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

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

I have some exciting news that I am now able to share with you. My next book to be published by Ryland Peters and Small will be Whoopie Pies - coming out next Spring! Needless to say I have a busy few weeks ahead creating and testing the recipes but I am so looking forward to working on this project. For those of you who are yet to discover the delights of the Whoopie pie, these are dreamy light and dainty cakes sandwiched together with very wicked fillings. It is such a me project and I am so excited to be working on it! Will keep you all posted on the writing/testing/photo process!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Buckwheat Cherry Cake

I am always on the hunt for delicious Gluten Free cakes and Maren kindly gave me her Mum's recipe for this Beechnut and Cherry cake. It was so delicious and I have never cooked with Buckwheat Flour before. It has a really nutty and distinctive flavour from the beechnuts it is made of. So next time you need a gluten free cake why not give this a try - five of us ate almost the whole cake within 15 minutes which is quite an achievement and it says a lot for Maren's delicious recipe.

Buckwheat and Cherry Cake
Serves 8 - 10

6 large eggs, separated
200g/7oz caster sugar
100g/3 1/2 oz buck wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 large jar of preserved sour cherries, drained
600ml double cream, whipped to soft peak
3 tbsp grated chocolate for decoration

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 175C and grease and line a 9inch spring form tin. Whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until thick and creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and then fold into the egg yolk mixture. Mix together the flour and baking powder and then sprinkle over the egg mixture and fold through gently. Gently pour into the baking tin and bake for 30 - 40 minutes until the cake is firm (it will feel quite foam like rather than cake like - almost like a marshmallow). Allow the cake to cool completely then cut into three layers and fill each layer with cream and cherries. Top with grated chocolate and serve immediately. Store any uneaten cake in the fridge due to the fresh cream.
Greetings from Hamburg. I am away visiting my dear friend Maren before heading to Berlin for a few day for work. We have had a lovely few days, eating delicious food and sight seeing and this evening have been to a lovely organ concert for Palm Sunday. This is the cutest Quark Easter Hare that I had for breakfast - almost too good to eat, but too delicious not to!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

People are always either Magimix or Kitchenaid people. I am definitely a Kitchenaid girl (I so wish I was on commission but sadly am not). I use it for everything, pasta, cakes, bread. Two months ago my kitchenaid broke and I have been lost without it. To be fair I have owned it for about 10 years and use it almost every day so I guess it was only time before it gave up the ghost in protest. In the interim two months I have managed to blow up a cheap electric hand mixer through over use and am now on my second one. I am bereft without a heavy duty mixer. In the meantime, a parcel of car parts arrived at out house four weeks ago (there is a relevance to this and my mixer as you will see below). We knew it was car parts because it said so on the box but my husband said it had been sent in error and that we had to send them back. Needless to say, both of us being busy, the box sat in the kitchen getting in the way until last week when my husband told me to take it to the post office. Now the box was very heavy and I huffed and puffed all the way to the post office and then huffed a lot more at having to pay the princly sum of £19 to send the car parts away but at least they were out of the kitchen! This morning I received a very strange call from the car parts company to say that they couldn't understand why I had posted them an old mixer - the car parts box was the one we had reused to pack my mixer in when it was collected by Kitchenaid two months ago. So my mixer had sat in the kitchen for a whole four weeks without me knowing and now I have to pay £9 to get it sent back again!!!! (Just to clarify it didn't say anywhere on the box that it was from Kitchenaid and they had taken my postage label off!) Luckily, I managed to see the funny side (I can just imagine the look on the car part man's face when he opened the box) and can't wait to be reunited with my mixer tomorrow! Lets just hope it works. Lesson to be learned - always open parcels before sending them back....

Friday, 19 March 2010

Mocha Pretzel Cookies

This is one of my recipes features in the latest Country Kitchen magazine - click here for a link to the magazine. Pretzels and crisps in a biscuits may sound odd, but trust me - the salt and chocolate work REALLY well!!!

Preparation time 15 minutes, Baking time 10 – 15 minutes
Makes 15 - 18

1tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp boiling water
125g/4oz butter, softened
115g/3½oz caster sugar
200g/7oz plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
60g/2oz plain salted pretzels
30g/1oz ready salted crisps
100g/3½oz white chocolate chips
200g/7oz plain chocolate, chopped into chunks
60g/2oz shelled pistachios

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F and grease and line two large baking trays. Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and set aside to cool. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar with an electric hand mixer or whisk. Add the flour and baking powder, cooled coffee mixture, egg and vanilla and whisk again to form a soft dough. Add the pretzels, crisps, white and plain chocolate and pistachios and whisk again so that everything is incorporated. The pretzels and crisps will break up as you mix. Place tablespoonfuls of the cookie mixture onto the trays about 3cm/1 inch apart as they will spread a little during cooking and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown on top but still slightly soft in the middle. Allow to cool on the trays for a few minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

