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, 29 September 2009

A trip to an antique book store at the weekend provided a haul of three wonderful new cook books. I think I was feeling inspired by watching the wonderful Julie and Julia film at the cinema the other week (I left the cinema feeling very virtuous that I had managed 365 recipes in 10 weeks - rather than Julia's 541 recipes in 8 years and Julies cooking Julia's 541 recipes in a year). If you haven't seen it and love food, then you MUST go and see this film. So my new books are 1) A 1970's viennese cook book - OK the photos may be very dated but the recipe for schnitzel and cucumber salad sounds perfect and I can't wait to try it out. 2) A book from 1905 written by Mrs Peel on Puddings and Sweets - I just had to had this for her sentiment at the front of the book "There is no such thing as High Class Cooking. There is merely good cooking and bad cooking, and the former is generally the most simple". A woman after my own heart!! And finally 3) a 1950's book The Complete Patissier written by a chef who worked at the Savoy (after my cooking dessert in the Savoy kitchen I just had to have this book - despite it ridiculous price tag of £27). The other reason I couldn't leave this book behind was that Mr Kollist has a receipe for Looking Glass - Miroirs which I just have to try to see if they are fit for an Alice in Wonderland party.

Monday, 28 September 2009

I have just spent a lovely weekend in North Norfolk near Wells Next The Sea. We used to go camping here when we were children - my overriding memory of those holidays is our tent pole getting bent in a storm and me getting soaking wet when the tent collapsed. I am sure this is why I have an aversion to camping. However I do also remember spending every day in our beachhut that we had hired - having BBQs and fondues (very decadent) and building enormous sandcastles. I hadn't realized until this weekend that we lived only two hours from such wonderful golden sand beaches. Given that we have lived here 5 years this is really shocking! Anyway, now that we have discovered this fact we will definitely go back on a regular basis. Fresh seafood was the highlight of the weekend - we stayed at lovely Titchwell Manor on the edge of an RSPB reserve with a view of the sea and the bird sanctuary from our window - I don't think I have ever woken up to a nicer view. We went passed Morston Hall (home of the lovely Galton Blackiston, one of my all time favourite chefs - sadly fully booked, but next time!!!) and flew a kite on the beach at Wells. I think the beachuts are just as lovely as Southwold (if a little more higgledy piggledy all on different height stilts) and the beach is enormous with sail boats on the sea. I definitely recommend a visit of you are in the area. Hope you all had a lovely weekend xxx

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sacha requested peanut cookies this week, so I had a little experiment. They were quite different with the cornflake crunchy bits and very morish

Peanut Cookies
Preparation time 15 minutes Cooking time 12 -15 minutes
Makes 15

115g/4oz butter, softened plus extra for greasing
115g/4oz light brown sugar
1 heaped tbsp peanut butter
1 egg yolk
100g/3½oz plain flour, sifted
60g/2oz peanuts
1tsp baking powder
100g/3½oz dark chocolate, chopped
55g/2oz cornflakes

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190°C/375°F and grease and line two baking trays. Using a mixer or whisk, mix together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and egg yolk until light and creamy. Add the flour,peanuts and baking powder and whisk again. Add the chocolate and cornflakes and bring the dough together with your hands. Pull off 15 small balls the size of walnuts and place on the baking trays with a gap between each cookie. Press each cookie down with your fingers. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes until the cookies are golden brown.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Crabapple and Rose Jelly
Makes 4 jars
450g/1 lb rosehips
900g/2lb crabapples, quartered (no need to peel)
juice of 1 large lemon
800g/1 3/4 lb preserving sugar
1 tsp rosewater

Place the rosehips in a jam pan or large saucepan and cover with 2 litres of water. Simmer for 30 minutes and then add the crabapple quarters and lemon and simmer until the apple is pulpy, adding a little more water if necessary. Spoon the mixture into a jellybag and leave to strain (mine took about 3 hours). Return the liquid to the pan (you should have about 1 1/2 litres of liquid) and add the sugar. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved and then boil until the setting point is reached. To test for set put a saucer in the freezer until very cold then drop a few drops of jelly onto the saucer. If the top wrinkles when you push with your finger the setting point is reached. Stir in the rosewater and then pour into sterilized jam jars and seal. This is lovely on toast or with lamb. Jelly should be of a softer consistency than jam and have a perfect wobble!

