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

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Just wanted to wish you all a very Happy New Year 2010. As you read this I will be in New York, attending my brother's wedding and depending on how brave we are, possibly visiting Times Square for New Years Eve (I am not convinced of this later idea). I will post about my brother's wedding on my return - it is sure to be a mad affair - they are getting married in a place called the Monkey House, being legally married by ME, with a camp fortune telling genie, a singing dwarf, snowball flight, midnight film showing with popcorn, coke float bar etc etc. It is going to be a wedding like no other. Happy Days Gareth and Amy xxx

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

With all this chilly weather there is nothing I like more than slow roasted food. Red cabbage is one of those dishes that improves the longer you cook it. Delicious with this slices of roast pork and baked savoury apples.

Cranberry Cabbage
Served 8 - 10

1 small red cabbage, finely chopped
4 small apples, peeled cored and sliced
2 small onions, finely sliced
2 handfuls of fresh cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground allspice
250ml red wine
100ml sherry
3 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
100g caster sugar
60g butter, cubed

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 2. In a large casserole dish, layer the cabbage, apples, onions and cranberries so that they are evenly distributed. Add the cinnamon, spices, wine, sherry, vinegar and sugar and stir well. Place the cubes of butter on top of the dish, cover and bake for 2 - 3 hours until the cabbage is soft. This cabbage freezes well.

Monday, 28 December 2009

This is a really lovely wintery ice cream. We served it with our Christmas pudding but it would go equally well with a bread and butter pudding. 2010 is going to be my year for ice cream!

Brown Bread and Amaretto Ice Cream

Makes approx 600ml

5 egg yollks
100g caster sugar plus 2 heaped tbsp caster sugar
400ml double cream
200ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod
60g sultanas
200ml Amaretto
5 slices brown bread
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Whisk together the egg yolks and 100g caster sugar until light and very creamy. In a large heavy based saucepan, heat the cream, milk and vanilla and bring to the boil. Pour the hot cream over the whipped egg yolks and whisk again. Return to the pan for 2 - 3 minutes to thicken. Leave to cool completely then add half the Amaretto. Blitz the bread in a food processor to fine bread crumbs. Place the crumbs in a large saute pan and toast with the cinnamon and remaining 2 tbsp caster sugar until the bread is crispy, taking care that it does not burn. Heat the sultanas in a saucepan with the remaining Amaretto until the sultanas are plump and the alcohol has evaporated. All the crumbs and sultanas to cool completely. Churn the ice cream base in an ice cream maker until almost frozen and then add the sultanas and toasted crumbs. Churn until frozen and then store in the freezer until you are ready to eat.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

In addition to cooking Christmas lunch on Thursday I just about managed to rustle up a birthday cake for lovely Joy in our village who was celebrating her 70th birthday. I know this is similar to cakes you have seen on this blog before but just thought that I would share the pictures with you for a change from all the Christmas festivities around at the moment. I love the dainty yellow birds and the floppy pink bow!

Friday, 25 December 2009

As readers of this blog will know, every Christmas I sew my Mum a sampler. I can now reveal this year's present as she has gone to bed and won't see this post until after she has unwrapped it! It contains lots of my favourite drawn thread work and if you click on the picture you can see a close up. I have to admit that when I collected it from the framers I was very tempted to keep it for myself as I am sure it would look lovely in my cottage - but I know my Mum will like it as much as I do so it will be going to a good home - Happy Christmas Mum xxx

Thursday, 24 December 2009

In a very European fashion, we have just finished our Christmas dinner - even though it is Christmas eve. We were joined by my Aunt and Uncle who are tomorrow morning flying to New York for my brother's wedding in a few days time - I am flying out on Boxing Day (I am so not prepared and am now legally registered to conduct the wedding ceremony so need to get practising my wedding vows!!!!). We just ate for 3 hours - I am not sure whether that is something we should admit to and we are all feeing very full. A trio starter of crab and smoked salmon gateau, prawn cocktail and bloody mary cocktail made by my Aunt (see picture below), Roast turkey with all the trimmings (7 different vegetables which is a personal record), Clementine sorbet (very refreshing and I will post the recipe soon) and Christmas Pudding made by my Mum served with my brown bread amaretto ice cream, mince pies, mulled wine, raspberry cocktails - I feel ashamed just writing it all down! My Aga went on strike after all the cooking and turned itself off in protest this evening - thankfully it is now alight again - otherwise Christmas lunch tomorrow would have been a sad microwave affair. So now to bed with the wrapping of presents all finished - ready for tomorrow morning. I hope that you and all your families have a wonderful Christmas and that wherever you are celebrating you have a peaceful and happy day together xxx

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Gold (no Frankincense and Myrrh!) Cookies
Preparation time 15 minutes Cooking time 12 -15 minutes
Makes 15

115g/4oz butter, softened plus extra for greasing
115g/4oz caster sugar
1 egg yolk
100g/3½oz plain flour, sifted
30g/1oz cocoa
1tsp baking powder
200g/7oz white chocolate, chopped
55g/2oz hard amaretti biscuits, crushed
Gold edible glitter for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190/375C and grease and line two baking trays. Using a mixer cream together the butter sugar and egg yolk until light and creamy. Add the flour, cocoa and baking powder and whisk again. Add the white chocolate and crushed amaretti biscuits and bring the dough together with your hands adding a little milk if too dry.

