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

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas One and All. I hope that you are all having a very festive day with friends, family and loved ones. The snow has caused a few problems for us over the last few weeks in the UK - Sadly my brother should be here with us today with his wife Amy and they are stuck in New York as their flight was cancelled due to the snow - we miss them very very much. Secondly we have had no internet for nearly two weeks - naughty snow. It is such a relief to be at my Mums and online again! Anyway, despite my brother not being here we have had a lovely morning - lots of chocolate and our traditional bacon sandwiches and bucks fizz. I must have been good this year as Santa bought me lots of lovely presents. I have just given my Mum her Christmas present - a 12 days of Christmas sampler although I have given her so many samplers already that there very little wall space left in her house! I must remember this next year! This is a long thin one which I stitched in 3 weeks (a record stitching session as I had very little time with all the gluten free baking - I have never ever stitched so much so fast!) I think I may have to stitch one for myself next! Hope you all have a very special day and stay warm xxxx

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Some people collect shoes, my weakness is Christmas tree decorations - not quite sure that I have my priorities right! Having bought our decoration boxes down from the loft, I realise that I have enough to decorate at least three large trees. Sadly I am restricted to one so it is always difficult to pick my favourites. I know I really shouldn't buy any more but each decoration was bought somewhere special and reminds me of a holiday or a friend. Here are a few of my favourites - from Suffolk and Hamburg in case you want to know where they came from - see I honestly do remember each one! Tomorrow I am off to the Christmas Market in Hamburg (mulled wine and chestnuts here I come). Maren if you are reading this - please don't let me buy any more decorations!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

I love the run up to Christmas - no more so than opening an advert calender every morning in December. This year as a treat for surviving the Good Food Shows I bought myself a gnome advert calender. I have filled it up with presents for Sacha to open every day (not quite sure that this was what I had in mind when I bought it - I think I was hoping it would be filled up for me - hey ho!) He is just so cute and festive with little parcels in each pocket - I think I will miss him when it is time to pack the decorations away! Did I ever mention that my brother used to work as an elf in lapland? That's another story!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Oh blog.... it has been a while! With all the ice and snow, hibernation has been the only option. It has been so cold that we have not one but two patchwork quilts on our bed and the electric blanket is cranked up to max. Brrrrrrrr - I hope you are not feeling as chilly as we are - the frosty picture was taken just now in the garden - this is how cold it is here!! Last week we had a much needed short holiday to Bath - lovely Christmas markets and yummy food (although I failed to pursuade Sacha that going to the roof top spa would be enjoyable - I guess as it is open air and it was snowing he probably had a point). I have just four gluten free recipes left to do (what a relief it will be when it is finished) and this weekend was our niece Serena's birthday. Every year she only has one request - a strawberry cake, even though strawberries are not in season in December! Far be it for me to deny a request - so yesterday I made a victoria sponge with wild strawberry jam and strawberry tartlets filled with creme patissiere and brushed with a peach and lemon glaze. All very simple but served on a cake stand together they looked quite pretty. It seemed slightly strange to be serving these alongside more seasonal mince pies but everyone enjoyed them all the same!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Yesterday I gave four demonstration/masterclasses at the Good Food Show in Birmingham - my last set of demos before Christmas - can you hear my whooping with joy that they are all done! Finally I can start to think about Christmas! The show was really good fun - I was on the British stage in between Rachael Allen and Gary Rhodes so felt very priviledged, demonstrating whoopie pies (the recipe for my pear and walnut whoopies is below if any of you want to have a try yourselves) and also demonstrated some christmas recipes and held two cook along masterclasses making pear galettes with calvados custard (which I am pleased to report didn't go lumpy!) Tim Kinnaird - who was a finalist on this years Masterchef - had a stand selling his delicious macarons - we ate far too many of these as they are seriously addictive and yesterday evening before leaving I took part in James Nathan (MC Winner 2008)'s scallop masterclass - I have never shucked a scallop before so it was good to learn a new skill - and the fried brioche bread (with a quails egg dropped into a hole in the bread and fried) was delicious, if a little naughty! All in all a really memorable day (highlight being that I managed to "acquire" a Masterchef mug!)

