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

Friday, 28 January 2011

Earlier this week I was invited to Kathy Browns for a tea party. Regular readers of this blog will know how fond I am of Kathy and her passion for cooking with edible flowers. Needless to say when I arrived, the table was set with many yummy things to eat - after the day I had had at work it was like stepping into a really nice dream! Delicious hazelnut, goat's cheese and fennel pate, chorizo bread, two different types of jelly - blueberry and violet and orange jellies served in orange skins like we used to have when we were children and ginger cake. I took a gluten free plum and blueberry cake and it got the seal of approval (which is a good thing as it is going to be on the cover of my gf book!) My favourite of all was of course the violet jellies - they looked so pretty in the elegant glasses topped with violet flowers and fresh blueberries. Kathy had just used a blackcurrent jelly and had flavoured it with violet syrup - so simple but utterly delicious and I had forgotten how nice it is to eat jelly! Served alongside was fresh cream flavoured with violet liqueur. Heaven! Thank you again Kathy xxx Kathy has been making honey marmelade with her own honey and has a lovely post about it on her blog if you want to drop by and have a look http://www.kathybrowngarden.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 27 January 2011

I am sure that shop owners sometimes have things on their shelves that they imagine noone will ever buy. I am sure that was the case with the biscuit pans I bought at the weekend. To be fair the box was in the sale at a bargain price of £8.65 and I just had a feeling that it would be useful one day. So here are my new giant sandwich cookie pans - aren't they cool! I love the instructions on the side that 1 cookie + 1 cookie = a sandwich cookie (sadly they missed the filling out of the equation - I did A Level maths you know and am quite good at equations!) Anyway needless to say I am itching for a reason to christen the pans - it is our nephews birthday at the weekend so he may get a large cookie as a treat!

Friday, 21 January 2011

If you love sweet things and are going to buy yourself one cook book this year (other than mine!) then it has to be Laduree Sucre - oh my word - if it is possible to be in love with a book, then I am head over heals! It is packaged up in a Laduree macaroon box, nestled in tissue paper, with a velvet cover and gilt edged pages. It is so beautiful to look at, even without opening the pages! Inside are all Laduree secret recipes for perfect patisserie - macaroons, tarts, cakes. This is definitely a book to drool over. Whilst it has a steep price tag - £28 - it is definitely worth it as a special treat!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

With the mini cake book photoshoot at the fore front of my mind, I was extra delighted when the postman delivered these divine mini cakes which Maren had kindly send to me from Germany - the flavours were delicious - with exotic combinations such as fig and almond, thyme and raisin, and chocolate and berries. I took them down for a meeting with my lovely editor Julia on Monday and we munched out way through the box (with a little help from Megan and Steve too). The slogan is something along the lines of "Happiness should be small, but please 9 times" I can certify that they definitely lived up to their claim on the happiness front - we thought they were delicious and how amazing that they posted so well all the way from Germany with not a crumb out of place when they arrived. Thanks Maren xxx

Monday, 17 January 2011

It is hard to put into words the thrill when an envelope drops through the letterbox and I know it contains my first copy of my book. Although I have always seen the photographs before and proof read black and white pages, nothing quite prepares you for seeing the actual book. A few days go my Whoopie Pie book arrived - and to say I am pleased with it is a HUGE understatement. Steve and Maxine have done such a lovely job and all the pies are completely OTT and very me - lots of glitter and colours. So I can finally share with you a few of my favourite pages. The one I am proudest of is the rainbow tower as I made these pies and carried them on a 3 1/2 hour journing to Hastings for the photoshoot - it is suprising that they still look nice after such a long journey including two changes of trains! The other pictures are pumpkin pies, perfect for Halloween; Oyster pies (not fish flavoured I hasten to add) on their own little beach and Vanilla Dream pies complete with jammy spoon (the photo just makes me want to pick the spoon up and lick it). I hope that you like my little book - out quite soon - hurrah!

Friday, 14 January 2011

For weeks now I have been wrestling with what has become my nemesis - gluten-free puff pastry. It was the last recipe for the book that was still outstanding and my lovely publishers gave me a bit more time to try and make it work. All attempts were seeming fruitless - more "brick like" than delicate leaves of pastry. I have to admit that I was close to the stage of throwing my hands in the air and declaring it a culinary impossibility but one evening earlier this week a miracle occurred and with a few tweeks to the recipe suddenly we had puff lift off. I tried it again twice just to check it wasn't a fluke and low and behold the recipe worked again and again. It was one of those Eliza Doolittle "By Jove I think she's got it" moments - think sitting on the kitchen floor and weeping tears of baking joy! So here is my gluten-free puff - just some snap shots and not the proper photos for the book I hasten to add - but look - you can actually see the layers and the bonus is the recipe is really easy and much easier than normal puff! So my book is now finished - the photo shoots are underway and the pictures so far are lovely. The book is going to be called "The Gluten-Free Baker" and will be out later this year. Can't wait!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

These are some of the lovely hand knitted presents I had from Lucy for Christmas and my birthday - a delicious strawberry teacosy and some very very cute Christmas decorations. Isn't she clever! I am seriously impressed as my knitting skills never get me beyond the straight rows of a scalf! I think a tea party is called for to show off my new tea cosy!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Lying in bed with flu was not quite the start to 2011 I had in mind - my birthday and New Years Eve passed me by in a swathe of sneezes and coughs - very sad but luckily I am on the mend now - I think I will have to take a leaf out of the Queen's book and celebrate a second birthday later this year. I think my cooking genes must have left me to as I have not cooked a single thing since 23rd December - that is two weeks with no cooking and surely a record for me. Anyway - to nicer things and Christmas presents - a few of which deserve a special mention. My friend Lucy decided that we would all make home made presents this year - this seemed like a great idea in October which she suggested it but not so great the week before Christmas when I had to try and pursuade Sacha to make his presents. In the end he made jars of home made Garam Masala and we attached his curry recipe to each with a ribbon - they looked great and were well received. For our homemade gift from Lucy's partner David we received a most special present - a piece of music which he had composed for us - a Christmas lullaby for harp, which I will enjoy learning to play. David used to be the organist at York Minster so is super talented and the piece is beautiful. Lucy had been clicking her knitting needles very rapidly and made some lovely socks and Christmas tree decorations and for my birthday - a beautiful strawberry teacosy for my collection. Thank you so much Lucy and David so such very thoughtful presents xxx