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. Transfer to a rack to cool using a spatula, then sprinkle with edible glitter.

Christmas puddings are a great tradition in our family. We have made them using the same recipe since I can remember, stirring them up in an old crock pot that used to belong to my great grandma - everyone stirring three times and making a wish - with a few silver sixpences thrown in for good measure. Here are our puddings this year! I have posted the recipe before but in case you have some spare time this week and want to make your own puddings you need to get started now so that they have plenty of time to steam before the big day

Great Grandma’s Christmas Pudding Recipe

Preparation time 30 minutes, plus stirring and steaming, Makes 2 puddings

½ lb/225g suet (vegetarian suet for those who prefer it)

½ lb/225g currants

½ lb/225g granulated sugar

½ lb/225g sultanas

¾lb/340g raisins

3oz/85g breadcrumbs

5oz/140g self raising flour

1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and grated

1 large carrot, peeled and grated

3 large eggs

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon

A good rub of grated nutmeg

½ tsp mixed spice

A pinch of salt

½ pint/300ml Guinness or other strong beer

2 tbsp brandy

Mixing the pudding is best done in a very large bowl. Something like a jam pan would be ideal as you need plenty of room to stir everything in. Place all the ingredients in the bowl and mix, making sure that everyone in the house has a stir and makes a wish. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop.

Spoon the mixture into two pudding basins and cover the top with a double layer of greaseproof paper and foil, folded tightly to seal. Tie string round the top rim of the basin and over the top to make a handle so that the pudding can be lifted out of the pan easily.

The puddings will need to be boiled for at least 7 hours each but this can be done in stages, whenever you have time. Just keep the pudding in the fridge in between cooking sessions. Place the pudding in a saucepan quarter filled with water or in a sealed steamer above a pan of water. Remember to put your kitchen timer on to remind you to check the level of water in the pan every half hour so that the water doesn’t run out and the pudding burn as this would be a waste of all your hard work. The pudding should be a dark brown colour when cooked.

The puddings will keep for at least a year in a fridge so you can save one for next year. When you are ready to eat the pudding, heat in a pan of water (as above) for an hour to ensure that the pudding is warmed through. To serve, remove the greaseproof paper and foil cover and slide a knife around the edge of the bowl. Place a plate on top of the bowl and invert holding both the plate and the bowl tightly. Decorate the pudding with a sprig of holly. To flambé, heat 1 tbsp of brandy in an old spoon over a flame. It will ignite so be ready to quickly tip over the pudding when it does and rush to the table so that your guests will see. Serve with brandy butter and brandy sauce!

Friday, 18 December 2009

It's snowing here (the first picture was taken just a few minutes ago in our garden) - it is just so pretty and Christmassy! My car got stuck in the lane and I had to be dug out by a very kind neighbour. So now our cars are parked up in the village so that we do not get stranded like last February. There is nothing for it but to sit by the log fire, drinking tea and wrapping Christmas presents! Heaven!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The lovely people at Abel and Cole have sent me some fantastic goodies from their website to try. They are too kind. As well as some delicious fresh fish (I will post some recipes for the fish soon) they also sent me some salsify. It is one of my favourite vegetables! Now I will forgive you if you have not come across salsify before as it is not commonly available here in the UK (well at least not where I live) and I was so pleased to find that Abel and Cole sell it and deliver it to your door. Salsify looks like tree roots but can be easily peeled with a swivel potato peeler revealing its white root flesh. It has an almost celeriac taste and is lovely roasted or made into puree. Today I made some delicious soup for a lunch meeting with my salsify, inspired by a soup my friend Maren had eaten in Germany. The sweet pear and smokiness of the salmon are a perfect accompaniment to the salsify. If you want to order some salsify from Abel and Cole, click here for a link to all their lovely goodies.

Pear and Salsify Soup with smoked salmon
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
400g salsify, peeled and chopped
3 ripe pears, cored peeled and chopped
2 tbsp sweet sherry
1 litre vegetable stock
200ml milk
salt and pepper to season
200g smoked salmon, cut into thin strips
Creme fraiche or double cream to serve

In a large saucepan melt the butter and add the onions, salsify and pears to the pan and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until the onions and salsify turn a golden brown (but take care not to burn them) Add the sherry and cook for a few minutes then pour the stock into the pan and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes until the salsify is soft. Blitz with a hand blender to a smooth puree and add the milk. Pour the warm soup into bowls and top with strips of smoked salmon and a drizzle of cream or spoon of creme fraiche. A sprinkle of fresh chives would be lovely too (sadly I had none today!)

