, add the thinly sliced apples, pears and blackberries in alternate layers, sprinkling the light brown sugar between each layer. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the fruit is soft. Whilst the pie is cooking, prepare the meringue topping. Simmer a little water in a small saucepan. Place the egg whites and 170g of caster sugar in a heat proof bowl and place on top of the saucepan. It is important that the bowl does not touch the water. Using an electric whisk, beat the egg whites and sugar for about 5 minutes until they form stiff peaks. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cinnamon and whisk for a further 4 – 5 minutes. Place the meringue in a piping bag with a large star nozzle attachment and pipe stars of meringue over the fruit. If you do not have a piping bag, simply spoon the meringue over the fruit and shape into smooth peaks. Bake in the oven for a further 40 minutes until the meringue is cooked. Serve warm or cold with double cream.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The recipe testing continues...my life has become one giant pan of cake batter! Thanks to a huge team of wonderful family and friends (and friends of friends) we have now tested 214 recipes for the book. In three weeks, I make this pretty good going and it is such a relief to be over half way! Here is Alfred trying out some cupcake lollipops and a birthday cookie - sadly it was no ones birthday this week so we just ate it!!! If it was your birthday this week, then this cookie is for you!!

Friday, 8 August 2008

September's Country Kitchen is out and I thought I would share with you one of my recipes from my Cooking for One column!

Baked Gingerbread Apple

Although this apple dessert takes a while to cook, the preparation time is minimal and therefore worth the effort. It is a lovely treat for a cold autumn evening by the fireside with a mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows.

Serves 1, preparation time 5 minutes, cooking 50 – 60 minutes

1 large cooking apple, cored

1 slice of gingerbread, crumbed

½ tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp raisins or sultanas

2 tbsp golden syrup

2 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190C/375F. Using a sharp knife, score a line around the apple. This will prevent the apple skin from splitting during cooking. Place the apple in an oven proof dish, mix together the gingerbread crumbs, ground ginger and raisins and fill the centre of the apple with the mixture. Spoon the golden syrup over the apple and add the water to the dish. Bake in the oven for 50 - 60 minutes until the apple is soft. Serve with cream or custard if you wish.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Have you discovered these new Cadbury's chocolate bars - Magical Elves with popping candy!!! They are delicious and I definitely recommend them! Not really advertising but I only recently discovered them and wanted to pass on how good they are!!!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

You will have to forgive the lack of new recipes on this blog at the moment - sorry! My excuse is that my life has been taken over by recipe testing. I tested 43 cake and cookie recipes at the weekend - everything from Christmas tree biscuits to Duck Pond cookies. I am thinking of renaming myself the Bionic Baker! Here are Rosie and Alfred having tested lots and lots of samples - well the icing and sweets! The testing is becoming far more systematic, with 141 recipes tested and another 30 being tested by my kind volunteers as I type. We are almost half way which is such a relief!!!

Friday, 1 August 2008

Testing recipes for the book is now in full swing. I don't think I had really anticipated quite how much work there is in cooking 365 recipes! I know I am fast in the kitchen, but certainly not fast enough to test all the recipes single handedly and I have drafted in some help. The whole village is turning cake or cookie mad! I have to say that so far there has not been a problem finding people to test the samples. I took baskets of cakes to church at the weekend and work meetings are now pleasant affairs with cakes piled high. I just hope that people don't expect this level of service after the testing has finished! I will not be baking cakes again in a while I imagine!