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

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Plum and Blueberry Cobbler Cake
Preparation time 30 minutes Cooking time 30 - 40 minutes
Makes 16 slices
350g.12oz butter, softened plus extra for greasing
350g/12oz caster sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten

350g/12oz self raising flour, sifted

2tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
12 ripe plums
200g/7oz fresh blueberries

For the topping

115g/4oz butter
60g/2oz caster sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
175g/6oz self raising flour
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F and grease and line a 40x20cm/16x8in roasting tin. In a mixing bowl, mix together the butter and caster sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs and mix again. Fold in the self raising flour, cinnamon and vanilla sugar. Spoon the cake batter into the tin and spread evenly. Cut the plums in half and place evenly over the cake batter. Sprinkle over the blueberries. For the topping, place the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter with your finger tips to make large crumble pieces. Mix in the caster sugar and cinnamon with your fingers. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the top of the cake. Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes until the crumble topping is golden brown and the cake is cooked through. Allow the cake to cool and dust with icing sugar to serve.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

I know that Tequila is not everyone's taste and if it is not for you, then this curd is equally delicious with the Tequila omitted!

Lime and Tequila Curd

Makes 2 small jars

115g/4 oz butter, cubed
225g/8oz caster sugar
5 large limes
2 tbsp white tequila
5 egg yolks

Finely grate the zest of three of the limes and place in a heatproof bowl with the butter, sugar and the juice of all the limes. Cook uncovered on full power in a microwave (650 watt) for 3 minutes stirring half way through. Allow to cool slightly then beat egg yolks and tequila into mixture gradually but quickly using a balloon whisk. Make sure it is well blended. Cook for 5 minutes or until lemon curd thickens in the microwave, stopping to whisk every minute for the first few minutes and then every 30 seconds towards the end of cooking. Allow to cool a little then pour into sterilized jars.

Monday, 24 August 2009

It was my friend Jess' birthday at the weekend. Jess loves Tequila as much as I do - we have even been known during a Safari supper in our village to have Tequila, sliced limes, salt and shot glasses in my handbag as we went from house to house for our supper!! So what choice did I have but to make a Tequila themed cake for Jess' birthday??!!! Filled with Tequila and lime curd and clotted cream, topped with green Tequila and lime icing and decorated with little margarita glasses and pictures which aptly said "Tequila, Helping Women lower their standards for years!". Part of Jess' present was this seaside picture which I had stitched for her with a little crab and a whale weather vane. I managed to stitch it in an afternoon and was quite pleased with how it turned out! I hope you all had a lovely weekend too xxx

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

I have to say I am loving my new archery set!! It is so much fun and as you will see the target has been well used - sadly more holes in the blue, red and black than the yellow but I am improving. Mum came over for supper on Monday and I persuaded her to have a go. She was so excited as she hit the edge of the yellow and red rings (and we decided it definitely classed as a bullseye hit)!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Lime and Blueberry Buns
Makes 8
115g/4oz butter
115g/4oz caster sugar
2 large eggs
115g/4oz self raising flour
3 tbsp soured cream
zest and juice of 2 limes
200g/7oz fresh blueberries
1 tbsp icing sugar plus extra for dusting

Pre heat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190/375. Whisk together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, whisk again and then sift in the flour. Gently fold in the flour with the soured cream, lime zest and blueberries. Place 8 muffin cases (just in case you are interested my green cake wraps came from the States but you can get them in the UK from Make a Wish cake store here) in a muffin tray and three quarter fill each case. Bake for about 15 minutes until the tops are golden and the cakes spring back to your touch. Heat the lime juice with the icing sugar and spoon a little over each cake whilst still warm. Leave to cool and dust with icing sugar to serve if you wish.

