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, 30 April 2010

I am avid Twihard Fan ....I saw the last Twilight film three times in the weekend it released at the cinema (and queued for two hours to get in!!!)....I have read all the books over and over...I even have a Trollbead twilight bracelet....I am officially a VERY sad case! I was recently asked to make a Twilight Cake for a friend of a friend. It was rather short notice and I was really busy at the time, but this is what I managed to come up with - I thought the ribbon was very Culham Family crest like, I sprayed the cake with gold edible lustre spray for a vampire "twinkling skin" effect (lustre spray being my decoration of choice at present - I can't seem to get enough of it!) and topped it with an edible picture of Jacob, Bella and Edward. Edible pictures are always a good way of creating a quick cake on a theme. At some point when I have more time, I will do a proper Twilight cake - I quite like the idea of making the meadow scene complete with sugar wolves - perhaps for the release of Eclispe in July! Well see!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

I am not doing particularly well at keeping this blog up to date at the moment! I had a busy, but lovely weekend, with my friend Maren who was over visiting from Germany and have also been trying to finish writing my book (almost there now - just a big push this weekend I should hopefully be done - I have written up a third of the recipes already which is a good way through). Today I am flying to Munich for a meeting tomorrow - what a jet set life eh (although sadly I don't think visiting a compost plant will ever class as being jet set!)

Maren and I spent the weekend antique shop hunting. I found a lovely oil lamp for the hut and Maren bought this very patriotic boat for her dinning room (if you didn't know she was German, you would think Maren was English). She sent me this photo when she got back of the boat in position in her flat and I think it looks great! I can't wait to see it in person when I am next in Hamburg (NB - Notice the Laura Ashley curtains - see what I mean about being English!!!!)

It is high time that I posted a recipe on this blog so here are some pistachio crips I made this morning.

Pistachio Crisps

Makes 16

Preparation time 10 minutes, baking 10 - 15 minutes

2 large egg whites
200g caster sugar
180g ground pistachios, plus 20g for decoration
50g hard amaretti biscuits, finely crushed
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp frangelico liqeuer or amaretto
80g plain chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180F/350C and grease and line two baking trays (or line with silicon mats - I use them all the time and they were a very wise investment, particularly for merigues). Whisk the egg whites to very stiff peaks then gradually add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time until you have a glossy meringue. Add the ground pistachios, amaretti crumbs, vanilla and liqeuer to the bowl and fold in gently with a spatula. Place the mixture into a piping back and pipe 1 inch circles onto the trays leaving a gap between each as the cookies will spread during cooking. If you do not have a piping bag, use a spoon to make mounds of the cookie mixture. Bake in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes until crisp and golden, then leave to cool. Melt the dark chocolate and drizzle over the cookies with a fork, then sprinkle with the reserved chopped pistachios for decoration.

Monday, 26 April 2010

My brother has sent me the link to this cake pan from the USA. Is this not the coolest cake pan you have ever seen! It is right up there with the Baker's Edge Brownie pan which revolutionized my brownie making a few years ago. I just love the idea of a "cakewich" - you could make the largest peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever! Imagine taking a giant sandwich out of your hamper on a picnic - I am sure it would make your friends smile!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

By the looks of the large scale potato planting operation that my Mum and Mike did on Monday at their allotment, we are going to have a LOT of potatoes this year! They planted 84 rows with 60 potato plants in each row - enough potatoes to probably feed the whole village. I am not knocking it - I love free home grown food and everything that comes from their allotment is delicious - but I do think when you are using a tractor this size you can't really call it an allotment any more, more a small farm!!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

I am pleased to report that after two weeks of intense baking, I only have two recipes left to do for my Whoopie Pie book and should finish in the next few days. I have made over 350 whoopie pies - an average of 25 a day which has got to be some sort of record. Sadly I am not able to share any pictures with you just yet but I am very pleased with some of the pies - all very kitsch and OTT! Everyone has been playing their part - my brother has sent whoopie pie pans from America; my friends Lucy and David very kindly went on a research trip to Harrods to get pies from their Whoopie Pie counter, with Lucy grilling the man behind the counter about all things whoopie (I tried the Harrod's Pies with some trepidation but the overwhelming verdit from all who compared then was that mine were better - a relief I can tell you!) and the whole village has been tasting pies, although with so many pies on offer for the last two weeks, I can hear a collective groan of "No More Pies" as I go up into the village with trays of freshly baked pies!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Our little hut in place and furnished (well almost furnished - I am still trying to pursuade Sacha that bunting is needed!) As you will see, the hens have already staked their claim!
Never have six men talked for so long about where to position a shed!!!

