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

Monday, 28 February 2011

This weekends baking projects - an 18th birthday cake for our niece Devina decorated with mad feathers, orange birds, tiger ribbon and chocolate crunchies (the only orange and brown sweets I could think of. She celebrated with a crazy bollywood party - complete with dancing - soooo much fun! When wrapped in film for transporting to London, the cake looked enormous and I don't think the staff at the venue had ever seen anything like it! I also made a pretty little cake for my friend Tina who came to visit this weekend - not quite as flamboyant but still a few feathers and I think Tina liked it very much. Both cakes were made with toffee yoghurt to keep them moist (I had a moment of inspiration in the supermarket) which gave them a delicious caramel flavour and I packed them full of milk, white and dark chocolate chips too. Yum yum!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Are you following the new series of Masterchef this year? We have been avidly watching! Tomorrow is our "previous finalists" episode which I am on (don't think I will dare watch in case I say anything wrong - watch out for the pomegranate ice cream - it was STUNNING!) This is what the Radio Times says about the episode "The remaining 12 contenders face a daunting challenge as they cook for previous finalists and winners of the competition, working under head chef John Torode in their first restaurant-style service. They are asked to design a stand-out dish for the three-course menu and have just 30 minutes to deliver their food once the orders have been taken. The diners include Dhruv Baker, Mat Follas, James Nathan, Steven Wallis, Peter Bayless and Thomasina Miers." [and me too!] So tune in at 9pm on BBC1 tonight to watch us all! The below is a snap shot in the hotel the night before filming. We had a lot of fun and it was so strange to meet people for the first time who I felt as if I already knew personally.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

I thought I would share with you my February article in Country and Town - we liked this article as we got to eat all the macaroons at the end of the shoot - yum yum!

Hannah’s Kitchen
My first encounter with macaroons was whilst filming on Masterchef. One of the other contestant’s had bought a box of colourful Laduree macaroons for his girlfriend as a present – I was immediately transfixed with the delicately coloured meringues nestled between layers of tissue paper. To me, macaroons remain one of the most romantic gifts – the perfect way to say “I Love You” – so why not treat a loved one to some home made macaroons – flavoured with rose, the flower of love. Macaroons are not as difficult to make as you might imagine – it is just a question of getting the right consistency to the meringue as you fold the almonds in and letting the meringue shells rest for an hour before baking so that they develop their classic crystallised “foot”. Macaroons store and freeze well so these are the perfect make ahead present.

Rose Macaroons
Preparation time 30 minutes, setting time one hour, baking time 15 - 20 minutes
Makes 12
For the macaroons
120g ground almonds
150g fondant icing sugar
90g egg whites (approx 3 eggs)
85g caster sugar
Few drops of pink food colouring
1 tbsp rose syrup
pink edible lustre spray (optional)
For the rose cream filling
50g butter
200g fondant icing sugar
1 tbsp rose syrup
1 - 2 tbsp soured cream
A few drops of pink food colouring
Edible rose petals (optional)
Place the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and blitz to a fine powder. Sieve into a bowl and return any pieces that do not pass through the sieve to the blender, blitz, then sieve again. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks using a stand mixer or electric whisk and then add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time and whisk until the meringue is smooth and glossy. Add the almond powder a third at a time with a few drops of pink food colouring and the rose syrup folding in with a spatula. The important thing is to get the right texture to the meringue. It needs to be folded until it is soft enough that it just does not hold a peek. Drop a little onto a plate and if it folds to a smooth surface it is ready. If it holds a peak then you need to fold it a few further times. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe 6cm rounds onto two baking trays lined with silicon mats or greaseproof paper. If you do not have a piping bag, place rounds of mixture on the tray using two spoons. Leave on the trays for 1 hour so that a skin forms on the macaroons. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170C/325F and bake for 15 - 20 minutes until firm. Leave to cool on the trays. If using, spray the macaroons with the edible pink lustre spray. For the icing, whisk together the butter, icing sugar, rose syrup, a few drops of pink colouring and add the soured cream gradually until you have a stiff icing. Whisk for a further 3 – 5 minutes until the filling is very light. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Slide a pallet knife under the macaroons to release them from the mats or baking parchment and pipe a swirl onto half of the macaroons. Top each with a second macaroon and serve, decorated with rose petals if you wish.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A few photos from our Christmas day "take 2" last weekend - we all felt very festive and listened to Christmas music all day - I have been humming "Simply...having.. a wonderful Christmas time" and "Do they know its Christmas"! Poor brain is a tad confused that it is not my birthday and New Year in a few days! Thanks Mum for a lovely day!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Many men I know complain that Valentine's day is just a commercial gimmick. Personally I think this is just an excuse for not having to bother buying anything!!!!! The sentiment of showing someone you love them is however a nice thing to do and I admire Valentine's day for that. So lovely blog readers - he is my home made Valentine for you all - a heart gingerbread cottage that I made at the weekend. I used this recipe for the gingerbread - click here - but added 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and the zest of an orange. You need to wait for the mixture to cool down before being able to roll it out (it doesn't say this in the recipe but if you try before it is coolish, the dough is way too sticky and you are tempted to add more flour which would make the gingerbread quite dry). To decorate I used 900g royal icing sugar whipped up with 150ml water and 1 tsp vanilla extra and then decorated it with lots of lovely pink sweets. I cut a little triangle in the back house panel at the base and inserted some fairy lights so that when you plug it in the windows light up. The peppermint glass was made with 10 glacier minuts crushed in a blender to a fine dust. Cut out window shapes in the gingerbread before baking and fill with peppermint dust which will become glass like during the baking. It is best to bake on silicon mats so that the glass doesn't stick!With the sheets of gingerbread only taking 12 minutes to cook, you still have time to bake one today! Have fun if you do!