Friday, 14 August 2009

I am sorry for the lack of posts this week. I have had a lot of work meetings (although I did manage to sneak in a little cooking at one of the meetings and served my colleagues with roast lamb and salads and a yummy plum and blueberry crumble cake - they were impressed! Recipe for the cake to follow when I have a little time to write it up). I also went and tried archery for the first time and loved it! The course was held in a wood with giant life sized rubber bears that I shot at (and missed!!!) with my bow and arrows. I enjoyed it so much that this evening I am going to pick up my new bow so that I can practice in the garden - let's hope my shot improves and I don't hit anything I am not meant to! The other exciting news this week is that I have been asked to take part in the new Masterchef goes Live Show as part of the BBC Good Food Show. I will be doing cookery demos at the Birmingham NEC on 25th and 26th November and helping out with the live invention test where members of the audience can take part to try and impress the judges with their cooking skills under timed conditions - no pressure!!! I have no doubt that it will be lots of fun and I am very much looking forward to meeting some of the contestants from other years of the competition. Anyone wanting to come along, tickets are available if you click here.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

For super quick and easy canapes, buy little croustini tart cases and fill with 1/2 tsp of fresh mayonnaise, a tsp of white crab meat, a squeeze of lemon, a little black caviar and a dusting of gold or silver leaf. I find that putting the mayonnaise into a pipping bag means that I can fill 50 cases neatly in no time at all. If you do not like caviar, you could always top with a small prawn or a thin slice of avocado.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

I couldn't leave the Alice in Wonderland Extravaganza (this is the last post I promise!!!) without saying a HUGE thank you to Simon and Kathy for asking me to take part in the event with them - it is a day I will remember forever and I enjoyed every minute of it. Here they both are - cool, calm and collected - just 10 minutes before the guests arrived, looking splendid as the King and Queen of Hearts. I on the other hand, at this time was completely frantic and definitely not cool calm and collected with all the last minute preparations!!!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

When we wrote on the tickets "Dress as your favourite character or come as you are" we assumed that most people would come as they are and not dress up. How wrong we were!!! The costumes were spectacular and people had gone to so much trouble. I was standing at the kitchen window at 2pm when our guests arrived rapidly assembling peach melba scones at the last minute when people in hats and costumes drifted on the lawn. It was a lovely sight to see and took me completely by surprise! Here are some of the wonderful outfits!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The setting for our Tea Party - with long tables, bunting and wonderful paintings of Alice in Wonderland (my dad painted these for a birthday party for me when I was little (a long time ago now) and they still looked wonderful today), a real Humpty Dumpty made by Neil perched on top of the wall. Kathy had even painted white roses red for the tables! Pictures and extracts from the book were displayed around the garden too!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Some of the treats from our Mad Hatter Tea, Flamingo biscuits, delicious jam tarts made by my wonderful mum who helped out so much (thank you Mum xxx), edible playing card millefeuilles, Eat Me cakes which were on each persons plate as they arrived, looking glass mirrors, pocket watch cakes, tiny meringues, down the rabbit hole cupcakes (inspired by one of the entrants in Slice of Cherry Pie's Easter Bake Up), cupcakes with playing card sprinkles and gravel cakes with edible pebbles and oreo mud. The Looking Glass Biscuits were my favourites! I probably don't need to tell you how much fun I had designing and baking all these goodies - a LOT! You would think after baking for 60 people I would be all baked out but I am now merrily thinking about next years theme - Wind in the Willows? Winnie the Pooh? Magic Faraway Tree? Harry Potter.....so many possibilities. Magic Faraway Tree is my favourite idea so far - saucepan cookies, toffee shock biscuits and things from the land of sweets.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Yesterday was our Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Stevington. We were blessed by fine weather - thank goodness (although the heavens did open half an hour after everyone left and we got drenched). We put on an Alice in Wonderland play (the costumes were amazing), had an Alice in Wonderland Quiz, a yummy tea and flamingo croquet on the lawn. I think that our guests really enjoyed themselves and the comments when they were leaving were just too kind. I thought over the next few days I would share with you a few of the photos from the event - there are so many lovely ones that I hardly know where to start. This was the centerpiece cake - with a sugar dormouse and snail that my dad made for me and also dear little snail candles that Rita who reads this blog posted to me (thanks so much Dad and Rita xxx). There were four guests who were celebrating their birthdays (and by some miracle I had put four snail candles on the cake) so we sang Happy Birthday and each person blew out one of the candles. By the time this cake was cut people had eaten a LOT of cakes and I really didn't think they would have any room for Amaretto fruit cake - but they managed to squeeze in a slice!