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, 30 June 2010

I have been somewhere fun recently although I am not yet able to say why! As I walked to the studio my stomach churned as if I was going back to cook in the final again (luckily I wasn't). I hadn't been to the studio since the day we finished filming three years ago - talk about taking a trip down memory lane!

Friday, 25 June 2010

My little Rooster may be tiny, but he will protect his "girls" to the hilt. Last week the window cleaners called me to say that there was a standoff going on outside and I thought that one of the hens and the rooster were disgreeing. Alas no the rooster had taken on the peahen, about 10 times his size. I am pleased to report that noone was injured and the rooster was victorious, seeing the peahen off. True David and Goliath stuff!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

These pins were a present from my friend Susan - little tiny cakes! Are they not the cutest pins you have ever seen? So completely me! My favourite is the cake covered in what I imagine to be green pistachio icing and a strawberry on top! I don't think I ever dare use them as they are way too special but they have taken pride of place in my crow pincushion!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

I am often asked where my love of cooking came from and sorting through some boxes of my old belongings at my Dad's on Father's Day gave me the answer. These were my two first cook books! And one even had an ice cream sundae Knickerbocker Glory in! See - it was destiny! It was so lovely to find these old books - I remember loving them as a child, particularly the teddy bear one. What a nice trip down memory lane!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Regular readers of my blog will already know Maren - my lovely friend from Hamburg. She has sent me this wonderful picture of her proudly displaying the salmon she cooked for a dinner party. I would like to say my dish at Waddesdon Manor was the inspiration and that I should take full credit, but sadly my only contribution was telling her to put some wine in the poaching stock. I think the fish looks so elegant with the green curls which are courgette spirals. Maren has a new machine for making these and I can't wait to give it a try when I go over in a few weeks time. Well done Maren for your impressive fish - I know your guests must have loved it! (p.s. I have kitchen gadget envy of Maren's Kitchenaid coffee machine in the background!!!)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Are you Hungry Caterpillar?

I have always been a big fan of the Hungry Caterpillar book by Eric Carle - I think it is the thought of the caterpiller munching his way through cake and cookies and lollipops that makes me smile. Today was Rosie's actual 4th birthday and I was so pleased to find these lovely hungry caterpillar polka dot cake cases and decorations - just so cute (available on line and in Waitrose if you want some!) My brother brought the rainbow chocolate drops over from a visit to the Bloomer chocolate factory which were the perfect addition on top of the buttermilk frosting! Happy Birthday Rosie Pea xxx

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

I know the rest of you are unlikely to find this as exciting as I did but you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that my little book is on sale in Harvey Nichols Food Market!!! It is one of my favourite foodie places in the UK! I had to buy a copy and will put it somewhere safe with the receipt as a reminder! Here it is displayed on the bookcase there and I think it looks quite pretty! My Sister in Law Amy was also out in New York last week and spotted my book in the window display of a trendy antique shop! Feeling like a proud parent seeing my little book out there! I have been invited to talk about it on the Martha Stewart Radio Programme next month and will post a link to the show nearer the time. Hurrah for sunny weather and ice cream!

Monday, 14 June 2010

I think this might be the ultimate
"chocolate" brownie. I made it for our nephew Devan's birthday at the weekend. The brownie was made with milk and dark chocolate with milk chocolate chips and slithers of caramac chocolate (remember that? It used to be one of my favourites and I was so pleased when I found some). The brownie was topped with white chocolate and decorated with slices of twix, kitkat, crunchie, toblerone, ripple, oreos, snickers, double decker, bounty plus minstrals and maltesters and a little chocolate buttercream. So quick and easy to prepare but I dread to think of the calorific content. Worse still - we ate it with ice cream!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

You may recall my tale of the funny little rooster I bought a few months ago that ended up going to live with our neighbours chickens as my old hens were none too pleased at his arrival. On returning from my holiday I was a little shocked to discover that Grasshopper (or Dick as he had been named by our neighbours) had moved back in with our girls of his own accord and they are all happily living together now. Here he is sitting with 4 of his ladies on one of our door steps! He is so tiny in comparison to my voluptuous hens and seems to crow all day long (luckily it is not a very loud crow!)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

