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

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

This year I'm taking part in the Children's Society's St. George's Day Bake and Brew campaign to help raise money to make childhood better. It's easy to get involved at home or work. You can serve tea, coffee and delicious cakes - morning coffee or afternoon tea perhaps - to your family friends or colleagues for a donation. The Children's Society website has lots of ideas and print outs to help organise your event. You can order bunting, balloons and posters, print invites and download one of their lovely recipes (my red white and blueberry muffins are there!) - everything you need is at www.childrenssociety.org.uk/stgeorge

Friday, 27 March 2009

Sundae testing is in full flow now and I am having such a nice time! I saw my friend Jess yesterday and we photographed 6 sundaes - with about 15 different icecreams and sorbets, lots of sauces, fruit and sweets. We tested whether peanut brittle worked better with salted, unsalted or honey roasted peanuts (the result is a closely guarded secret!). The only downside is that when we had finished we had 6 ice cream sundaes to eat - it is a hard life!!!!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

As you know, here in the UK, last Sunday was Mother's day. I had a special lunch planned for my Mum. Sadly when I woke up on Saturday I knew that something wasn't right - the house felt freezing - we had run out of oil so no heating and nothing to cook on! What a disarster! All my lovely plans went out of the window. Luckily we have a one ring camping stove and a BBQ so I have been cooking on these until yesterday when more oil was delivered. Actually, there were advantages to the camping stove - it meant that I could cook the ice cream bases in the lounge whilst watching TV!! On Mother's Day we therefore had our first BBQ of the year and even sat out in the garden. Sadly with no way of baking, I was forced to buy a cake (actually it was nice I have to admit - a Tesco's Finest Carrot Cake) but I managed to hide it under lots of decoration, flowers and tiny yellow birds and if I hadn't confessed, I don't suppose anyone would have known! Happy Mother's Day Mum xxx

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Time is flying by at the moment...days filled with working and evenings filled with inventing ice cream recipes. I have to say it is an absolute joy to write although I am discovering that sorbets are very hard to photograph before they start to melt! Dry Ice would come in handy I think. It only seems like 5 minutes since Peapod arrived at our cottage and yet this week she had her first steps outside! Despite being very timid at first (and hiding under the BBQ for a long while) she has now discovered that there are plenty of things to chase in the garden which she loves. She looks like a proper grown up cat now although still tiny in comparison with Muffy who is enormous with her winter coat! Although I wouldn't say that they get on hugely well (Muffy is not a big fan of Peapod pulling her tail!!!) here was a rare moment of togetherness when they spotted a rabbit! I am hoping that one day they will be the best of friends!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

Preparation time 15 minutes Cooking time 12 - 15 minutes

Makes 15

250g self raising flour, sifted

100g plain flour, sifted

pinch of salt

200g caster sugar

½tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp ground ginger

125g butter

1tbsp golden syrup

1 large egg, lightly beaten

200g plain chocolate, chopped into large chunks

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F. Grease and line two baking trays. Mix together the flours, salt, caster sugar, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger in a mixing bowl. Heat the butter with the syrup until the butter has melted, cool and then stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Beat in the egg and chopped chocolate.

Divide the dough into 15 balls and place on the trays leaving a large gap between each as the cookies will spread during cooking. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. Leave to cool on the trays for a few minutes then transfer to a rack with a spatula to cool.

Friday, 20 March 2009

One of our favourite breakfasts at the weekend is waffles. It doesn't take much for me to be pursuaded to make a bowl of waffle batter and with a clattering of plates we are sitting round the table with the waffle iron plugged in, everyone waiting their turn for a fresh waffle. Last weekend I went slightly "off piste" and made Chocolate and Coconut Waffles. The verdict was positively tropical!

Chocolate and Coconut waffles with coconut sauce

Serves 4

8oz self raising flour

3 level tbsp caster sugar

3 eggs separated

300ml milk

100ml coconut milk

55g dessicated coconut

100grams butter, melted

100g plain chocolate, melted

For the sauce

300ml coconut cream

1tbsp butter

2 tbsp caster sugar

In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, milk, coconut milk, egg yolks, dessicated coconut and melted butter and chocolate 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. Add the sauce ingredients to a pan and simmer until the caster sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Drizzle the coconut syrup over the waffles to serve.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

I always keep my eyes open for new cake decorations. Sometimes a really pretty chocolate with a dusting of edible glitter will transform an ordinary buttercream covered cupcake or muffin. These little white chocolate disks with sugar hearts looked just lovely on cupcakes that I took to the publishers last week - a fairy cake in the true sense of the word! They were in the Mother's day gift section at Waitrose in case anyone is interested (I am not on commission - honest!)

