IT’S been a year since she won MasterChef, but life is still throwing up surprises for Natalie Coleman.

There was the MasterChef: The Finalists cookbook, which she co-wrote with runners-up Dale Williams and Larkin Cen, some very exciting work placements in the kitchens of celebrity chefs Tom Kerridge, Michel Roux Jr. and Marcus Wareing, and the hours she passed chewing the fat with childhood hero Ade Edmondson, who won Celebrity MasterChef last year.

“Jennifer Saunders tweeted me, because I was going up to the BBC Good Food Show and [her husband] Ade was going to be there,” recalls Coleman, laughing as she admits she “screamed” with joy when Saunders followed her on Twitter.

“I spent a whole day with Ade. We were just geeking off about cooking and talking about recipes and gadgets. That was crazy,” she adds.

She received another ‘pinch-me’ moment a few days after scooping the coveted MasterChef winner title.

“I had a tweet from Nigella,” says the 31-year-old former credit controller, referring to her long-time food idol, Nigella Lawson.

“It was something like, ‘Just back from Brazil... OMG so happy my girl Natalie Coleman won’. It was about 11 o’clock at night on a Friday... well, I called everyone, didn’t I? I was like, ‘Nigella tweeted me!’ I was so happy,” recalls the foodie, who was born and bred in East London.

The thought of her new cookbook Winning Recipes For Every Day sitting on shelves alongside the Smiths, Olivers and Lawsons is mind-bending for Coleman.

“It’s mad really, isn’t it? Even looking at the copies [of my book], it doesn’t feel like it’s all real yet,” she says.

If you fancy trying Coleman’s culinary delights, here are two recipes from her new book.

Spanish Chorizo and Chickpea Stew (Serves 6)

2tbsp olive oil, plus extra
1 large onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1cm chunks
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into 1cm chunks
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
2 bay leaves
250g cooking chorizo, skin removed and cut into 1cm slices
1/2tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp smoked paprika
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin of cherry tomatoes
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
200ml chicken stock
3tbsp finely chopped parsley
200g spinach
2tbsp sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
Crusty bread, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large pot (with a lid) over a medium heat and gently fry the onion for three to four minutes until softened, then add the red and yellow peppers and cook for a further five minutes until softened. Do not let them brown.

Add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for a further minute, stirring frequently, then add the chorizo and cook for another five minutes, continuing to stir so the garlic doesn’t burn or catch on the bottom of the pan. After five minutes, add the cayenne pepper and paprika, stir so everything is mixed well, and cook for two minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook for three minutes, then add both the tinned cherry tomatoes and chopped tomatoes and cook for two minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat by half and cook with the lid on for 45 minutes.

Then remove the lid from the pan and cook for a further 45 minutes without the lid, so the stew thickens. Stir regularly so it doesn’t stick or burn.

After this time, add the parsley and cook for two minutes. Add the spinach, put the lid on and cook for two to three minutes until wilted, then give it a good stir. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the sherry vinegar. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve with crusty bread.

Butternut Squash Mascapone Tart (Serves 6-8)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-2cm chunks (chopped weight 650g)
Leaves from 1 rosemary sprig
1tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
25g butter
1 1/2 large red onions, sliced
1tbsp caster sugar
4-5tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 x 375g sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
2tbsp pine nuts
4-5tbsp mascarpone cheese
1 red chilli, finely sliced, or 1/2tsp dried chilli flakes
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
Handful of rocket leaves
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas mark 7.

Place the butternut squash in a baking tray and sprinkle with the rosemary leaves. Drizzle with a good glug of olive oil and season with salt. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the butternut squash is tender.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan set on a low heat, warm the tablespoon of olive oil and melt the butter. Add the onions, sugar and four tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and season well with salt and pepper. Cook gently for 20 to 25 minutes until the onions are softened and caramelised.

Just before the butternut squash and onions are ready, unroll the pastry onto a large baking sheet and score a border around the pastry, about 1.5cm from the edge, like a picture frame. Using a fork, prick all over the pastry inside the ‘frame’.

When the squash and onions are ready, remove the onions from the pan using a slotted spoon to ensure that any excess oil is left behind. Spread the onions evenly over the centre of the pastry (staying within the border), scatter with the squash, sprinkle on the pine nuts and dollop the mascarpone on top.

Season with a little more salt and a good grinding of pepper. Sprinkle with the chopped red chilli or chilli flakes, if using. Brush the border with beaten egg. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Garnish with rocket leaves.

  • Winning Recipes For Every Day by Natalie Coleman £20