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

Monday, 29 September 2008

It is the time of year for village shows again. A few weekend ago I had the honour of judging the confectionery class at Sharnbrook Show - lovely cakes, jams, quiches, breads - I was much better prepared this year and had no breakfast before judging and didn't leave the chocolate brownies until last (unlike last year when the brownies nearly finished me off!) Lots of fun!

This weekend was my Mum's show at her allotment - best dressed scarecrow competition, lots of wonderful vegetables grown on the allotment, bunting, BBQ food - Mum won 1st prize for her vase of fresh flowers - well done Mum!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Mr Pheasant being spotted eating grass seed!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Squash and Pistachio Orrichetti

Butternut squash is one of my favourite vegetables - right up there with parsnips. I think I like them because they are so sweet and as you may have noticed from most of the recipes on this blog, I have a sweet tooth. With salty feta, crunchy pistachios and a chilli kick, this is a perfect supper dish for cold autumn nights

Serves 4

400g orrichetti cooked according to packet instructions and drained
1 large butternut squash, seeds and skin removed and cut into small cubes
2 large cloves garlic
3 - 4 small dried chillies
2 tbsp olive oil
handful of finely chopped Greek basil
100g pistachios
3 tbsp double cream
200g feta cheese, cut into cubes
salt and pepper to season

In a pestle and mortar, crush the chillies with the garlic and some salt and pepper to a smooth paste. Add the olive oil and stir. Toss the butternut squash cubes in the garlic oil, place on a baking tray and roast in a hot oven (Gas Mark 5/375/190) for 30 minutes until soft and tender and just starting to caramalise. Sprinkle over half the basil and the pistachios and bake for a further 10 minutes to allow the nuts to release their oil. Place the drained pasta, butternut squash and nuts in an oven proof baking dish, stir through the cream and add the feta cheese. Return to the oven to bake for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the remaining basil to serve. This is also nice cold as a pasta salad.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Whilst I am busy adding cup measurements to my book so that you lovely peeps in Australia and America might be able to use the book, my mum is busy proof reading for me! These are two little presents I bought her to say thank you - the cakes on the napkins are so pretty - almost too good to use and would be lovely for a Servietten Technik door stop in the kitchen (paint a large flat stone white and allow to dry - remove the very top layer of the printed napkin and smooth over the stone and then varnish in place - the doorstop in our kitchen was made this way as it has lasted for 7 years - people are always asking where it came from and are amazed at how simple it is to do yourself). The bath bags for harrassed cooks made me chuckle - I have turned everyone in my life into harrassed cooks over the last few months will all the testing so these will definitely come in handy!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

What lovely weather we had at the weekend - a final swing in the hammock (with laptop writing my introduction to the book - perfect) and a picnic supper with Josh and Rosie. I was so pleased to find these lovely rice paper butterflies (www.janeasher.com) - although not cheap, there are hundreds in the pack and they transform a very ordinary cupcake into something quite special. We were paid a visit by Superman, who approved of the cupcakes wholeheartedly and used the cupcakes to improve his flying prowess!

Friday, 19 September 2008

You would be forgiven for not being as excited as I am at the faint green hue that has appeared in our woodland (is it even there or is it my eye sight???) - the grass is growing! I am sure that in a few weeks from now it will look as though grass was always there. There have been so many pheasants in the garden this week - no doubt feasting on the grass seed - but at least they haven't managed to gobble it all!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

I love this picture of Muffy trying to pursuade me to let her in through my office window - how could I possibly resist. I had a work meeting here yesterday and she was snoring so loud that we could hear if in the dinning room all the way from the lounge. I duly apologised on her behalf! I am busy writing up the book and am now on Chapter 3 (nearly half way) - the first three chapters are due in by the end of Sept so I am ahead of schedule - a near miracle!