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

One of our favourite quick suppers is griddled halloumi served in pitta bread. Simply slice the halloumi into thick chunky wedges, drizzle a griddle pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil, add a sliced fresh red chilli to the pan and grill the halloumi for 2 - 3 minutes on each side. When the cheese is golden and starting to melt squeeze the juice of a lemon over the cheese. Serve immediately in pitta breads filled with salad, fresh herbs and hummos.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Yesterday, Mum, I and 4 girlfriends had a lovely girlie day out at the Country Living Spring Fair in London. By the end of the day we were all laden down with bags of shopping full of things that we didn't really need but just had to buy any way (we forgot about the credit crunch for the day). My favourite purchase was this cake stand (well that's what I am planning to use it for - it is actually designed as a winter scene decoration but I bought it without the houses and trees) I am already busy designing an Alice in Wonderland tea party to use it at and can see it filled with delicate meringues, cupcakes and fancies. At thirty pounds, it wasn't cheap but I am sure that by the end of the year it will have delighted enough people to make it a worthwhile purchase! I hope you all had a lovely weekend

Friday, 13 March 2009

Yesterday was a fairly monumental day - I went to London with my Dad to sign off the final photos for my cake and cookie book - that is it now! All finished! I was told the next time I saw the book would be when I received my first copy! We celebrated with a nice supper at Carluccios and also a trip to the British museum - I have not been before (which is rubbish I know) and was amazed that such an amazing museum was free. I also had a meeting with the publishers on the Sundae book and we have now agreed a final list of recipes - 8 weeks to write them but I don't think it will be anything other than a pleasure! I woke up in the night dreaming about sundaes, sundae glasses and sugar sprinkles! Yum yum!
I have also received a lovely present from my German friend Maren - I was talking to her the other day and saying that life was fairly hectic at the moment and she asked what I needed - I jokingly said cake but didn't think she would take this literally. The postman knocked on the door the other day and delivered the most perfect Sachertorte in a wooden box from none other than Hotel Sacher in Austria (the home of the ultimate Sacher Torte) - what a lovely surprise! I had no idea that you could order cake to be sent from them. I have to say this was THE most delicious Sachertorte I have ever eaten - thank you Maren for such a lovely gift xxx

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

I was in Suffolk yesterday for meetings and after we had finished I was lucky enough to be taken to the farm's lambing sheds where 2,400 lambs will be born over the next 6 weeks. The shepherds have beds in the sheds as they are needed 24 hours a day. Lots of lambs had been born already (this little black one was only a few hours old) and they were just adorable - I got to cuddle one and really wanted to bring him home with me. One of the shepherds said that she has a lamb that lives with her chickens....now there's an idea!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Aren't these the cutest little ducks - I found them the other day and couldn't resist buying them to decorate my Easter cake. Sadly Peapod couldn't resist them either and, in a fluffy of yellow feathers, one of them is now headless and feetless - I am hoping that the superglue is going to work! Naughty Peapod xxx

Last week I gave two cookery demos - the second one on Friday evening was unexpectdly for 95 people - luckily I found out with a few hours to spare (I was expecting 40 people) and was able to make enough lavender shortbread and other things for them all to have a try. By the end of the week I was exhausted! With the sun shining on Saturday and a quiet weekend ahead of us (what a treat) I decided to make some lemonade as it was gloriously sunny. Needless to say that by yesterday it was snowing and hailing - I had clearly aggrevated the weather gods by daring to presume that summer was on its way and making lemonade. Anyway - it was yummy so perhaps when the days are warmer you might like to try this. I love the way this drink transforms in colour!!!

Fresh Blueberry Lemonade
Serves 6
5 lemons
150g fresh blueberries
4 tbsp caster sugar

Peel large strips of lemon peel (making sure that you remove as much of the white pith as possible as this will make the lemonade bitter) from 2 of the lemons and place in a heatproof jug together with the juice of all the lemons. Cut all the blueberries in half and add to the jug with the sugar. Pour over 400ml of boiling water and leave for 2 hours until the sugar has dissolved and the lemonade has turned a wonderful purple colour. Top up with ice and cold water to serve.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Yesterday I received some wonderful news - that another of my books is going to be published next Spring. As my editor Allee said, I must be a glutton for punishment having only finished editing Cakes and Cookies this week! One morning before Christmas I woke up at about 6am with my head full of ice cream sundae ideas (strange indeed as it was winter and cold and not ice cream weather at all!!!) I wrote them all down and by 7.45 I had a list of 30 different sundaes ranging from Black Forest Sundae, Harvest Apple Sundae to Plum Crumble Sundae and e-mailed them off to lovely Heather and Elly who have found a publisher for the book. I can't tell you how excited I am at the prospect of inventing ice cream sundae recipes and testing them over the next few weeks and months. The sundae above is one that I wrote for Delicious magazine last year - the recipe is here if you would like to try it - Raspberry Fool Sundae with elderflower thins - although you may wish to wait until the weather is warmer!!!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Although it might be odd to be stitching Christmas projects in March I have decided that this year I am going to be more organised. Every year I stitch a small christmas gift for one of our neighbours - I know that they mean a lot to her - and every year without fail, I finish stitching it on Christmas eve in a mad rush. This year I decided things would be different and I have now finished her Christmas present - with 9 months to spare!! Luckily she does not have a computer so will not see this until December 25th but I thought I would share this jolly little beaded Santa with you! I am quite tempted to stitch another one for myself.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

This weekends' baking project was a garden cake. It was similar to the allotment cake I made last year but much larger and I think I like it more. My favourite parts were the apple tree and pear espalier around the base of the cake! It only took two hours to decorate which I think is pretty good going and this included making all the seed packets and the tiny newspaper (all downloaded from google image searches for seed packets and mini newspapers). I will definitely be making this cake again!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Queen of Edible Flowers Kathy Brown (this is her lovely book if anyone is interested - it is such a nice read and has lots of ideas for planting your garden as well as recipes) came to tea last week and brought me a gift of these beautiful lily of the valley planted with moss and ivy. So simple and yet such a perfect spring time present. The flowers are sadly not edible but they smell absolutely divine.