Toffee, Pear and Walnut Whoopie Pies
Makes 12 pies
Preparation time 30 minutes, cooking time 15 - 20 minutes

For the pies
125g butter or vegetable shortening, softened
200g caster sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp maple syrup
320g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
250ml soured cream
1 ripe pear

For the toffee glaze
30g brown sugar
50ml maple syrup
1 tbsp butter

For the walnut cream
75g walnuts
100g caster sugar
300ml double cream

Equipment: Mixer or whisk, 2 Whoopie Pie pans greased with butter or two large baking trays greased and lined with silicon mats or greaseproof paper, piping bag with large round nozzle (optional)

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/350F/180C. For the pies, cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl for 2 – 3 minutes until light and creamy using an electric or hand whisk. Add the egg and maple syrup and mix again. Sift the flour and baking powder and add to the bowl together with the salt and soured cream. Whisk again until everything is incorporated. The mixture will be quite stiff and if you are mixing by hand you will need a strong arm. Add 100ml of hot, but not boiling water, and whisk into the mixture. If using Whoopie Pie pans, place a large spoonful of batter into each hole in the tin. If using a piping bag, spoon the batter into the bag fitted with a large round nozzle and pipe 12 rounds on each tray (about 6cm in diameter) leaving a gap between each pie as they will spread during cooking. Thinly slice the pear, removing the core and place two slices on top of 12 of the whoopie pie halves. Bake each tray for 10 – 12 minutes in the oven, turning the trays round half way through cooking to ensure even baking until the pies spring back when pressed lightly with your finger. When cooked, remove the pies from the oven, cool slightly then turn out to cool on a cooling rack.
Heat the ingredients for the toffee glaze in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has melted and then drizzle over the warm pear topped pies. This is best done on a cooling rack with foil or greaseproof paper underneath to catch any drips.
To prepare the walnut cream filling, sprinkle the walnut halves on a silicon mat or sheet of baking parchment. Heat the caster sugar in a pan over a gentle heat until it melts and goes a light golden colour. Do not stir the sugar whilst it is melting but watch very closely as it will burn easily if you are not careful. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan to ensure even colouring. When the sugar has all melted, quickly use a spoon to drizzle the caramel over the walnuts, cool, then blitz to a fine dust in a food processor. Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold through the walnut powder. Spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a large round and pipe circles of cream onto the bottom pie halves. Top with the toffee pear pie halves. As these pies contain fresh cream, they should be served immediately or stored in the fridge.

Monday, 22 November 2010

I wish to lodge a formal complaint on behalf of my poor hens. Our philandering rooster has packed his bags and moved next door. My poor hens just seem so sad. The reason behind the move is that my neighbour Pam has just got some new hens so the naughty rooster obviously decided he wanted a change of scene. Honestly! I am so cross with him. How could he leave my poor lovely girls (not to mention my home cooked porridge!!!) I imagine that he might come home in a few days or weeks - I have to say I hope so as I miss his quirky crow waking me up every morning.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Having done 8 cookery demos in the last 7 days, I am understandably feeling a little frazzled and am so glad it is Friday! Just Birmingham NEC next Wednesday (do come say Hi if you are at the Good Food Show) and then I will be able to relax! The third part of my gluten free book has had to take a back seat for the last week or so but baking resumed again before work this morning. I am now feeling all festive as there is a yummy warm spiced stollen loaf cooling in the kitchen. It gave me the perfect excuse to use the present my Mum gave me earlier in the week - a stollen pan - did you even know such things existed? I didn't! You fill the pan with dough and then invert it onto a baking sheet so that as the dough rises and bakes, the pan rises on top of the loaf giving the stolen its traditional shape. I wasn't expecting it to work too well with the gluten free dough (as it is very sticky and unkneadable) so imagine my delight when I took it out of the oven and it looked like a proper loaf. Thanks Mum for the lovely present and hurrah for being back on track with the book - only 17 more recipes to go - the end is in sight!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

