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Britain's Best Home Cook winner Suzie Arbuthnot says inspirational mum would be proud

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Suzie Arbuthnot on BBC One’s Best Home Cook

Suzie Arbuthnot on BBC One’s Best Home Cook

BBC/Keo Films/Mark Johnson

BBC Best Home Cook winner Suzie Arbuthnot holding a raspberry and white chocolate pavlova

BBC Best Home Cook winner Suzie Arbuthnot holding a raspberry and white chocolate pavlova

Suzie Arbuthnot on BBC One’s Best Home Cook

A Northern Ireland woman crowned the winner of Britain's Best Home Cook has said her late mother would be "really proud".

Lisburn accountant Suzie Arbuthnot (36) was handed the title by judges Mary Berry, Chris Bavin and Angela Hartnett, who were won over by her ultimate three-course dinner party.

It was the culmination of eight gruelling weeks when Suzie faced stiff competition from the nine other contestants.

The mother-of-two was the only Northern Ireland contestant this series as the BBC One show, hosted by Claudia Winkleman, put 10 of the UK's best home cooks through their paces.

Over previous weeks Suzie's culinary abilities made her a firm favourite with the judges and earned her a place in the all-female finale, going head-to-head with professional model Georgia Salama (24) from London.

Her winning menu consisted of a beetroot and goat cheese tart, followed by herb roasted chicken with spring greens and celeriac and potato dauphinoise. Her third course was sticky toffee cake with cream cheese frosting and toasted almonds.

Ahead of the final, Suzie threw open the doors of her home and treated guests to her Pie Week winner, steak and stout with colcannon and broccoli almondine - which impressed acclaimed chef and guest judge, Tom Kerridge - and her spectacular raspberry and white chocolate pavlova.

"For the final I went for the traditional option of what I would feed my own family with really hearty food and earthy Northern Irish flavours," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I wanted to be true to myself and make what my family love.

"I did have a meltdown at one point and Claudia literally had to shake me, tell me to breathe and that I could do it.

"When I heard the final result I was just as stunned as when I first learned I had earned a spot on the show."

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Suzie on Best Home Cook

Suzie on Best Home Cook

Suzie on Best Home Cook

A former student of Wallace High School in Lisburn, Suzie is married to Steven, a psychology teacher at Omagh Academy and has two young children - Zander (5) and Odelia (2).

Suzie, who juggles looking after her children with running her accountancy firm from home and exercising in her spare time, is no stranger to fine food as her family run the popular Man Lee Chinese takeaway in Lisburn.

The Queen's University graduate, who also plays hockey for Lisnagarvey Hockey Club and sings with Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir, was encouraged by a friend to put herself forward for the show, having previously almost made it onto The Great British Bake Off.

Suzie's most daunting task came in week five when her ultimate curry challenge, replicating her mum's recipe, didn't meet with the judges' approval.

"It was hugely emotional trying to respect your mother's recipe and then failing," she said.

Suzie's mum passed away on February 8, 2000, aged 43, while on a flight from Hong Kong.

"She has single-handedly been my inspiration for cooking and taught me all the basics," she added.

"At the time of her death I had filled in application forms for two cookery schools in London for after my GCSEs but then everything fell apart.

"I felt that I was held back a bit as I had to take on her role of looking after my family.

"It was tough but I have always pushed myself because mum taught me to never give up on anything and that if you want to do something, do it to the best of your ability.

"I think she would be really proud of all that has happened since."

But Suzie's new found fame has come at a price, as she has had to deal with social media trolls.

She said: "There are some really nasty people out there who don't even know me or my background but just want to judge."

Despite this, Suzie has been humbled by the encouragement and support of her family and friends over recent weeks, who joined her for a screening of the final episode in Lisnagarvey Hockey Club.

"At the end of the day I'm just a mum and a wife who loves to bake and cook for my friends and family," she added. "I just wanted to give the show a go and luckily I met some lovely, talented people along the way.

"I never for one second believed I could win and it has been an amazing and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"The judges were all wonderful and made the experience really memorable.

"They provided us with really helpful tips along the way while Claudia was a brilliant support throughout."

Following her success, Suzie joked that she is planning to "start small" and hoping to launch her own cookbook, alongside running some cookery courses in conjunction with James Street South, Belfast.

Suzie Arbuthnot’s steak and stout pie

SERVES 6-8

Ingredients:

For the pie base and lid

350g shortcrust pastry, for base

350g puff pastry, for lid

Plain flour, for dusting

1 free-range egg, beaten, to glaze

For the pie filling

3–4 tbsp vegetable oil

900g rump steak, bite-sized chunks

2 large brown onions, chopped

2 large celery sticks, chopped

6 large garlic cloves, chopped

3 tbsp plain flour

1 fresh thyme sprig

2 bay leaves

300ml chicken stock

500ml Irish stout

150g button mushrooms, kept whole

2 large carrots, cut into chunks

Salt and ground black pepper

Method

Transfer the shortcrust pastry and line the base and sides of the pie dish, leaving a small overhang at the top to seal the lid. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3.

For the filling, heat the oil in a large oven-proof casserole over a high heat. Season the beef and sear in batches, until evenly browned. Transfer to a plate. Reduce heat, add a drizzle of oil if necessary. Soften the onions, celery and garlic for 8–10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the beef and meat juices back to the pan and stir in the flour. Add the thyme, bay leaves and stock.

Pour in the stout, add the mushrooms and carrots. Season and bring to the boil. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2–2½ hours until tender. Remove from the oven.

Check the seasoning. Discard the bay leaves and thyme twigs. Set aside to cool. Once cool, transfer into the pastry-lined pie dish and add enough sauce to just cover. Pass any leftover sauce through a sieve and set aside to use as gravy.

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7 and preheat a large baking tray. For the pastry lid, brush a little beaten egg around the lip of the shortcrust and place the puff pastry on top. Press together to seal, trim excess and crimp the edges. Cut a small cross in the centre of the pastry lid to allow steam to escape. Use the trimmings to make decorations and a little beaten egg or water to secure them to the pie. Brush the pie with the remaining egg.

Place the pie on the preheated baking tray and bake for 30–35 minutes until crisp and golden. Reheat the gravy and serve with the pie.

Belfast Telegraph