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, 28 November 2008

My book is currently being edited. There is a team of about 10 people working on it which is staggering - spotting typos, checking methods, planning photographs, design and layouts. I must get about 50 emails a day with questions ranging from "Do I think that the fairy toadstool meringues would look good displayed in a basket as though someone had picked them whilst out foraging for mushrooms" to "on the duck pond cookies do the sugar ducks lie flat or sit upright". No stone is left unturned by my lovely editor Allee. It is lovely to think that my little book is being given so much care and attention. I will definitely never look at a cook book in the same way again - I had never realised just how much work goes into it. A few of you have asked when the book will be out and the answer is next Autumn in the UK and the USA and a bit later I think in Australia, Germany and France - such a way off, but hopefully it will be worth the wait!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Oh me, Oh my...I have been graced with not one, but two awards - you are too kind. This first is a Kreativ Blogger from Jonathan at AroundBritainWithAPaunch - if you haven't popped by to visit Jonathan and Sarah's blog - it is definitely worth a visit. One of his recent postings is about his day making macaroons at L'Atalier - they look as good as Laduree macaroons and I am very impressed. The other Hard Working Food Blogger award is very kindly from Bellini Valli
of more than burnt toast whose most recent post of Mexican Chicken Soup literally made my mouth water - I will definitely be making this. Rightly Bellini Valni has already received both of these awards already, otherwise I would have passed one back to her.

So now it falls to me to pass these awards on to the well deserving

Hard Working Food Blogger
Jonathan and Sarah at Around Britain with a Paunch
William Leigh at Theboydonefood - who has just been put in the top 10 food blogs by the times and is also writing a food blog for Hello Magazine - so pleased for you on both these counts Will
Katrina of Shes in the kitchen who has some truly scrumptions cakes on her blog
Marie at Oak Cottage - I don't know how you manage to turn out some many delicious recipes every day Marie - you put me to shame
and of course fellow Masterchef foodie David Hall - there is no other more hard working food blogger out there in my view

Kreativ Blogger
Gareth and Amy for their inspiring rid the debt story
Lucy of the Smallest Smallholding with lovely stories of country life
Tammy of Wee Treats By Tammy - who is a fellow lawyer and cupcake queen after my own heart
Joanne at Joanne's Food who shows that eating carefully can still be creative
and I Heart Cupcakes whose obsession with cupcakes puts mine to shame

Well done one and all!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Now you are going to have to trust me on this one as the photograph doesn't really do these sausages justice. These used to be our favourite thing when we were little and we always begged my mum to make them for us. They are nice served hot but also good cold on picnics. I made them a few weeks ago for my husband who had never had them before and he loved them as much as we do!
Welsh Rarebit-ish Sausages
12 chipolata sausages
12 slices of bread, crusts removed
125g butter, softened
125g cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper to season
cocktail skewers

Preheat to the oven to Gas Mark 5/190C/375F. Mix together the butter, cheese and mustard and season well with salt and pepper. Use a rolling pin to flatten each slice of bread. Spread a thick layer of the butter mixture onto each slice of bread. Place a sausage at one end of each slice and roll up so that the sausage is wrapped in the bread. Secure each one in place with a cocktail stick and place in a roasting tin. Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes until the bread is golden brown and the sausages are cooked through.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

It is that time of year again when my neighbour Ros kindly arrives with a bag of fresh walnuts from the tree in her garden - they are delicious and I immediately had to cook with them! Sadly we ate it all before remembering to take a photo!

Orange and Walnut Polenta Cake
Preparation time 30 minutes Cooking time 50 - 60 minutes

Serves 8

55g/2oz/heaped ¼ cup light brown sugar

250g/9oz/1 cup and 1 tbsp/2 sticks plus 1 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing

2 large oranges

225g/8oz/1 scant cup caster sugar

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

115g/4oz/1 cup ground walnuts

1tsp ground cinnamon

115g/4oz pre cooked grain polenta, cooked according to packet instructions

Grease and line a 23cm/9inch round cake tin. Grate the zest from the oranges and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the brown sugar and 30g/1oz of the butter and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the caramel syrup over the base of your pie dish. Remove the peel from the oranges and cut the fruit into thick round slices, removing any pips. Place the slices in rings on top of the caramel sauce in the dish and allow the caramel to cool. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F. Using a mixer, mix together remaining 225g/8oz butter and caster sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs and whisk again. Add the ground walnuts, cinnamon and polenta and whisk again. Spoon the cake batter over the fruit and bake for about 50 - 60 minutes until the cake is firm to touch and a knife comes out clean with no cake batter on it. Allow the cake to cool, then invert onto a serving plate. Serve with cream.

Lemon Dainties

These tiny cakes are just a mouthful really but are perfect as a sweet canape or for afternoon tea.