Monday, 21 September 2009

The sunshine this weekend was glorious and we had what I am sure will be our last lunch of the year in the garden yesterday - lots of smoked and cured fish with watercress salad and German dill mustard sauce. It was a really nice lunch if I say so myself! We also spent a lot of time harvesting from the hedgerows. I have to admit it felt slight odd that it was so hot and we were picking blackberries - normally I am in a winter coat when I do this but I am definitely not complaining!!! We collected Blackberries, Damsons, Rosehips, Sloes and Crabapples by the basket load. All free and all delicious. I spent a lot of time yesterday cooking as you can imagine - Damson and Blackberry Hazelnut crumble, Blackberry and chilli vinegar, Rosehip and crabapple jelly, pickled crabapples to have with cold meat in winter and Damson jam. I froze the sloes so that they are ready to make sloe gin (giving them the "first frost" they need) and also the blackberries so we can have crumbles and pies over the coming months. If you haven't been out picking yet, I definitely recommend it - the trees and bushes are laden this year!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

A girl after my own heart - Peapod snuggled in my favourite quilt this morning. How I wish it was me and that I could curl up rather than work today!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A few of you have asked for the recipe for the Very Almondy Almond Cake from Jess' Mother in Law's birthday cake. The cake uses Almond butter which is available in some supermarkets and in health food shops. I love nut butters and use them in buttercream for fondant fancies. You can make your own nut butters by lightly roasting nuts (skins removed) and then blending in a grinder with some flavourless oil and a tbsp of icing sugar to sweeten. Think almond flavoured peanut butter and you will be about there! Just delicious! To ice this cake, add a heaped tablespoon of the almond butter to a classic vanilla butter cream to give a buttery almond flavour.

Very Almondy Almond Cake
225g/8oz butter
225g/8oz caster sugar
1 heaped tbsp almond butter
4 large eggs
175g/6oz self raising flour, sifted
85g/3oz ground almonds
60g/2oz toasted flaked almonds
1 tsp almond essence
200ml buttermilk
4 tbsp Amaretto liquor

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F and grease and line two 8inch sandwich pans. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, almond butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each egg is added. If the mixture starts to curdle add a spoonful of flour. Add the flour, ground and flaked almonds, almond essence and buttermilk and fold through gentle until all the flour is incorporated. Divide between the cake tins and bake for approximately 25 minutes until the cakes are golden, spring back when you press the center with your finger and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Heat the Amaretto liquor in a saucepan for 1 minute then drizzle over the cakes and allow to cool. Fill the cake with almond butter cream.

Monday, 14 September 2009

After a lovely ladies lunch over in Suffolk on Thursday (My popping candy pannecotte sundae went down very well!) I came back to judge the Sharnbrook village show confectionery class at Saturday. It is always so much fun and Caroline, my steward, always makes me feel so welcome. After an hour and a half of tasting I was completely full! My favourites this year were an apple and strawberry jelly that had the perfect wobble and I would love to have taken home to spread on my toast and some crisp ginger biscuits - I wonder if the entrant noticed that 1 1/2 of their biscuits were gone - they were do delicious that Caroline and I couldn't stop munching them! These were the yummy chocolate brownies, Victoria sponges and jars of jelly that I tried!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

I am off to Suffolk today as tomorrow I am hosting a ladies lunch at the Bildeston Crown. I am preparing the dessert for the lunch and am looking forward to getting into the kitchen again under the watchful eye of head chef Chris. We are serving the panne cotte popping candy sundae from my Sundae and Split book and I am looking forward to seeing what reaction it gets! Details of the event are here if you are in the area and interested in a yummy lunch

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

My second book is out on Amazon for pre order - such a long time until it is out (April 2010) and no picture yet - but very please to now have two books available to order on Amazon!!!

Monday, 7 September 2009

This weekend, I helped my friend Jess make a cake for her Mother in Law's birthday. We were pleased with the result - very flowery and pink! We got round the fire risk hazard of the ribbons and flowers catching fire on the cake by putting the candles in a separate pot of flowers which made a really nice table display. The cake itself was almondy - with ground almonds, flaked almonds, almond butter and buttermilk, doused in Amaretto and covered in almond buttercream!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

This weekend has largely been a wash out due to a wasp sting - oh it has been so painful and my foot swelled up to enormous proportions!!! Three whole days later and I can finally feel my foot again. Nasty wasps! I just about managed a photo shoot for Country and Town House of a prawn and squash risotto. As we were taking the photo, we were joined by a very interested peapod (obviously tempted by the prawns) who tried her hardest to snaffle one but we stopped her just in time!