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, 21 January 2013

What fun was had in my village this weekend - such a lot of snow and tobogganing galore.  With flasks of mulled wine and baked apples for everyone we headed to the hill at the end of my lane.  Toby built a snow ramp and we had great fun flying off the ramp on our sledges.  The prize for the most spectacular tumble probably went to me who managed a 360 somersault off the sledge - I just hope that no one was videoing it - it would have been worthy of you've been framed!  Hope that you are all keeping warn and staying safe on the icy roads.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Venison Ragu in Roasted Pattypans
Serves 4 preparation time 25 minutes cooking time approx 2 ½ hours
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
olive oil
3 bay leaves
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig of thyme
½ tsp ground allspice
500g venison (leg or shoulder) cut into 3cm cubes
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
400ml full bodied red wine
2 tbsp sundried tomato puree
4 large patty pan squash or baby pumpkins
Salt and pepper
Equipment: heavy based casserole pan, roasting tray
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/375F/190C.  Place the onion and garlic in the casserole pan with one tablespoon of olive oil and simmer over a gentle heat until the onions are soft and start to caramelise.  Season with salt and pepper and add the star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves and thyme to the pan and cook for a few minutes further.  Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.  Add the venison to the pan with a little more oil and cook for a few minutes until the meat has browned all over.   Return the spiced onions to the pan with the meat, add the chopped tomatoes, wine, puree and 200ml of water.  Stir and heat until the liquid in the pan is hot, then transfer to the oven and cook for 40 minutes then turn the temperature down to Gas Mark 2/300F/150C and slow cook for a further 2 hours until the meat is tender.
For the squash, using a sharp knife cut off the top of the squash, keeping the stalk intact.  Hollow out the squash using a spoon.  Place the squash and lids in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven  with the casserole at Gas Mark 5/375F/190C for about 30 minutes until the flesh is soft but the squash still hold their shape (I do this during the initial cooking of the ragu and then reheat just before serving once the ragu is cooked).   To serve,  fill the squash with the venison ragu and top with their lids. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

12 Days after Christmas is my least favourite time of the year as it is always so sad to take down the Christmas decorations.  Why does the house always look so bare when all the decorations are down even though they have only been up for a few weeks? This year I decorated the outside of my cottage with giant candy canes.  Sadly they were made of plastic but this didn't stop most of the children in the village licking them to see if they were real.  Perhaps next year I will have to see about dipping them in some peppermint sugar coating to make my display more special.  Peapod my cat was of no use with the undecorating - no sooner had I taken the baubles off the tree and put them in the box to pack them away, she was flicking  them out again with her paw and chasing them round the floor.  This game went on for quiet a while until she gave up fighting a loosing battle and decided to sleep on the sofa instead!!!   

Thursday, 3 January 2013

 Between Christmas and New Year was my 39th birthday.  In order to celebrate not yet being 40 and to make up for the fact that my last two birthday have been fairly rubbish, I decided to throw a party for my family and a few friends.  As it turned out my entire family was able to make it, including my Brother Amy and Hunter who were visiting from America, my cousin Charlie from Australia who made a list minute trip to the UK and my friend Maren from Germany.  It was an international affair!!!!  Of course there was only one theme I could have for the party - Alice in Wonderland - and Jon the chef at the restaurant did an amazing job with his surprise menu.  It was delicious and completely quirky and  lunch lasted almost 6 hours!!!!!  I can't remember the last time I made myself a birthday cake but I did this year - topped with a sugar dormouse in a teapot that my Dad made for me, with mini cups filled with white chocolate melted with cocoa to look like tea.  The candles were toadstools and it looked very pretty when it was lit - such a shame to cut into it but it had to be done!  So here are a few photos from the afternoon and the menu for your perusal - my favourite course name "I'm Latte, for a very important Date" - chocolate coffee cake with dates, toffee sauce and milk ice cream - YUM YUM!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Well - so much for my New Year's Resolution of getting back to blogging - It is the 2nd Jan so I have already missed a day!  Better late than never though.  The end of last year was utterly frantic as I was writing a sequel to my gluten free book and also in the 2 weeks before Christmas I had 4 days of  photoshoot for my Aga book in my cottage - 60 photos done, 130 eggs used for baking over 2 weekends - it was utterly crazy!!!  It was an amazing (if slightly exhausting) experience and it is so nice to see glimpses of my cottage, pots and pans, shepherds hut etc in the background of the photos.  Mike Cooper the photographer was very patient and did a brilliant job with the pictures.  We were very brave and even managed photos of baked alaska without the ice cream melting!!!!  I was very proud.  My cat Muffy took great interest in all the excitement and was useful at prop selection - although after a while she lost interest and just went to sleep in the props!  The picture shows the chocolate peanut butter pie - with a peanut biscuit crust, snickers mousse layered with peanut sponge cake with whipped cream and peanuts on top!!!  Very rich and scarily somewhat addictive!!!
I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous 2013 - fingers crossed this year will be a lovely one for us all and an improvement on 2012!