Monday, 14 December 2009

I have just spent a heavenly weekend in Hamburg at the Christmas markets - Gluhwien, roasted chestnuts, crispy belly pork, caramalised almonds - we ate so many delicious things! The pictures don't do it justice as the whole area was just so Christmassy! Yesterday Maren bought her Christmas tree - 3m10cm high - it was enormous and nearly reached the ceiling in her apartment. It took three of us to carry it up three flights of stairs. On returning to the UK my tree looks very little in comparison. Luckily it is now decked with my latest Christmas decoration from the Hamburg market - a sweet gingerbread cottage complete with wooden mushroom and logs. Just too cute for words. Thanks Maren for a wonderful Christmas weekend.

Friday, 11 December 2009

If you can forgive the rather bright colours (I would definitely tone down the food colouring a little the next time I make this! American food colour paste are very strong!!!!) this is a rather refreshing dessert I made for Supper with Kathy Brown last week - affectionately dubbed the "Meringarita" by Kathy's son Jonathan of Aroundbritainwithapaunch. A crisp meringue shell filled with lime and tequila mousse and topped with lemon curd cream. We really enjoyed this!

Serves 8 - 10

4 large eggs whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
250g/9oz caster sugar
1tbsp powdered gelatine
750 double cream
200g/7oz cream cheese
Juice and zest of 5 limes
Juice of 1 small orange
3 tbsp tequila
3 tbsp good quality lemon curd
a few drop of green and yellow food colouring (not too much!)
white chocolate curls

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/160°C/325°F and grease an 8in round spring form tin with a little butter. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then add the cream of tartar, whisking again. Add the caster sugar a little at a time whisking to form a glossy meringue. Pour the meringue into the cake tin, making a well in the center and the sides higher so that it will contain your lemon filling when cooked. Bake for 1 – 1 ½ hours until the meringue is crisp. Allow to cool in the tin. When the meringue has cooled, place 400ml of double cream, the cream cheese lime juice and zest, orange juice, a few drops of green food colouring and the tequila in a blender and blitz until smooth. Quarter fill a small saucepan with water and heat gently. When the water is simmering, mix the gelatine and 2 tablespoons of cold water together in a mug and place the mug into the sauce pan to gently heat the gelatine. Stir the gelatine until it dissolves but do not overheat otherwise it will loose its setting quality. Whisk into the lime mousse mixture and then pour into the meringue shell. Whisk the remaining 350ml of cream to stiff peaks and then fold in the lemon curd and a few drop of yellow food colouring if you wish. Pipe into small stars on top of the lime mousse and leave in the fridge to set for 2 – 3 hours. Dust with edible glitter and white chocolate curls for a sparkly dessert!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Our tree and my super easy swag over the fireplace (with Christmas decorations hung on a string of dried hips). I really like my new felt toadstool Christmas decoration and have also wound tiny floristry toadstool decorations onto some of the branches of the
tree - they look very cute!

Monday, 7 December 2009

I love Christmas - it is my favourite time of year and this weekend I finally feel like Christmas has begun in our cottage, with the tree up and the house decorated. Being busy I have ordered a lot of presents on line and so every day parcels are arriving. This morning I had a nice surprise though when I parcel arrived for me that I hadn't ordered. Christmas cookies and a chocolate hamper from my friend Victoria. The cookies are totally me and so cute (the reindeer is my favourite) - I just can't believe how well they travelled as I would never dare to post biscuits. Needless to say I have already tried one and they are delicious. The chocolate hamper is full of lovely goodies too - mint chocolate, chocolate covered mango, cocoa and a delicious swizzle stick for making hot chocolate. I will have to bake some chocolate treats soon with the contents of my hamper and will post the recipe for you! Thank you Victoria xxx I know that some of you will love these as much as I do and so, if you are interested in sending them yourself they are available from Interflora! (actually having had a look they have lots and lots of lovely hampers - for a link to the full range of Christmas hampers click here)
It is so long since I last posted that you must be wondering if I ever made it back from Birmingham. I did but a work trip to Germany and a really bad cold have kept me away from my computer. The Good Food Show was amazing fun. The demos went well - I had a moment when I was trying to roll my roulade from the paper onto a serving plate when a little voice in my head said "remind me again why you are demonstrating a roulade when they always crack" but luck was on my side and it turned out beautifully. There was a strong breeze across the stage and every time I sifted icing sugar there was a large plume of white dust - the same with the edible glitter - but I am sure it all added to the effect! I had a whole two pages in the show brochure with my recipes for Toblerone Tiramisu, Chestnut Roulade and Coconut Cream Cloud Cake which were my demonstration recipes along with tropical mincemeat. After my demonstrations I then appeared on the Masterchef stage, mentoring the invention test which members of the public were taking part in. I found a new level of appreciate for John and Gregg as we were served quite a few plates of raw chicken to taste - uuuggggghhh! But overall the standard was really good and it brought back so many fun memories of the show. I was working with Thomasina Myers and Nadia Sawalha but of whom were lovely and a real inspiration. At the end of day two I found myself in a Masterclass making trifle sharing a bench with (and competing against) Derek Johnstone who won professional Masterchef last year and is now working at La Gavroche (my custard was definitely the best!) .