Monday, 15 September 2008

We have returned from the show - completely exhausted but very, very proud of ourselves!!! Given this was our first ever show, it was a miracle how well we did. We arrived on Wednesday to be surrounded by very professional looking stalls - we were petrified! We decorated our tent with bunting and pretty tablecloths and looked like a WI stand - not very central London! Luckily our "Floral Fancies" stall was very popular - we sold 1,000 floral cupcakes, 1,000 brownies, 250 almond croissants, 675 mini foccacia, 300 loaves of bread and lots of tray bakes, ice cream and prosecco with violet liquor. By the end of Saturday we only had a few tray bakes left - everything else had been sold! My favourite were the marigold petal and sunflower petal breads, which looked so pretty and were very unusual. It will be a while before we have the energy to do another show but we were definitely glad to have taken part. The Inner Temple Gardens were stunning and on Thursday we were invited to the RHS Gala Dinner which was lovely (and even had edible flowers in the dessert).

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The process of writing the book has been interesting and I keep saying to people that I could write a book about the writing of a cook book...The large groups of people from our village standing outside our cottage on a sunday morning waiting to taste samples...late night dashes to friends with comparison samples to test..and so many people helping out. The nicest thing has been photos from the testers of themselves with their cakes! Here are a few for you to enjoy. Madly packing the car for the show as we are about to leave. Will post all about it on my return!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

With all this rain, hot chocolate is called for! For extra luxurious hot chocolate simmer enough milk to fill two mugs with a cinnamon stick and 75g of grated milk or plain chocolate over a gentle heat until the chocolate has melted and the cinnamon has infused. Bring to the boil, remove the cinnamon and pour into your mugs. Top with whipped cream, marshmallows and a generous grating of chocolate. See, the rain isn't so bad afterall!!!

Monday, 8 September 2008

The week of the RHS show has arrived and we are busying ourselves with last minute preparations. I have to admit I am feeling very nervous!!! We have no idea whether we will have too much or not enough cakes to sell - it is going to be a steep learning curve! Kathy and I had a lovely trip to Borough Market in London last week to visit the breadmaker who will be making our petal breads. If you haven't been to Borough it is a Foodie Mecca and definitely worth a visit. We then spent the afternoon with Kitty - a lovely baker (the sister of a friend of ours) who has a warehouse kitchen just near the show and who will be baking up our cupcake recipes (whilst I can bake for 100, baking for 15,000 on my Aga was never really realistic!) It was fun introducing Kitty and her assistant to lavender, violet and rose - even if they did think we were a little crazy! If you are near Inner Temple on Thursday or Friday, do come and say hello at our stand. And keep your fingers crossed that it will not rain (unlikely I know) otherwise there will not be a very high demand for our floral ice cream (gin and lavender, rose, raspberry and elderflower sorbet - yum yum!)

Friday, 5 September 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

The latest edition of Hannah's Kitchen in Country House is out - a spicy pumpkin soup! We were very pleased with the photo that my friend Jess took on our patio and I am still amazed at the elegance of the cream swirl I managed on my soup - my presentation is never normally that refined!

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4, preparation 10 minutes, simmering 30 minutes

1 medium pumpkin, skin and seeds removed and chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

2 or 3 dried red chillies

2 tsp brown sugar

750ml chicken stock

200ml coconut cream

salt and pepper to season

Single cream and chives to serve (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan, add the chopped pumpkin and onion and fry for 5 minutes until the pumpkin starts to soften. Crush the fennel, coriander seeds and dried chillies in a pestle and mortar, add to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and brown sugar to the pumpkin and simmer for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Puree the soup with a hand blender and return to the stove on a gentle heat. Add the coconut cream and season with salt and pepper and heat through for 5 minutes. Do not boil the soup as this will cause the coconut cream to split. Serve in warm bowls with swirls of cream and chives and fresh baked bread.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Well I am pleased to report that 10 minutes ago, I finished testing the final recipe. Can you hear the whoops of joy emanating from the computer! I know when I look back (and am not quite as exhausted as I am now), I will be hugely proud of the amount I have cooked and also very grateful to everyone who has helped - particularly Sacha for all the washing up. I don't think I have ever appreciated quite how much work goes into a cook book! Just amendments and an introduction and then I can submit - what an amazing day that will be!