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

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Cook book writing is progressing (I dread to think how many kilos of sugar I have used in the last few weeks!) 25 recipes done now and 67 to go (although put like that it sounds like a huge number of recipes still to cook...). As much as I was enjoying the gluten free baking, I have to confess that I am LOVING making teeny tiny cakes and puddings for the other book. The only problem is that they are too cute to eat! My brother, who is visiting from the US (yippee!) described them as "Just a little bit naughty" and I kind of like that. Eating cake without the guilt factor!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Saturday was Joshua's birthday party - enter blue food colouring, blue lustre spray and Sonic the Hedgehog! The Sonic figure was the most bendy and jointed one ever and therefore had to sit on the edge of the cake so that he wouldn't fall over. Technically speaking I am not sure that someone with super lightening speed like Sonic would ever sit down, but noone at the party seemed to mind/notice. The sugar stars on wires and foil streamer wands gave the cake quite a cartoon effect I think and the sugar toadstools were super cute. Happy Birthday Josh!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Work starts this evening on my next new book. Thought you might like to see my new equipment - mini bundt pans, mini madeleines and teany tiny loaf moulds, mini muffin cases and moulds, mini ring pans.....anyone spotting a theme? My lovely editor Julia sent me the final recipe list last night - very pleased with the selection - and can't wait to get cooking!
Lovely Marny of the RPS New York office did an interview with me a few weeks ago and it is now on the RPS blog if you would like to read it. There are some other lovely articles on there too and beautiful pictures to look at from their design books - pop on over if you have a minute - link here

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

I thought I would share with you my latest sewing project. Even though it is far from finished, I am so pleased with how it is coming on. It is a reproduction of a sampler stitched by a young girl called Mary Busby whilst at Ackworth School in 1804. There is something enchanting about making the same stitches with my hand that Mary made over two hundred years ago. I know she must have loved doing it as almost every inch of the fabric is to be filled with motif after motif. It feels as if she never wanted to stop stitching it. Below is the picture of how the sampler will look when it is finished so I know it will be a long while yet until I am done (it is stitched on miniscule 36 count and in silks so v slow going) but I can't wait for it to be framed and hung up in our cottage.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

I need some assistance from any readers with bird knowledge! There was a chirping outside my window which sounded like a baby chick. I looked out of the window expecting to see something quite small (although it is not the time of year for chicks of course) and this is what I spied. I imagine that perhaps this is a pheasant chick? Can anyone tell me if I am right? Either way it was very cute and spent a long time pottering in the grass and stones outside our back door. Recipe testing is going well and I have now completed 18 recipes which have all been given the thumbs up by Lucy (and David, Sacha, Jess, Josh and Rosie - but as Lucy is the only one with wheat intolerance she gets the final say)! Yesterdays treats were some walnut brownies made with very finely ground walnut instead of flour (I liked these a lot) and a lovely summery loaf of bread with herbs and tomatos. Only 70 more recipes to go......

Friday, 17 September 2010

It has been a bit of a mad week! Sadly I can't say why (I have been sworn to secrecy) but you will get to know in a while and believe me it will be worth the wait for any Masterchef fans! I have also been busy testing gluten free recipes (which so far have been really good and Lucy is enjoying tasting them all) and last night gave a cookery demonstration to the WI. I am soooo glad it is Friday. I finally managed to prise the pictures of Maren's birthday tea from Steven Wallis this week so here they are - it was a very english affair. Lots of bunting and china tea cups and dainty pink meringues and a huge number of cakes. My favourites were the tea cup cakes in the teacup silicon moulds. Poor Maren was meant to be coming to stay today but is poorly so has had to cancel her trip. Such a shame - Get Well Soon Maren xxxx