If you need a gift for a foodie who has everything, you may want to look at the delightful pinnies at http://www.poshpinnies.com/ - completely lovely with velvet bows on a variety of thick cotton prints. I bought the grey stripy one below with bright pink velvet trim at Olympia and love it (although within 30 minutes of the purchase I had managed to cover it in chocolate ganache during one of my demos - luckily it has washed out well). They have kids and mens aprons too!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Well I am just back from Masterchef Goes Live at Olympia. It has been the most exhausting but amazing two days! So lovely to see all the Masterchef peeps (especially Tim, Alex and Dhruv from this years series, John and Gregg and of course the lovely Andi Peters - pictured below with Alex, Andy and Chris eating one of my cupcakes from my cake decorating demonstration) and a big thank you to all from Haymarket and Shine for looking after us all so well. My "Talent" badge got us access to the VIP lounge which made us feel very special! My Mum and Aunt entered the pairs Live Invention Test cook off and beat 15 other pairs to take first prize. I was so proud of them and John and Gregg had nothing but praise for their trio of desserts. All in all a wonderful weekend and roll on the Good Food Show at Birmingham next week. I am there on the Wednesday so do pop and say Hi if you are there! (With many thanks to http://www.meemalee.com/ and @mastercheflive (twitter) for the borrowed pics as I didn't have a chance to take any)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

My latest Hannah's kitchen article is out today - cute little gingerbread birdhouses to decorate your tree with. I am feeling all Christmassy already - only a few weeks until I can get the decorations down from the loft and plan buying our tree. I know it is only early November but you can't blame a girl who loves Christmas for getting a little excited (although of course I haven't even started to think about Christmas shopping yet - that will have to wait until my book is finished!)

Country and Town House - December 2010
I love Christmas with a passion and enjoy every minute of the run up to the big day, shopping for presents, wrapping, decorating the house, carol singing and enjoying warming mugs of mulled wine. Most of all I love all the Christmas baking - mince pies, stollen, indulgent champagne truffles and Christmas cake. There is no other time of the year when so much culinary indulgence can be justified and the scent of cinnamon and spices in the kitchen warms the heart. To get us in the Christmas spirit as early as possible, we always put up our Christmas tree on the first weekend of December. It is the perfect excuse to get baking and these spiced gingerbread cookies make delightful decorations with snowy icicles and a sprinkle of edible glitter. If you do not have a birdhouse cutter, make a template from cardboard, then cut out the cook dough using a sharp knife. I am sure these pretty cookies will delight any children you have visiting this Christmas, particularly if you make them together – I don’t know a single child who doesn’t love icing cookies!

Christmas Tree Birdhouse Cookies
Preparation time 30 minutes Cooking time 12 - 15 minutes
Makes 8 cookies
115g/4oz butter, softened plus extra for greasing
55g/2oz dark brown sugar
1 tbsp treacle
200g/7oz plain flour, sifted plus extra for dusting
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
300g royal icing sugar
Approx 50ml water
silver balls and edible glitter to decorate
white ribbon for hanging

Whisk together the butter, brown sugar and treacle. Mix in the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon to form a soft dough. Chill the dough in the fridge for an hour. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F and grease and line two baking trays. Roll out the dough to 1/2 cm thickness on a floured surface and cut out 8 birdhouse shapes using a birdhouse cutter or cardboard template. Using a 1 inch round cutter, cut out a hole in the centre of each birdhouse. Carefully transfer to the baking trays using a spatula. Bake for about 12 – 15 minutes until the cookies are firm. Allow the cookies to cool completely. Cut 30cm lengths of ribbon and tie into a loop. Poke one end of the loop through the hole in the centre of the cookie and secure by passing the other end of the loop through the first loop ensuring that the ribbons lie flat. Mix the royal icing sugar with the water and whisk for about 2 - 3 minute until the icing is stiff. Put the icing in a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle and pipe icing along the top of the roof of the bird house so that it looks like icicles. Pipe a ring of icing stars around the hole of each bird house and allow the icing to set before hanging on your tree.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

