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, 26 May 2010

Citrus Cooler

You need a cocktail shaker and glass and muddler (apparently this is what the pounding stick for making mohitos is called) or a rolling pin for making this refreshing summer drink.

Serves 1

1/2 green apple, chopped into small pieces
1/2 lemon, chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp fresh mint
1 tsp sugar
500ml mango juice
ice cubes

Pound the apple, lemon, mint and sugar in a glass with the muddler or the end of a rolling pin. Add the mango juice, top up with ice and shake well in a cocktail shaker. Serve with a straw!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

One of the nicest things in the lovely Layana hotel are the floating flower arrangements - there are bowls of them everywhere and they are always different. So pretty and yet so easy. How I wish we had frangipane flowers at home.
I have always loved the Thai Hot and Sour Soup. When I have made it in the past I alway use coconut milk but the recipe I have learnt this holiday is made with evapourated milk, which I normally only use for ice cream bases and rice pudding. I have to say any reservations and using evapourated milk was dispelled the minute I tasted this soup. It is delicious!

Tom Yam Ghoong

Serves 2

750ml chicken stock

5 kaffir lime leaves (deveined and shredded)

1 cm piece of galangal, finely sliced

60ml fish sauce

1 stalk lemongrass, top and bottom removed, finely sliced

1 shallot, peeled and finely sliced

1 green and 1 red chilli, whole but sliced through lengthwise

10 mushrooms, halved

12 shelled prawns, deveined

1 tsp chilli paste

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp lime juice

125ml evapourated milk

2 tbsp chopped corriander leaves

Place the stock in a sauepan, add the lime leaves, galangal, fishsauce, lemongrass, chopped shallot, chillies and mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Add the prawns, chilli paste, sugar, lime juice and evapourated milk and simmer for 5 minutes until the rawns are cooked through. Taste for balance of flavours and add a little more fishsauce, lime juice or sugar if needed. Add the coriander to serve.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Thai Papaya Salad

You can make this delicious salad as spicy as you like - the below recipe is on the firey side so if you don't like too much chilli just use one chilli!

Som Tam
Serves 4 as a side salad Preparation time 10 minutes
1 large green papaya, peeled and seeds removed
1 large carrot, peeled
2 cloves of garlic
2 small red chillies
1 small green chilli
1 handful of raw green beans, topped and tailed
2 tsp palm or brown sugar (waitrose have started selling palm sugar)
1 tbsp roasted peanuts
1 tsp dried shrimp (optional)
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp lime juice
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
Finely grate the papaya and carrot (preferably into long strands with a hand serated peeler) and set aside. Place the garlic and chillies in a pestle and mortar and pound to a smooth paste. Add 5 or 6 of the beans and pounds again. Add the sugar, lime, dried shrip, if uing, fish sauce and peanuts and pound for a final time. Add the papaya, carrot, tomatos and remaining green beans to the pestle and mortar (or to a bowl if your pestle and mortar are too small) and toss through the dressing. Chill until you are ready to serve.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Twilight in Thailand (apt as I am just reading the Twilight series for about the nth time lying by the pool and sipping "Healthy Ginger Juice - fresh grated ginger with pineapple and soda water, shaken over ice - delicious) Thank you all for your kind wishes about my holiday and slight concerns about the fact that I am in Thailand. Rest assured that I am a long away away from Bangkok and, although the situation is being monitored closely, the area here is so peaceful and lovely and there is no evidence of any problems at all. I am glad that I came despite slight concerns before leaving the UK. Cookery course planned for later in the week so I look forward to passing a few authentic Thai recipes on to you lovely readers.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Most normal people two hours before a holiday are packing and getting ready to go to the airport. As two hours before heading to Heathrow I was making sugar vegetables, I do not put myself in the category of normal people. This is probably the reason that I am now sitting in Thailand with a random assortment of clothes and belongings that were very hastily thrown into my case. The cake was for Leon's 70th birthday - Leon is the head of Meat and Fish at our local Waitrose and during Masterchef very kindly gave me some training in different cuts of meat and tried to help me learn to identify fish on sight - I have to say I still have not mastered the later. Leon's wife Tracy is an expert in cheese and also gave me loads of help on cheese identification just in case they came up in the Masterchef identification round - sadly neither meat fish nor cheeses came up but at least I felt a little prepared! I have made this allotment cake several times before and yet everytime I make it, it looks a little different. I particularly liked the sweetcorn stalks. Happy Birthday Leon xxx

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Pistachio Cookies

These little cookies are quick to prepare and perfect for elevensies!