Friday, 11 February 2011

We have a very nice postman in our village. He is super helpful (perhaps because if there are spare cakes or cookies on offer I give them to him) and always smiling! Yesterday he made me smile with an arrival of two unexpected parcels - both presents for me - hurrah! The first was this lovely pictures of ice cream sundaes that my super kind agent Heather Holden Brown had seen in a shop and "had to buy for me". It goes perfectly in our kitchen although I think it would look equally good in our sheperd's hut too - decision decision! It is totally kitsch and I just adore it! The other parcel was from lovely Bree who competed in Masterchef with me - she is such a brilliant cook and I know would have give me a run for my money if we had not met in the first round when unfortunately only one of us could stay. She had been on holiday to St Agnes and found these floral chocolates - so very me! I have to confess that the pink one disappeared not long after opening the parcel - rose geranium chocolate - it tasted superb. Thanks Bree and Heather (and Elly toox) for such lovely thoughtful gifts.

Tomorrow my brother arrives from New York. I haven't seen him in ages and I am so excited. As his flight was cancelled at Christmas due to the snow, this weekend it is Christmas again in our household. Roast turkey and all the trimmings and a gammon ham is simmering on the Aga ready for glazing this evening. Mum has redecorated the Christmas tree which they have kept in water since Christmas. I think we are just a little mad but Christmas is such a wonderful day, why not have it twice? I am contemplating putting on the Christmas carol CD but our cleaners are about to arrive and I think they might question my sanitity if when they open the door Hark the Herald Angles sing is tinkling from the lounge! Perhaps later!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

For any fans of Masterchef, the wait for the next series is almost over and there are big changes afoot with a whole new format - auditions in front of John and Gregg and then 20 contestants are chosen to compete - I would not have stood a chance! If you can't wait for the show to start on 16th Feb (9pm BBC1), there is a preview trailer on you tube - click here to see - you will catch the tiniest glimpse me in it towards the very end with all the previous Masterchef finalists as we are involved in one of the tasks! I am sure you will spot quite a few faces you know in the above photo. I am not sure if I can say yet what we got up to but our episode airs on 24th February at 9pm BBC1 so only a few weeks to go now! You can't miss me in the photo as I am wearing bright pink!!!! Needless to say being in a room with the other finalists for the day was amazing if slightly surreal for everyone involved!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Well the cookie pan worked - although I am not sure this is the most exciting looking cake in the world, it was certainly a large cookie, don't you think? I resisted putting any decorations on (as it would have lost its cookie look) much to the disappointment of our nephews and nieces who are very fond of the odd sweet or two on a cake! The recipe on the box was in French and I just about managed to translate it. It seemed to have a HUGE amount of melted chocolate in (perhaps my translation was a bit wrong) and the result was rather similar in taste to a chocolate fondant pudding (yum yum)