These are my latest take on fairy cakes. Dainty cupcakes topped with whipped buttercream and decorated with edible paper wings. Simply cut out a pair of wings from two sheets rice paper and pipe thin icing lines around the edge in wing shapes to decorate. Top with a few sugar stars and hearts and lots of edible glitter and, once the icing has set and you are ready to serve (if the wings are left too long on the buttercream they will start to soften so it is best to assemble just before serving), press the wings gently into the buttercream. All very simple to prepare but effective looking and I have no doubt that these would delight any fairy princesses!

Monday, 8 November 2010

It is a while since I found any time to write on my blog. I have been very upagainst it with deadlines for the last few weeks. The good news is that "Mini Cakes and other sweet treats" has been submitted and I have almost finished 2/3rd of the gluten free baking book. I look forward to the day when it is finished and I can relax a little like peapod in this picture. Have you ever seen a more contented cat - lying upside down legs in the air and fast asleep. I now have to prepare for a cookery demonstration on Thursday and then the Good Food Show on Saturday and Sunday - trying not to get nervous.... I am going to be demonstrating pastry and cake decorating and also whoopie pies - hope I can remember how to make whoopie pies - it has been a while! Do come and say hello if you are at the show!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

This chocolate sandcastle, spade and bucket were from a lovely chocolate shop in Little Walsingham in Norfolk which we visited on Saturday. If you are ever in the area I definitely recommend a visit as the chocolate was really yummy! I love the fact that the chocolate flag is even blowing in the breeze

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

My first bit of Masterchef news that I am finally able to share with you is that there is now a new Masterchef Academy Application launched for the iphone, featuring quite a few winners and finalists - including yours truly making ice cream, custard, strawberry scones and pastry! It was great fun going back to the studio for filming and Tim Kinnaird (finalist 2010 and excellent dessert maker - seen here making gnocci and tasting my strawberry scones) was there on the same day as me. So you can now have us to help you in the kitchen - "cook-a-long Masterchef". I have to confess I haven't dared to watch the footage back and remember cringing at the time with lines like "Delicious custard - perfect with hot apple pie or cold in trifles" but it was a super fun day and really nice to meet Tim. The other Masterchef news will have to wait until next year sadly!!! If you have an iphone and want the app the link is at http://www.masterchef.com/

Friday, 22 October 2010

I am very proud to be able to show you the cover of my new book - the blad arrived last night and I was very excited! Still a while to wait for the book yet as it is not out until March next year although is available to pre order on amazon - click here for a link. As they say "good things come to those who wait"! I hope you all approve! Steve Painter has done such a fab job of styling the book and there are some real gems on the inside pages - little oyster pies on their own "sand" beach complete with cocktail umbrellas and bright pink flamingo pies with pink feathers! Have a good weekend everyone xxx