Monday, 13 September 2010

It has been a delightful foodie weekend, although I am a little shattered today after the events of the last two days. On Saturday I judged the Sharnbrook show confectionary class. I have done this for the last three years and it is a pleasure to see the large number of entries every time. I have to say I was a little daunted at the start by the prospect of tasting 10 chocolate fudge cakes and 8 victoria sandwich cakes as well as a huge number of scones, rock cakes, meringues, loaves of bread, quiches and jars and jars of jams, marmalde, chutneys and pickled onions (trust me pickled onion and chocolate fudge cake do not go!) First in class went to the most gorgous chocolate and hazelnut cake - it was like eating a spoonful of nutella but even better and a very deserving winner. Yesterday was exciting too as I gave a cookery demonstration at Clarence House at Prince Charles' Start Garden Party to make a Difference. It was so much fun - even if the flames of my flambeed prawns almost licked the roof of the tent! At least it made everyone laugh. The Princes' gardens were filled with great ideas for sustainability - Virgin's pledge tree (where you wrote on a leaf what you pledged to do to save the environment) looked stunning in the breeze, giant enviro friendly paint pots and insulation sheep. I was preceded on stage by none other than Chocolate Willie who made the most amazing chocolate mousse cake from his new book - it was so nice to meet him and also lovely Valentina Harris who was hosting the stage. I feel truly honoured to have been asked to take part. When John and Gregg were yelling during our filming "This is going to change their lives" I never dreamt that I would end up cooking in a royal garden! I hope you all had lovely weekend too xxx

Friday, 10 September 2010

I received some lovely news yesterday afternoon - Ryland Peters and Small have very kindly offered to publish two more of my book ideas! One on gluten free baking (my friend Lucy is so thrilled at the thought of tasting all the recipes for me - I think she is more excited than I am about the book which is saying something as I am VERY excited) and another baking one which is slightly quirky and very me (will share more details when I am allowed to). I can't quite believe that this means I will have three new books coming out next year with Whoopies in Spring and these two in Autumn - I think I can call myself a food writer now! How lovely to be working with Julia from RPS again and to whip up some new delicious recipes for her. She is just one of the nicest people to work with! I have told the hens that they are under strict orders to lay well for the next month or so as I will be needing a lot of eggs. As always, dear Blog readers, I will keep you posted with progress - nearly a hundred recipes to be prepared in the next few weeks and months - its going to be a little hectic!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Imagine my surprise and delight when looking through Delicious magazine's essential guide to baking this month, I found one of my recipes f0r Chocolate Peanut Crumble Cookies. It is one of my favourite cookie recipes and I definitely recommend them! The recipe is here - click link - if you fancy giving them a try. Very touched to see my name on the back page.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Last week I made some cute little bird house cookies - gingerbread with royal icing and white chocolate buttons and little sugar birds. The birdhouses were sprayed with baby blue lustre spray which really brought them to life.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Like many women I'm sure, to me a car is usually just a colour. I am completely useless at makes of car. This blog is also not a place to talk about cars but I will make one exception to this to introduce you to our new little "baby" who arrived late last night after Sacha had picked her up - a shiny red Karmann Ghia (see look I even know the make - a sure sign that it is true love). At 39 years old the car is even older than me. It is to be our car for pootling out on picnics, and going to country pubs and air shows (how very decadent!) I can't wait for the weekend to go for a drive. Any name suggestions for the little car gratefully received! Thanks to my Uncle Geoff for going in my place with Sacha to look at the car before we bought it - you chose well!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

I am so proud of my baby brother - not only is he living the dream in New York City but he has just acquired an emormous US pagent style trophey for his culinary skills. Last weekend he entered a BBQ competition - the Pensylvania 11th Anniversary State Barbeque Championship to be more precise! 72 teams competed and Gareth's team came in second in the chicken category - totally awesome! I can't begin to imagine how large the first place trophey was if this was the second place trophey. They came in 8th place over all the categories which is such a good result. Obviously we share the same cooking gene. He also sent a few photos of some of the other more "professional" teams - "R2BQ - May the sauce be with Que" is inspired and as for the whole pig Pig Pen BBQ - that surely must class as extreme BBQing. Well done Gareth xxxx

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Sticking with a shephard's hut theme, we had a lovely bank holiday with my Aunt and Uncle who popped in for lunch which we enjoyed in front of the shepherd's hut, complete with bunting and the wonderful shade sails that Maren kindly bought for her tea party - I haven't taken them down since! A simple ploughmans lunch with home made bread and a gingerbeer ham followed by scones and plum and almond cake - we were soon fit to burst. We then set up camp outside the hut to make flower arrangements - my Aunt is an excellent florist and Mum and I became her willing assistants. The results were very pretty indeed we thought. Can you see the drift of smoke coming from the chimney on the hut - quite cute don't you think? The stove kept us nice and warm whilst sitting in the hut. A perfect way to spend a bank holiday Monday!