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 January 2010

Tangerine and Cinzano Sorbet

This is the sorbet we had on Christmas Eve as a refreshing interlude between Turkey and Christmas Pudding. I will not deny that having a juicer for this recipe is pretty much essential! Squeezing so much fruit by hand is no easy task. You can use clementines or satsumas too in place of the Tangerines.

20 Tangerines, skins removed
juice of 2 limes
juice of 2 oranges
juice of 2 lemons
100ml Cinzano Arancio or other orange flavoured spirit
180g caster sugar

Juice the tangerines, limes, oranges and lemons and combine the juices in a large bowl, making sure that there are no pips. Add the sugar and orange Cinzano and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. If you do not have an ice cream machine, place in a freezerproof lidded bowl and store in the freezer. Remove from the freezer after an hour, transfer to a bowl and whisk with an electric handmixer or whisk to break down the ice crystals. Repeat every hour until the sorbet has frozen.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

We are getting excited as we have ordered a shepherd's hut for our garden and it is due to arrive soon. Actually it was due to come before Christmas but work stopped due to all the snow. It has a little log stove and a bed that I have been busy making a cushion for and will be the perfect place to read or write books or for camping out in. As soon as it arrives we are having a hut warming party (with mulled wine and hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows) and I have just ordered some lovely paper flower bunting to decorate the hut with for the party - so pretty! (from thelastdetail.co.uk in case you want some too - click here paper flower bunting for a link) Now all we need is for the hut to arrive!!!!!!!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Burns Night Supper

Last Saturday saw a Burns Night Supper in our village. We live nowhere near Scotland and very few people attending were Scottish, but 140 people celebrated the life of Robert Burns in style in a large marque (which was toasty warm despite it being January) with a glittering starry roof and lots of scottish flags. Our menu Cock A Leekie soup made by lovely Carmella, Haggis Neeps and Tatties made by Pam Tena and Susan with my Whisky gravy and no suprises here puddings made by me! Making 140 puddings (plus extras for waitresses) took me right back to the days of Masterchef! The puddings took 3 hours to assemble (although thats a rate of about 1 per minute so not too bad) - invidiual trifles comprising whisky poached pears, chocolate cake soaked with whisky, white chocolate buttons, cranberry puree, white chocolate custard, topped with cream, sprinkles and of course edible glitter. The puddings were served with shortbread made by Cathie and Alison. All in all a lovely evening and the auction of promises etc raised over £4,000 - just brilliant for a tiny village like ours. Happy Burns Night to you all and if you are having Haggis this evening, have a tot of whisky on me! The picture - although not very clear - is Andrew addressing the Haggis (following a procession with a proper piper) before promptly stabbing it with a ceremonial dagger. All very dramatic!

Masterchef Goes Published

For any Masterchef fans out there, a new cook book has been released this week of the 250 best Masterchef recipes from all of the Masterchef Goes Large series including the professional and celebrity versions! It contains some really lovely recipes - lots of ones that I watched on the programme and wanted to try at the time so I was thrilled when the book arrived. I can happily report that our 2007 MC series is well covered with recipes from Steven Wallis (incl his winning pear and chocolate sauce - to quote Gregg it feels like you are "floating away on an ice cream dream") and David Hall's yummy pan haggerty. Four of my recipes have made the book - chocolate cake, tiramisu, chilli stuffed squid and lamb with wild mushrooms and I am described as "Lawyer turned Cookbook author and Masterchef finalist 2007"! Hurrah!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Broccoli and Gorgonzola Soup

I have to confess I have a complete aversion to stalky vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (unless the stalky bit is cut out) - even asparagus is not my favourite thing which is a travesty for a foodie I know!) One of my new years resolutions was to try and solve this food fad so this week I brought broccoli and cauliflower in the hope that I would eat them if pureed into soup. It worked (proving that it is really a texture thing and not a flavour issue!) So here is my recipe for broccoli soup - yum yum!

Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large heads of broccoli - stalks removed and cut into small florettes
5 spring onions, finely chopped
125ml sherry
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
100g gorgonzola dolce
200ml milk
salt and pepper to season

In a large saucepan, saute the broccoli florettes and spring onions in the olive oil for 3 - 4 minutes to soften. Add the sherry and cook for a further few minutes. Pour over the stock and simmer for about 10 minutes until the broccoli is soft. Puree with a hand blender until smooth. Chop the gorgonzola dolce into small pieces and add to the pan with the milk. Season well with salt and pepper and simmer over a very gentle heat until the cheese has melted but do not boil. Serve immediately with warm crusty bread.
As you may imagine, I have a lot of equipment in my kitchen - so much so that there is not enough space in the cupboards! For my birthday I was very kindly given some vouchers to spend at my favourite kitchen shop in New York - Sur La Table (thank you Mum Dad and Gareth). It was a tough choice as to how to spend my $100 as there were so many lovely things. I think everyone thought I was mad when I settled on this pan (not least as I had to pack it in my suitcase to come home!) but I have wanted a couscousier ever since seeing one on front of Nigella Lawson's book "Feasts". The top pan has tiny holes, just enough to let steam through but not enough for the couscous to fall through. Strange though, as I have never been a fan of couscous, I think I just fell in love with the bulbous curves of the pans and the idea that perhaps if cooked in a proper pan, couscous may be OK afterall. I was so right!!! We christened the pan last night, cooking a pork and pear tagine in the bottom pan and then steaming the couscous with cumin and fresh corriander in the top pan. The result was perfect couscous, light crumbs, gently scented of the tagaine and not a lump in slight. A complete revelation and I have never eaten couscous like this before! So much so that I am making more for lunch today. So how do you flavour your couscous - I am keen to try all your recipes!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Well Ladies and Gentleman... I am proud to present to you..... the first proper glimpses of my next book - Sundaes and Splits! My lovely publisher Julia gave me my advanced copy at the end of last week and I literally squeaked with excitement! I had already seen the pictures (and loved them) but it is so much nicer to see them in the actual book. So, for all you lovely readers of this blog, here are a few sneak peak pictures. Above is the inside front page with pretty tubs of ice cream and sorbet (and my name!!!!!), the inside cover cover (one of my favourite pictures - white chocolate coated ice cream wafers with sprinkles), plum crumble sundae, sticky toffee pudding sundae and lemon meringue pie. I am soooooo pleased with it and really hope you like it too. Thank you Steve, Julia, Kate and Sunil for all your wonderful work on the book. For anyone with beedy eyes who spots the references to cups, custard sauce and Jello-o - these pictures are from the US version of the book - the UK version has grams! It is out on 8th April and I am planning an ice cream party to celebrate! It is available to preorder on Amazon (link on the right)...plug plug!
My lovely Publisher Julia and I with my book at the party in London! Photo kindly taken by my other lovely Publisher Grace! So nice - thank you both for a lovely evening xxx (photo taken on my mobile so sorry for the not so brilliant quality)

Friday, 15 January 2010

Quite a few of my friends and family have given copies of my cook book to people for Christmas. It was so nice to think of them on Christmas day unwrapping my book from their Christmas stockings. I have been receiving some lovely letters and messages about the book and particularly loved Emma's drawing of her cakes and the photo of Taran and Dillon with their checkerboard cookies!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

New York Lights!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Pear and Walnut Galettes