Preparation time 20 minutes, baking 10 - 12 minutes
Makes 30
3oz shelled pistachios
2oz caster sugar
4oz butter
5oz plain flour
1tsp vanilla extract
200g findant icing sugar
few drops of green food colouring
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/350C/180F and grease and line 2 baking trays. Place the pistachios in a food processor and blitz to fine crumbs. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then sift in the flour and add 2/3rds of the ground pistachios and the vanilla extract. Bring together as a soft dough with your hands. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1/2cm thick. Using a 6cm cutter cut out 30 biscuits - I used a little flower cutter. Transfer to the trays and bake for 10 - 12 minutes until the cookies are golden - turn the trays half way through cooking for even colour. Transfer to a rack and place a sheet of foil or grease prooof paper underneath to catch the icing drips. Mix together the icing sugar with a few drops of green colouring (if using - I didn't, as I have run out of green after making very green whoopies the other day!) together with 2 - 3 tbsp of water - mixing until you have a smooth thick icing. Spoon the icing over the cookies whilst still warm and sprinkle with the remaining ground pistachios before the icing sets. You can use normal icing sugar but I prefer fondant icing sugar as this sets with a lovely glossy finish.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Last week was one of those weeks where everything electronic I touched seemed to go wrong. My camera broke, I lost the battery for my spare camera (even though I had it in my hand at the beginning of the week - I put it somewhere safe and now can't find it!!!), my computer didn't work for the cookery demonstration I gave on Wednesday (thanks so much to the lovely Kathy Brown for rescuing me at the last minute and lending me (and setting up) her laptop about 15 mins before I was due to start). Yesterday the trains weren't working and the website just said "no unplanned engineering work" not very helpful - so I had to drive Sacha all the way to Kings Cross to catch the Eurostar - not quite the afternoon I had been planning but luckily we just made it in time. All in all a little bit rubbish! My camera is now at the menders and, as they said it was going to take a month to repair, I have treated myself to a new cheap camera as a standby so that I can actually take some photos for the blog and for my holiday on Friday. I feel as if life has resumed to normal this week - lets hope so. My good news is that yesterday I finished the final edit of the manuscript for my book Whoopie Pies. It is just being proof read by my friend Jess and will then go to the publishers in the next few days. My favourite recipes in the book are the lime jelly pies which literally wobbly, the croquembouche tower (48 whoopies high in beautiful rainbow colours and ribbons - how I wish I could show you a picture but can't just yet) and Oyster shell pies with sugar pearls. So in lieu of the whoopie photos - here are a few inspirational cupcakes from a wonderful tea room in Bath - such vibrant colours and I loved the little sugar bows made from ready rolled icing - so simple to make and yet they look very 1950 vintage. Is it wrong to want one of these spiral staircases for displaying my cakes on!!!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Peach Melba Cake

At the weekend I watched James and the Giant Peach. I was in bed with a bad back and it came on to a channel I had been watching. I ended up watching the film to the end! Roald Dahl is one of my favourite author's, even as an adult. I grew up on his books! Watching the film left me with an overwhelming desire for peaches (not quite in season but the supermarket had some anyway!) So here is my recipe for Peach Melba cake - I am sure Dame Nellie Melba would have approved (her being the inspiration for the famous peach melba dessert). The amaretti biscuits give the cake a lovely almondy crunch.

Peach Melba Cake
Serves 6 - 8

115g butter
115g caster sugar
2 large eggs
115g self raising flour
2 tsp almond essence
40g amaretti biscuits, finely crushed
2 tbsp peach jam
3 tbsp double cream
1 ripe peach
100g fresh raspberries
juice of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F and grease and line a loaf tin. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then beat in the eggs. Sift the flour and add to the bowl, together with the almond essence, amaretti biscuits, 1 tbsp of peach jam and the cream. Fold in gentle until everything is incorporated. Spoon half the mixture into the tin and then sprinkle over the raspberries. Spoon in the remainder of the cake batter. Cut the peach into thin slices and layer over the top of the cake. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the cake is cooked and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle. When the cake is cooked, heat the remaining peach jam with the lemon juice for a few minutes, then brush over the top of the cake to glaze using a pastry brush. This cake is nice warm or cold and all the better for a dollup of cream!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Happy May Day Weekend to you all. I am up early finishing my cook book and suprise suprise it is raining heavily here! Why does it always rain on a bank holiday??? This is the May Day Dawn (6am!) Celebration at Ampthill Park in Bedfordshire yesterday. Sadly I was in Germany so missed it this year, but my Mum and Mike thought you might like to see their photos of the traditional English Morris Dancing on May morning! The event always ends with cooked breakfast in a nearby pub - a perfect start to the day and a reward for the VERY early start!