115g/4oz butter, softened
115g/4oz caster sugar
2 eggs
115g/4oz self raising flour, sifted
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 heaped tbsp lemon curd
1 heabed tbsp creme fraiche
155g/5oz icing sugar sifted
yellow food colouring
yellow and white sugar flowers
36 mini muffin cases

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180/350 and place the muffin cases in mini muffin pans (you can cook in batches if you only have one pan). Cream together the butter and sugar until light and cream. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each egg is added. Fold in the flour, lemon zest, lemon curd and creme fraiche gently with a spatula. Place heaped teaspoonfuls of the cake batter in each cake case and bake for 8 - 12 minutes until the cakes are golden brown and spring back to your touch. Allow to cook on a rack. Mix together the icing sugar with a few drop of yellow food colouring and the lemon juice to make a thick icing. Spread over each cake using a knife and top with a sugar flower. Leave the icing to set before serving.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Sometimes it is hard to blog when you are feeling sad and you may have noticed that my posting has been rather remiss over the last week or so. My beloved Grandma passed away the weekend before last and we all miss her very much. I hadn't wanted to write about it for fear of making everyone sad, but, having had time to reflect, I have so much to be grateful to my Grandma for that it feels wrong to not mention her as she was such a big influence on my life.

When I was on Masterchef, my Grandma was sooooo proud and told everyone that she had taught me everything I know. Now although I am not sure that my Mum would agree with this (as she taught me everything I know), I certainly learnt a lot of cooking tips from my Grandma and thought that I would share a few of these with you now:
1. When you have cooked bacon, drain the fat into a tupperware box and store in the fridge. Cook scrambled eggs in a spoonful of this fat for the most delicious eggs ever.
2. Simmer peeled whole onions for 10 minutes and then add to your roasting tin with your roast. After an hour they have a delicious caramel flavour.
3. Grandma's Christmas pudding recipe is the best I know but I am of course biased - the recipe is here on an earlier post. I know that when we stir it and make our wishes this year, we will all be thinking of her
4. Roast halved red plums in the oven for 30 minutes with a few tbsp of water and a drizzle of honey. These are lovely hot with custard or cold with natural yoghurt. A super easy pudding
5. Rose and Violet creams are the food of the Gods - it was my Grandma who introduced me to these and I use rose and violet a lot in my cooking now so this is definitely down to her.
6. Grandma's rock cakes - these were scrumptious and made it into my book. I am so pleased now that the publishers have let me call them Grandma's rock cakes!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Although I am not a huge fan of supermarket cakes, I just had to smile when I saw this cake last week and of course had to buy it. A giant french fancy!!!! Can you imagine anything nicer? Obviously now I have the idea, I will be able to recreate this at home myself but good old Mr Kipling for being so clever! Happy to report that the fondant fancy was yummy!

It has got me wondering what the difference is between a French Fancy and a Fondant Fancy - sadly Wikipedia has no listing for either. I imagine there is no difference but if anyone knows, I would love to hear!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

My latest article in Country and Town House December edition is out and is very festive - is it too early to be talking about Christmas at the beginning of November?

The sweet scent of freshly baked mince pies and Christmas puddings steaming on the Aga - this is my favourite time in the kitchen. If you are making a Christmas cake this year, try replacing brandy with amaretto for a lovely almond flavour. Decorate a wreath for the door with holly, fresh clementines and red ribbons to welcome arriving guests. For warming mulled wine, simmer 2 bottles of red wine, a carton of orange juice, 3 tablespoons of caster sugar, 250ml brandy, 3 cinnamon sticks, 15 cloves, a bayleaf and orange and lemon slices for 10 minutes. Serve with a slice of Christmas gingerbread, flavoured with orange, lemon and Cointreau and topped with festive cranberries – a perfect offering for guests and carol singers.

Cranberry Gingerbread

Preparation time 30 minutes cooking time 1 hour

Serves 10

170g/6oz sultanas

100ml Cointreau

500g/1.1lb plain flour, sifted

1tsp ground ginger

1tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp ground mixed spice

1tsp baking powder

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

zest of 1 orange and juice and zest of 1 lemon

255g/9oz butter

3oz treacle

8oz golden syrup

2 heaped tbsp ginger jam

200g/7oz dark brown sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

142ml sour cream

150g/5¼oz cream cheese

400g/14oz icing sugar, sifted

dried cranberries and silver balls

Soak the sultanas in the Cointreau for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 25cm/10in ring tin. Mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon, spice, baking powder, bicarbonate, zests, sultanas and Cointreau in a large mixing bowl. In a saucepan, gently melt 170g/6oz of the butter, together with the treacle, golden syrup, jam and brown sugar. Allow to cool, then stir into the dry ingredients, adding the sour cream and eggs. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for one hour until the cake is firm to touch and a knife comes out clean with no cake batter. If the cake starts to brown too much during cooking, cover the top of the cake with silver foil. When cooled, whisk together the remaining 85g/3oz butter, cream cheese, icing sugar and 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Cover the gingerbread with the icing and decorate with dried cranberries and silver balls.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

My lovely brother has sent me this picture from New York for inspiration - what a clever idea to make a flower arrangement that looks like a cupcake as a birthday present! I will definitely be trying this!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

I thought I would share with you our Halloween celebrations! A ghoolish night was had by all! Baby pumpkin lanterns lit the fence. Rosie and Lily were scary witches. Josh was a spider and Miles a skeleton. Baby Zara, a pumpkin princess - how cute do they all look! We played pass the spooky parcel, had a Halloween pumpkin pinanta and ghost races and then feasted on some chocolate pumpkin nest cakes, spooky marshmallows, ghost cakes and a halloween cake with witches hat candles! After all that, the ghoolish revelers were rather sleepy and wandered off home up the lane with their torches and buckets of candy. What a fun evening!