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, 31 August 2010

Our cat Muffy made a "star" (aka "miniscule"!) appearance in the Sunday Times this weekend without us even knowing. She is one crafty cat! An article featuring Shepherd's hut had a picture of our hut in - imagine our suprise when we got a call from my Dad saying "I think your hut is in the paper this morning"! We had no idea! The man who built it must have supplied the paper with a photo he took when he delivered the hut. Can you see the little white spec sitting on the BBQ under my office window - thats Muffy!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

It has been raining non stop here for 2 days. Is it the same where you are? Where has the summer gone I wonder? In order to pretend it is still summer I thought I would share with you a picture of a recent summer baking project - little sandcastle cakes and seaside biscuits. The sand is made with crushed digestive biscuits (watch out for an appearance of this edible sand in my whoopie pie book too - the oyster pies have their own little beach!!) The sandcastles are constructed using an inverted muffin with a marshmallow on top all covered in buttercream and then rolled in the edible sand. So easy but quite effective don't you think?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

There are days when I enjoy the perks of my job! I have been over in Suffolk for meetings and was late leaving last night so popped into our company hotel to see if the lovely chef, Chris Lee, had something that I could take home for supper - I had a two hour drive ahead of me and wasn't going to be home until 9pm so was hoping for a short cut supper! Chris has been super kind to me ever since Masterchef and provided me with lots of training in between filming in an attempt to get my cooking skills up to scratch! I don't think "short cut supper" can quite describe what Chris kindly packaged up for me - home made burgers with truffle mayonnaise, home made picallili, fois gras, home made muffins, a home grown tomato, lettuce and some delicious cheese to melt on top of the burgers. I think my husband thought all his Christmases had come at once when I arrived home carrying my crate of goodies. 10 minutes later we were eating the best burger I have ever eaten! So if you are ever passing the Bildeston Crown in Suffolk (link to the hotel here) I can most definitely recommend the truffle burger!!!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Very excitingly I have been asked if I would like to do a cookery demonstration at the Prince of Wales' "Garden Party to Make a Difference". As you can imagine I had to think about this for all of 1 second before saying yes! So on 12th September I will be doing a cookery demonstration in the Gardens of Clarence House (so so exciting) - the event looks lovely with lots of live music, delicious foods plus the lovely gardens to visit (that don't often get opened to the public) and a central and very important theme of sustainability. The garden party is on between 9th and 18th September. Tickets are available from www.startgardenparty.co.uk - hope that one or two of you might like to go along and support a very worthy cause. Now, what to cook in a Prince's garden...decisions, decisions (and suggestions very welcome!)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Pretty toadstool cookies!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Sometimes it is the simplest of lunches that are the most delicious. My husband Sacha has been away on a silent retreat for 12 whole days - personnally I could never imagine be silent for one day let alone 12 but he managed it and I am very proud of him. As he had been eating very simple food for the duration of the trip, I wanted to make something fairly plain for his return so I made stuffed peppers. Stuffed peppers always remind me of throwback 80's lunches but these were really delicious and I would definitely make them again.

Allow 1 pepper per person, cut in half and deseed and rinse in cold water to make sure any loose seeds are removed. For each pepper half, thinly slice three baby plum or cherry tomatoes. Place in the pepper and top with a few thin slices of fennel, 1 tsp of pesto, slithers of garlic and some torn basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven for 30 - 40 minutes until the pepper is soft. When cooked, top with some more shredded basil leaves and a good grate of parmesan cheese and serve with the oil from the roasting pan spooned over. The pepper are particularly good with warm brown rice.

Friday, 13 August 2010

My latest article in Country and Town House is a pear chutney. We have been tucking into this over the last few weeks since I made it - Steven Wallis (Masterchef winner) used it to make our pastrami sandwiches on the day of Maren's birthday and gave it a thumbs up! Praise indeed, so I thought I would share with you in case any of you are in a preserving mood.