The day has finally arrived - our shepherd's hut came about half an hour ago on a crane lorry! As I type it is being hoisted into the garden - I am holding my breath in case it falls! Will post more pics later!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

I will be talking to Hannah Murray on her radio show today at Talk Radio Europe at about 12.10 UK time to discuss all things ice cream and my new book. You can listen in on their website - link here. Wish me luck!

Monday, 12 April 2010

I thought I would introduce you to the "almost" new member of our family - Grasshopper the Rooster (so named because he has a habit of standing on one leg as if in a Jackie Chan movie ready to leap in some wild karate move). I popped into a garden centre to buy a sandwich on my way back from a work meeting and clearly I wasn't thinking straight as I left with no sandwich and this tiny little rooster in a cardboard box. He was just such a dear little tame thing, with really funny long legs and needed a home. I was sold! Sadly my enormous grey hens decided otherwise and quickly showed him the door - I now completely understand the term "hen pecked", poor little rooster. Luckily my neighbours were looking for a rooster for their two hens (theirs having sadly been snaffled by the fox) and so he has happily moved in to the farm next door. This weekend he came to visit and sat on our fence crowing away - the garden centre said they had never heard him crow so he must be settled in. Almost as good as owning him and at least now he is living with two hens who dote on him and follow him round (rather than my grumpy old hens). Being so small, his crow is more of a "Cock a dooooodle" with no "Do" at the end - imagine standing on a dog toy and the squeeky noise you get when lift you foot off it and you would be about there!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Sometimes it is just knowing the tricks of the trade that produces the best cakes. I have always been amazed by the skill in posh wedding cakes encased in tall chocolate curls until I discovered recently that you can buy the curls ready made and just have to stick them onto icing! At the same time I discovered these dear pink chocolate curls. To make these little cakes I simply baked muffins (these were cherry and sour cream but any flavour will do). When cooled, remove the cake wrapper and carefully slice off a thin layer at the top of the cupcake so that it will sit flat when you turn it upside down. Cover the inverted cake in vanilla buttercream, then roll in the pink chocolate curls and top with sugar flowers for very pretty spring time cakes! The curls are available at Make a Wish Cake Shop (click here) and come in white and caramel too - needless to say I bought every flavour they had!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

As part of my Easter afternoon tea, I served little fruit pots - in an attempt to counter the sugar content of all the cakes and at least give some semblance of heathly eating on the table! Finely chopped strawberries, kiwi and blueberries filled one topped with passion fruit and the second pots contained mango and strawberry, a drizzle of violet syrup and low fat creme fraiche. They went down very well and were so simple and quick to prepare. They would also make a lovely pre dessert as part of a dinner party to cleanse the palete!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter. This is the little Easter tree I stitched for my Mum as an Easter present - so much beading and I only just finished it in time (yesterday!). Beading on an aeroplane on my way back from Germany was never going to be a good idea - I dropped my beads all over the floor of the plane!!!! Not very impressive when I was sitting next to my boss. Anyway luckily the end result is nice even if there are a few beads missing!!!

I hope that you all have a lovely Easter Day and get to spend some quality time with friends and family. I will be in Buxton in the Peak District with my Mum and Aunt - Bakewell tarts here we come!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Apricot and Coconut Simnel Cake

Happy Easter everyone! I hope that you are all having a nice few days off work. Yesterday my Dad and Liz (and my step sister Sarah and her boyfriend Mark) came for an Easter afternoon tea. A great excuse to do lots of baking! This was my take in Simnel cake - not quite traditional with the addition of Malibu and Apricots - but tasty all the same!

Simnel Cake
Serves 10 - 12
500g mixed fruit
100g chopped dried apricots
200g glace cherries
200g soft shredded coconut or dessicated coconut
400ml malibu
225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
250g self raising flour
450g marzipan

Place the fruit, apricots, cherries and coconut in a bowl together with the malibu and leave to soak for 1 - 2 hours. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/160C/325F and grease and line an 8 inch round spring form tin. Cream together the butter and sugar then add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each egg is added. Sift in the flour and fold in gently to incorporate. Fold in the fuit mixture and soaking liquor. Scrape half the mixture into the tin, then take 1/3 of the marzipan and roll out into a circle the same size as the tin. Use a little icing sugar to dust the surface you are rolling the marzipan out on. Place the maripan into the tin and top with the remaining cake batter. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the cake is firm and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Allow the cake to cool and turn out upside down. Roll out the remaining marzipan into a circle the size of the cake, keeping the trimmings to make the balls for decoration. The underside of the cake should be sticky enough to secure the marzipan when you place it on top. If it is not, brush the cake with a little warmed apricot jam. Roll the trimmings into 11 balls to represent the 11 apostles, then place the cake under a grill for 2 - 5 minutes until the marzipan balls are golden brown, turning the cake half way through to ensure even colouring. Decorate with ribbon and Easter chicks.