I just wanted to belatedly mention my lovely Mum and our Mother's Day Celebrations - here she is with her Mother's Day posy! Mum came to lunch on Sunday and for once the Aga didn't break down (as is did on Mother's Day last year and at Christmas!!!) so I managed to make my Mummy a nice lunch of smoked salmon, asparagus and potato cakes with a tarragon sauce, rack of lamb with wild mushrooms and port sauce with leek puree, cumin scented kale, potato and parsnip dauphinoise and for pudding a sultana sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream - very naughty but nice. We then went to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D - we loved it and I definitely recommend it! Happy Mother's Day Mum xxxx

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Carrot and Carriander Salsa

Sometimes a simple salad can be so refreshing. This is lovely served with grilled meat or fish.
Preparation time 10 minutes, serves 4 as a side salad
1 large carrot, grated
3 tomatoes
1 large bunch fresh corriander, finely chopped (about 3 heaped tbsp)
1 tbsp seasame seeds
For the dressing
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon
2 tbsp maple syrup
salt and pepper to season
Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out all the seeds with a spoon (if you prefer you can keep the seeds but they make the salsa more watery) and finely chop the tomato flesh. Mix the carrot, chopped tomato, corriander and seasame seeds in a bowl gently so that everything is combined. Place all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk to emulsify, then stir gently through the salsa and serve immediately.

Friday, 12 March 2010

This is the little cake I made for a friend's daughter's birthday last night. She is completely into princesses and fairies so I hope that she will like it. The cake itself is a toffee sour cream cake with white and milk chocolate chips and vanilla butter cream. I had to work late yesterday and then to the supermarket so didn't take the cakes out of the oven until 10pm! There was then a very rapid cooling on our doorstep (thank goodness for sub zero temperatures), a quick splash or two of icing and the cake was finished by 11.30pm. The star wands are made with white chocolate mikado sticks with jelly stars on top. Carefully poke a sharp knife into each jelly star and twist it 360C so that you make a pocket inside the star. Gently press a mikado stick into the hole (this took a bit of practice and I have to admit I broke a few sticks to start with!). You could do this with other jelly sweets and use as a simple decoration around the outside of a plain cake - jelly spiders on dark chocolate mikado sticks for a Halloween cake perhaps - the possibilities are endless!!!!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Since retiring from working as Head of Art at a school, my Dad has become an art examiner marking International A Level and GCSE Art. As part of this he gets to travel around the world visiting schools. I am sure he is busier now than when he was working full time - some retirement hey! On a recent trip to New Zealand he came across these wonderful corrugated iron buildings and took photos as he thought that I might like to share them with you on the blog. Hope you enjoy! It is enough to make me want to visit NZ to see them, despite the VERY long flight! Perhaps we could think about creating one in the garden although I am not sure what our neighbours would think!

Monday, 8 March 2010

This weekend I finished Gareth and Amy's wedding sampler - in just under 4 weeks this is not bad going and I am really pleased with it. Sentiments to live life by. In case any of you are wondering - Monkeytown is where they got married - a quirky venue for a quirky couple!
(ps - a few of you have asked about the chart - it is Lizzie Kate ABC and I just used the charted letters to write the last line myself. The chart comes as a kit with threads - lots of lovely colours like lettuce leaf, queen bee and secondhand rose - I am such a sucker for nice threads! Stichaholic...who me???)

Thursday, 4 March 2010

I am pleased to announce that my lovely ice cream book has been released a little sooner than scheduled and is now available on Amazon (and in book shops too) I really hope you all like it!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Brazil Nut Maple Cookies

I have always had a thing for Brazil nuts - the poor man's macadamia. I am sure it stems from receiving boxes of "Just Brazils" from my Grandma every year for my birthday (as well as other lovely presents I hasten to add - wouldn't want you to think that that was the only thing she gave me!) I recently came across some Brazil Nut cookies in a well known supermarket and was really excited to try them but they were so disappointing and didn't satisfy my Brazil nut craving at all - they didn't even taste of Brazil nuts. So here is my own version - with maple, caramel and chocolate for that extra indulgent treat

Preparation time 15 minutes Cooking time 12 - 15 minutes
Makes 18 approx

350g/12oz plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
200g/7oz light brown sugar
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g/4½oz butter, softened plus extra for greasing
2tbsp maple
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp caramel sauce (Waitrose Seriously Buttery Caramel Dipping Sauce is dreamy)
200g/7oz Brazil Nuts, chopped
200g/7oz Dark Chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F. Grease and line two baking trays. Mix together the flour, salt, caster sugar and bicarbonate of soda in a mixing bowl. Heat the butter with the syrup until the butter has melted, cool slightly and then stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. Beat in the egg and caramel sauce and mix well. Add a little extra flour if the mixture is too sticky. Fold in the chopped chocolate and nuts. Divide the dough into 18 small pieces and place on the trays leaving a gap between each as the cookies will spread a little 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.

Monday, 1 March 2010

My special friend Tina had her birthday party at the weekend. Tina loves everything Japanese, particularly the cherry blossom (she even works for a Japanese bank but I think this is just coincidental) so this is the Japanese themed cake I made for her birthday - complete with edible pictures of geisha, kimono ribbon and fresh orchids. I am glad to report that she was thrilled with the cake and said she would remember it for the rest of her life - praise indeed. To celebrate her birthday - Tina did an indoor skydive at Milton Keynes - I went along to watch (its definitely not on my list of things to try!!!!)