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 May 2009

I am envious of anyone who lives in America! Cake decorating supplies there seem to be at a level way beyond what we have here in the UK. With cake decorating, I often find that all you need is the perfect decoration to transform a very plain cake into something very special. I have recently discovered Fancy Flours website and their products are just STUNNING (I am not on commission honest but this is just the nicest cake decorating website I have seen in a long time). Postage to the UK is a lot but luckily with my brother in New York I was able to send the items to him to forward on to me. My parcel arrived the other day and these were just a few of the delights - Rainbow candies, Edible coloured paper seed packets and birthdays cakes, cupcake wrappers (I just love this idea!!!). Everything wrapped in lovely brown and white stripy tissue paper! So nice. I also took delivery of edible clear gel that can be used to decorate the wafer paper pictures with edible glitter to give a 3-D effect. I can't wait to try these all out soon! Since placing my order the site now has Barley Sugar birds - so I am just itching to place another order - it is a good job my brother is coming to the UK soon!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

These are some little cakes I made at the weekend for a friend's party - chocolate cupcakes, cherry and almond cupcakes with sugar butterflies, cherry and cinnamon viennese whirls, coffee mocha meringues and rose meringues. I thought they looked quite pretty with the variety of colours on the tray and they all disappeared fast!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Sometimes it is the simplest of dishes, that take no time at all to prepare, that are the best. This weekend I served frozen Greek yoghurt (500g of yoghurt whisked with 250ml of milk and simply churned in an ice cream machine) in cocktail glasses topped with orange blossom honey and nuts. It was a perfect end to our BBQ supper and looked very elegant in the glasses. As there is no sugar or sweetness in the yoghurt, you do need the honey on top! If you don't have an ice cream machine, place the yoghurt in a tub and freeze in the freezer, remove every 30 minutes or so and whisk with a whisk to add air. Repeat this until the mixture is completely frozen.

Friday, 22 May 2009

A sneak preview of my favourite sundae in the book - the combination of creamy panne cotte, ice cold sorbet and the crackle and pop of the popping candy makes me smile! I had fun guilding some raspberries with gold leaf for decoration and fell in love with the gold spoons and glasses with gold beading that Steve had managed to find! Kate's photos are obviously so much better than mine and the above picture really doesn't do the sundaes justice but it should give a hint at the wonderful styling the team are doing! I hope you like it !
I can safely say that today has been one of the nicest days EVER! I went to Shepherd's Bush for the photo shoot for the sundae book. Kate, Steve, Sunil and Aya have created just the most beautiful pictures and the book looks better than I could ever have imagined! I thought I would share with your these fun pictures from the day - the book has a very retro 1950's feel! We had great fun with the mannequin which ended up needing a little "padding" and a petticoat to make the skirt hang perfectly! Who would have thought a mannequin at a cook book shoot! But the end picture was stunning. Thanks Kate, Steve, Sunil and Aya for such a lovely day.
Props from the Sundae shoot - so nice that I could have taken them all home with me!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

This is the cake I have made this evening - a buttermilk sponge with wild strawberry jam, all sugar pink with tiny birds and trailing ribbons. It is for a special 60th Birthday celebration for my friend Lucy's Mum. Somehow she is going to transport it all the way on the train tomorrow from Bedfordshire to Carlisle! I think that will be the furthest one of my cakes has ever travelled! Happy Birthday Lucy's Mum xxx I do hope she likes it! Off to London tomorrow for the photoshoot for the Sundae book. I can't believe that this book is almost finished now and am really looking forward to meeting Steve and Sunil who are transforming my recipes into pictures! Will post a few sneak preview pics on my return if I am allowed!!!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

There are times when even though I should be cross with Peapod our kitten, she just makes my heart melt. Today she had pulled flowers out of the arrangement I did for a supper party last night. I should have been cross but she looked so cute playing with a tulip that I just forgave her instantly! She has also discovered that lying in front of the Aga is a good place to be as the stone floor is warm! Could she look any more at home I wonder?

Monday, 18 May 2009

I am sure after the afternoon tea extravaganza at Kathy Brown's garden in Stevington last year we both said "Never again!". After the RHS flower show, we said "Never again!" Somehow we have forgotten this and are busy planning a wonderful event for August - A Mad Hatters Tea Party - Kathy has even ordered some Mad Hatter hats from America! With "Eat Me" cakes and "Drink Me" lemonade - I am having a delightful time dreaming up our menu. Playing card biscuits with stained glass hearts and diamonds, popping candy cakes and possibly the little seeding cakes from yesterday - with their edible mud! So what would you serve for a Mad Hatters Tea Party? All suggestions gratefully received! Details of the event will appear here on Kathy's Website at some time soon I am sure - perhaps we will see one or two of you there!!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Today is Mike's 65th Birthday - Happy Birthday Mike! As regular readers of this blog will know, Mum and Mike are very keen on gardening and we get lots of lovely fresh produce from their enormous allotment. When it came to a cake for Mike's birthday, there was no choice but for it to be a gardening theme so I made these seeding cupcakes cakes served in their very own propagator tray (which doubled as part of his present!) With oreo cookie crumbs as mud (Hello Cupcake was the inspiration for this) and green butter icing piped into leaves and stems to make the seedlings, these cakes were just the ticket!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Song Thrush in our garden!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