My latest Hannah's Kitchen column in Country and Town House is for Champagne poached salmon fillets with tomato roses. It is not often that I use champagne in cooking – it is far nicer to drink - but poaching salmon fillets for a special dinner party starter is one exception I make. You do not have to use champagne though and a sparkling wine will work almost as well. The recipe only calls for half a bottle of champagne so you can save the remainder to drink with the salmon. I was taught to make the pretty tomato roses by the talented chefs at Waddesdon Manor during my time on Masterchef. They look so pretty and delicate but are actually very easy to prepare and decorate the salmon perfectly!

Champagne Poached Salmon with Summer Herb Aioli
Serves 2, Preparation time 20 minutes Cooking time 5 minutes plus overnight cooling

2 salmon fillets, skins removed
400ml champagne or sparkling wine
2 large fresh plum tomato
1 tbsp smooth mango chutney
juice of 1 lime
2 egg yolks
½ clove garlic
½ tsp salt
250 – 300ml mild olive oil (not extra virgin as this gives a bitter taste)
1 tbsp chopped fresh summer herbs (chives, chervil, mint, parsley)
Juice of 1 lemon
parsley to decorate

Place the salmon fillets in a small saucepan so that they both lay flat on the bottom, cover with the champagne and add a little extra water to ensure that the fillets are completely covered (the amount of water needed will depend on the size of saucepan you have used). Place the pan on a medium heat and bring the poaching liquid to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, transfer the fish to the fridge until ready to serve. Using a sharp serrated knife, gently peel the skin of the tomatoes into several long strips, ensuring that you take as little tomato flesh as possible (as if you were peeling an apple). To make the roses, start at one end of a strip, roll it up between your fingers to create a tomato rose as shown in the picture. Repeat with the remaining tomato strips. The roses can be stored in the fridge for a few hours before serving. Heat the mango chutney and lime juice in a small saucepan and then brush onto the salmon fillets using a pastry brush. Decorate the salmon fillets with the tomato roses and parsley leaves. For the aioli, crush the garlic clove and salt to a smooth purée, then whisk into the egg yolks using an electric hand mixer or food processor. Add the olive oil a little at a time, whisking continuously until you have a thick mayonnaise. Fold in the herbs and season with a little lemon juice and salt and pepper to season.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

This weekend was my step sister Vicki's wedding. Perfect sunny weather with pimms and croquet and giant chess in the gardens of a lovely manor house made for a very special day. Vicki looked lovely and she and Sam are now off on their honeymoon - congratulations both of you xxx My contribution was making the wedding favours for the table. Vicki had asked for the heart biscuits from my baking book threaded with maroon ribbon to match the bridesmaids' dresses. We packaged them in little clear bags with a sticker for the date of the wedding. The shortbread is a simple 2, 4, 6 recipe with vanilla seeds to flavour and of course topped with a dusting of obligatory edible glitter. We ate them with the coffee - a nice end to a delicious wedding breakfast. PS - apologies for the poor quality photo of vicki and sam - my camera managed to reset itself and save everything as RAW data in huge files that my computer just won't upload so this is a photograph of a print out - not ideal but at least it will give you an idea of how lovely they looked!

Monday, 7 June 2010

This weekend I was asked to make a sweet covered cake for Rosie and Jo's joint 4th birthday (hence the two four candles - they were turned round in the end so it didn't look quite so like a 44th birthday cake!) I don't think I could have fitted any more sweets on if I tried. I just love the large chocolate buttons with hundreds and thousands and Rosie and Jo and their friends managed to eat all the sweets at their party! The cake itself was white chocolate chip with vanilla buttercream and peach jam. I really love peach and white chocolate together for a change from regular victoria sandwich cakes.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Kayaking in the Mangroves on Ko Lanta. Such amazing scenery. I was not very good at paddling my canoe in the right direction but at least I didn't fall in! I love the little floating houses particularly with the woven bamboo patterned panels.