Makes 8 galettes Preparation time 30 minutes, cooking time 15 – 20 minutes

100g/3½oz walnuts

85g/3oz butter, plus extra for greasing

85g/3oz icing sugar

45g/1½oz self raising flour, plus extra for dusting

1 egg

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

1 tsp vanilla essence

500g/1lb1½oz puff pastry

3 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced

1 tbsp apricot jam

Pre heat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F and grease two baking trays with butter. Soak the pear slices in the juice of one lemon to prevent discolouration. Place the walnuts in a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. Add the butter, icing sugar, flour, egg, lemon zest and vanilla to the processor and blitz to form a smooth paste. Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to ¼ cm thickness, cut out 13cm/5in circles and transfer to the baking tray. Using a sharp knife, score in inner circle on each pastry disk about 1cm from the edge, taking care not to cut all the way through. Place a large spoonful of the nut butter in the centre of each pastry circle and spread out using a knife. Top each with pear slices in a circle. Sprinkle with a little caster sugar and bake in the oven for 18 - 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the pears are cooked. Remove the tarts from the oven and allow to cool. Heat the juice of the remaining lemon in a saucepan with the apricot jam until the jam has dissolved. Use a pastry brush to brush the apricot over each tart to glaze.

Friday, 8 January 2010

One of my favourite parts of our trip to NY was a visit to Alice's Tea Cup - an Alice in Wonderland Themed Cafe. The only downside was having to was 1 1/4 hours for a table but the wait was worth it as the food was delicious. My favourite were the spiced pumpkin muffins with toffee glaze - I am planning on attempting these myself soon so will post the recipe - and I also loved the dear little teapot drip catchers/lid holders decorated with birds cats and butterflies. Needless to say I now have a little cat on my tea pot at home as they sold them in the shop. If you are ever in New York and want to visit they website link is here - the Mad Hatter Tea was $19 per person for two people sharing. Booking recommended unless you don't mind waiting as long as we did. I don't think the food and rooms were quite as imaginatively decorated as Kathy and My Tea party last summer but then I am biased!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

As you may have noticed from the contents of this blog, I make a lot of birthday cakes. It has been a while since I have had a birthday cake myself but last week on my birthday my brother (bless his little cotton socks) managed to rustle up a birthday cake for me, on the first day of his honeymoon! It was made from two enormous chocolate marshmallows he had had made (they were seriously heavy) - sandwiched together with my favourite marshmallow fluff! I bet you have never seen a Marshmallow this big in your life - I certainly haven't! The chef in the restaurant struggled to cut it with his knife, we struggled to eat it as it was so sticky it stuck to the spoons and I laughed and laughed until I cried - definitely the best birthday cake I have ever had!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Well I am back from a lovely trip to New York (although sadly with a New York cold) - flying Delta airlines on Boxing Day after the incident on one of their planes on Christmas Day was perhaps not the most enjoyable of timings but we all got there and back safely. So...my brother and Amy got married and I managed to legally marry them! City Hall accepted my paperwork and I have a nice license with a gold seal on and a registration certificate and am now legally able to marry anyone in the State of New York for the rest of my days - open to invitations if you need someone to marry you! Anyway, enough with my Officiant qualifications and moving on to the wedding, far more importantly! I can safely say that there has probably never been, and will never again be, a wedding quite like it. Monkey Town in itself was a strange enough venue (scaffolding, murals, toilets that talked to you and 4 giant film screens) but it was Gareth and Amy's own touches that really stole the day - giant rock that you had to smash with a hammer wearing goggles, a table covered with sweets and cupcakes for everyone to decorate - their own personal "Freak Show" (the photo shows two of the stars of the show with Gareth and Amy) it was all very strange - two headed babies, merbabies and sword swallowing to name but a few highlights - although I felt the need to leave the room when Johny Vomit was performing...) snowball flights, a photographer's studio installed in the attic, film screening, a giant wedding quiz shown on the 4 film screens, pinatas in the shape of Gareth and Amy hanging from the roof, toasted marshmallows, coke float bar. As for the wedding breakfast - the food was delicious - wagu ribs, savoury truffle bread and butter pudding (sooo yummy) although I think even I drew the line at the curried creme brulee with saffron marshmallows! Amy looked stunning in her dress and they were both so happy that they cried all the way through the ceremony (I am sure this had nothing to do with my performance as officiant) Congratulations both of you - may your days be long and happy xxx