I have spent the last few days over in Suffolk for work - the upside is getting to eat yummy food at the Bildeston Crown - these were two of the wonderful desserts we had - sage and apple doughnut, apple tatin and goats milk panna cotte - the other a 1970's inspired arctic roll and trifle! So yummy and the pictures really don't do them justice. Needless to say after a few minutes our plates were empty and scraped clean and we were asking for seconds. The Crown recently won Silver in the National Tourism Best Hotel in the UK awards - beaten only by Michael Caines's Gidleigh Park in Devon which has two stars - so we are really proud of our hotel - Well done Chris and Hayley for a much deserved award!

Monday, 11 May 2009

This weekend was our village school's May Fete. With Maypole Dancing and Morris Dancing it was a lovely country affair. Not quite as grand as the May Fair at Ickwell that we went to last year but there is something about a village fete to warm the cockles of your heart. There are only 62 children in our village school but I think this is a good thing - the older children and younger children mix so well together. We were treated to Tai Kwando demonstrations and rice crispy cakes for 5p. What a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

If you are ever near Kew Gardens in London, it is definitely worth taking afternoon tea at Newens Bakery. They have been making Maids of Honour tarts since the early 18th Century and entering their shop is like stepping back in time. Although they do serve other lovely cakes, the Maids of Honour Tarts are their specialty. If you haven't come across these tarts before, think bakewell tarts meets lemon tart and you would be just about there. Obviously Newens keep their recipe top secret (although Henry the 8th had the recipe and kept it under lock and key apparently) so this is my own interpretation - not completely true to the original (I don't think they use cream cheese!) but they melted in the mouth all the same!

Maids of Honour Tarts
Makes 18

70g/2 1/2 oz caster sugar
115g/4oz butter, softened plus extra for greasing
115g/4oz ground almonds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
85g pannetone crumbs (I used a citrus pannetone and the peel gave the tarts a little extra zing but you can substitute breadcrumbs if you do not have pannetone available)
500g shortcrust pastry
flour for dusting
6 tbsp lemon curd
6 tbsp cream cheese
18 whole almonds
equipment: 2 muffin tins, 3 inch round flower cutter

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F and grease 18 cups of the muffin tins. Cream together the caster sugar and butter using a handwhisk until light and creamy. Add the ground almonds and whisk again. Place the eggs, vanilla, lemon zest and pannetone crumbs in the bowl and mix in well. Roll out the pastry on a floured worksurface to 1/2cm thickness and cut out 18 flower shapes with the cutter. Press each one gently into a hole on the muffin tray, pressing the flower edges neatly against the sides of the tin. Place a teaspoon of lemon curd and cream cheese in the bottom of each tart. Spoon the citrus almond filling into a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle and pipe the filling into each tart. Top each tart with an almond and bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the pastry is cooked and the filling is golden brown. Leave to cool on a rack (although that said, we ate several each warm from the oven as we were impatient!)

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Nutella is one of those things you either love or hate. Whenever we go on holiday to France my husband eats it for breakfast almost every day. He never does when we are in the UK so it must be a holiday thing. My friend Maren is very fond of it too! So these cupcakes are dedicated to them – true Nutella fans! I baked these in my new retro spotty cupcake cases – so cute that I had to use them instantly!

Nutella Lover's Cupcakes

Preparation time 20 minutes Cooking time 15 – 20 minutes Makes 18 cakes

115g/4oz butter, softened

115g/4oz caster sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

85g/3oz self raising flour, sifted

30g/1oz cocoa, sifted

100g/3½oz hazelnuts, coarsly chopped

100g/3½oz plain chocolate, chopped

2 tbsp soured cream

For the icing

360g/12½oz icing sugar, sifted

125g/4½oz/heaped ½ cup/1 ¼ sticks butter, softened

115g/4oz plain chocolate, melted

2 tbsp Chocolate hazelnut paste (Nutella!)

2tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F and place 18 cake cases in two bun trays. Whisk together the butter and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl using a whisk or mixer until light and creamy. Add the eggs and whisk again. Fold in the flour and cocoa using a large metal spoon and then gently fold through two thirds of the hazelnuts, the chopped chocolate and the soured cream. Place a spoonful of cake mixture into each cake case and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the cakes are firm to touch. Leave to cool.

Place all the icing ingredients in a mixing bowl (you should retain a tablespoon of the melted chocolate for decoration) and whisk with a hand mixer or whisk for 4 – 5 minutes to form a creamy icing. Pipe onto the cooled cakes and sprinkle over the remaining hazelnuts. Using a fork drizzle the remaining melted chocolate over the cakes and leave to set.