Golden Pear Chutney
Makes two 500ml jars
Preparation time 15 minutes Cooking time about 1 hour
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
800g.1il 12oz ripe pears
150g/5 1/4 oz dried apricots, finely chopped
250g/8 3/4 oz golden sultanas, such as Orange River
300g/10 1/2oz caster sugar
300ml white wine vinegar
100ml marasla wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 stem ginger preserved in syrup plus 2 tbsp of the ginger syrup
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to season
Equipment: Large saucepan, 2 jam jars, wax paper discs, jam funnel (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan and gently fry the onions until soft and golden. Peel and core the pears and chop into small chunks. Add the pears to the pan with the choppped apricots, sultanas, sugar, vinegar, marsala and cinnamon stick. Finely chop the stem ginger and add to the pan with the ginger syrup. Heat the pan over a gentle heat for about 40 - 60 minutes until the pears are cooked and the chutney has a thick syrupy consistency. The actually cooking time will depend on how ripe the pears are. If the chutney still seems thin add anouther 50g of sugar and simmer for a little longer. Whilst the chutney is simmering, sterilize your jam jars. Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinse well. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 1/140C/275F place the jars on a baking tray and heat for about 20 minutes. Remove the jars carefully from the oven using a clean tea towel. Season the chutney with salt and pepper to taste and then carefully soon the hot chutney into the sterilized jars, using a jam funnel if you have one, and seal with a wax paper disk and lid. The chutney can be eaten straight away but the flavours will develop if left in a cool dark place for a month and will keep for a year provided that the jars have been properly sterilized.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

My friend Lucy, who is allergic to wheat, is off on holiday to Scotland. These are some cookies I baked for her to take in the car with them, adapted from my anzac biscuit recipe. I should point out (thanks Twilth Night Knitter for the prompt) that not all people who are allergic to wheat can eat oats so you need to check before serving them. You can substitute regular flour if you prefer.

Oaty Gluten Free Cookies
150g/5 1/4oz butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
170g/6oz porridge oats
85g/3oz dessicated coconut
60g/2oz flaked coconut
115g/4oz caster sugar
115g/4oz gluten free self raising flour (I use Doves)
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F and grease and line three baking sheets. I use silicon mats for biscuits like these as they ensure the biscuits don't stick at all. Melt the butter and syrup in a saucepan. Mix together all the remaining ingredients and pour over the melted butter mixture, stiring well so everything is incorporated. If you want your biscuits to spread out quite a lot (we liked these best as they were buttery and very thin) make 24 small mounds (about walnut size) on the trays whilst the mixture is still warm and bake stright away. If you prefer a more cookie type biscuit (we still thought these were yummy) then leave the mixture to cool completely before making the 24 mounds on the trays - these do not spread as much as the warm cookie mixture. Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes until the cookie are golden - watch closely towards the end of cooking as they can go brown very quickly. Leave to cool on the trays and then transfer to a tin to store. Lucy gave these a thumbs up - she is my gluten free food barometer!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Pretty sweet peas and sunflowers in our neighbour Gary's garden. Just a perfect snapshot of summer!

Friday, 6 August 2010

I thought I would share with you a few photos from our village sewing circle meeting earlier this week. It is such a nice group, with people of all ages and with different craft interests. Kathy was teacher this week and was showing Susan and Lucy how to knit neck seams on sweaters - so far beyond the realms of my knitting skills but it was lovely to see the garments come together (Susan had had a bit of an incident and lost the shoulder on her jumper - I think you had to be there but it made us all laugh a lot when she told the tale). It is always good to have a natter and catch up on village gossip over a glass of wine and Lucy had made some delicious homemade guacamole for us all to try! Everyone looks deep in concentration in the photos - as if we are all very industrious with our sewing but I promise you we are not!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

It is a while since our kitten Peapod appeared on this blog and I wanted to share this photo of her with you so you could
see how much she has grown - she is almost a proper cat now although is still at that slightly gangly stage! She spends her days chasing anything that moves - flies and butterflies in the garden and rats and mice in the farm barns next door (she is excellent and we could probably rent her out as a rat catcher). She has taken to giving kisses when she wants feeding, snuggling up with me on the sofa when I am trying to sew and even trying to do handstands on the kitchen cupboard (see below!) - just so adorable!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Brownie Cookies

For some unexplained reason I have been trying to perfect the ultimate "Brownie" cookie - with all the flavours of a brownie, just a little bit less gooey and a bit more crunch. I think I have just about cracked it! So for any brownie lovers out there, why not give these a try. You can add any additional flavourings or nuts that you like - chunks of caramel chocolate, peanuts, white chocolate chips - the possibilities are endless! They are lovely with a large glass of ice cold milk - my favourite drink of all time!

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

125g cream cheese
170g butter
140g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
170g plain flour
55g cocoa
150g plain chocolate, chopped
100g walnuts, chopped
30g salted pretzels (optional - its just that I have a thing for pretzels in cookies at the moment!)

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190C/375F and grease two large baking trays. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, cream cheese and caster sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg, vanilla and sift in the flour and cocoa. Mix well until all the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chocolate, walnuts and pretzels (if using). Place 18 tbsp of the mixture on the trays a small distance apart and bake for 10 - 15 minutes until cook and firm to touch. Transfer to a rack to cool. Dust with a little edible glitter for that little extra bling if you wish!