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I wondered why the postman gave me a wry smile this morning as he handed over our post. I think he had noticed the ER frank and the Buckingham Palace Postmark on one of my letters! How cool is that! Inside was a thank you letter for my appearance at the Clarence House Garden Party. It will join my letter from 10 Downing Street after cooking supper for Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in 2007 - quite a collection and I feel very honoured! The Whitehouse next perhaps??!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Another little teacosy has joined my Mum and my's joint teacosy collection. I gave this to my Mum recently and it looks so cute in her kitchen. I love the little red ladybird buttons on it.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Last weekend, Sacha ran the Leicester Marathon - in 4 hours 10 minutes which was a brilliant time and his 4 marathon so he was rightly proud of himself! The weekend was only slightly marred by the slightly overzealous conduct of the Marriot hotel in locking our mini bar. Sacha had bought himself a treat of his favourite Indian dessert Ras Malai to have after the marathon which we stored in the mini bar overnight. To be organised so that we could get to the marathon on time, I paid the bills before breakfast. Sadly, as soon as you pay the bill the hotel lock your mini bar and the poor tub of Ras Malai got locked in! The hotel said they would send someone up to unlock it but they didn't arrive in time and we had to leave the poor tub of ras malai behind. Luckily the wonderful "Cook in a Curry" site came to the rescue with a delicious recipe and I managed to make Ras Malai at home to make up for the lost tub. If you haven't had this dessert before it is curd cheese, cooked in a fragrant sugar syrup and soaked in a thick milk syrup flavoured with cardamom and saffron. I think Sacha was in shock that I had actually managed to make his favourite dessert myself and I feel I have gone someway to compensating him for all the washing up he has been doing during the recipe testing for the book. If you want to try this recipe for yourself the link is here - the only change I made was to add a tablespoon of rose syrup to the sugar syrup and another to the milk mixture as I really love the flavour of rose and cardamon together. Thanks Cook in a Curry for saving the day!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

My lovely publishers have said that I am allowed to share with you a few of the snap test shots from the two books I am working on at the moment. These are just the photos I take whilst testing the recipes here at home that are then sent to the food stylist and the book designer so they can plan how to style the photos and make my little creations look elegant! I have absolutely no doubt that the real pictures in the book will look 100 times better than these but thought you would like a quick sneak peak - mini carrot and pistachio muffins, mini summer tarts, mini rocky road cupcakes, mini profiteroles and mini tiramisu roulades (all from the mini patisserie book) and walnut and cinnamon macaroons (from the gluten free baking book). The name for the mini patisserie book is still undecided so any suggestions gratefully received! 42 recipes done, only 43 to go! I am half way - hurrah!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

If you are ever looking for somewhere for a special meal in central England then I heartily recommend the Olive Branch at Clipsham near Stamford. I have been wanting to go here for a long time and this weekend with Maren visiting from Germany and my cousin Charlie over from Australia, we had the perfect excuse for a celebration lunch. The food was all delicious - anywhere that serves homemade pork pie as a starter has got to be a very special place. The nibbles board we had whilst we ordered our food was devine with giant green round olives the likes of which I have never tasted before. If any of you know what type of olives are in the picture I would be very pleased to know! Rabbit terrine (with pickled carrots and parsnip crisps - heaven) and beetroot cured salmon, pork casserole, crispy plaice (that resembled schnitzel) and silky mash. The puddings were delicious too (although the blackcurrant treacle tart was an acquired taste). With the set lunch menu at £19.95 for three courses of such yummy food, we thought the Olive Branch was good value and definitely recommend a visit. I am already planning my next trip!

Friday, 8 October 2010

I am happy to say that I have been invited to appear at the Good Food Show again this year so will be at London on 13th and 14th November on the Masterchef stage and also on the hot tips stage demonstrating custard, ice cream and pastry (lumpy custard here we come!) and at Birmingham on 24th November where I will be demonstrating Whoopie Pies on the British stage, some Christmas recipes on the Magimix stage and also hosting some Masterchef masterclasses - pear frangipane tarts and calvados creme anglais - more custard (I must have a death wish for stressful demonstrations this year). Do come and say hello if you are there as it is always lovely to meet fellow bloggers!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Last night was our village harvest supper - casserole and jacket potatoes and apple pie and cream for 80. The good thing is that everyone helped out and it was a real village affair. After supper, the lights were turned off and I wandered through the darkness with Lucy's cake, candles twinkling, whilst everyone sang Happy Birthday (the fact that I didnt trip over a chair or dinner guest in the process was nothing short of a miracle). Next was the auction of produce. I don't know whether it is the recession or an increased interest in gardening but the level of home grown produce was up on last year and also included some very interesting vegetables - red sweetcorn, jerusalem artichokes and a selection of squashes and pumpkins, all from the allotments in our village. Lucy won the largest pumpkin of the night for a princely sum of £10 and I know she is looking forward to carving it for Halloween.