Banana Tea Bread (or Banana and Walnut Loaf) – One New Recipe a Week

With only 2 out of the 3 members of our household eating bananas, we regularly end up some weeks with some pretty sorry-looking speckled black-skinned bananas. Hating the idea of chucking them in the bin, over the last year i’ve regularly made banana-related muffins and cakes (a favourite being Nigel Slater’s Black Banana Cake).

I know there are a million different versions of banana bread but i didn’t fancy making it with chocolate and i’ve never actually made one with walnuts so i turned to the Baking Bible – ie: the Be Ro Home Recipes book which has a recipe for Banana Tea Bread (or Banana and Walnut loaf). I picked up the 40th edition last year but the 41st edition is the most recent release and it’s available on Amazon too, which is chock-full of basic and traditional cakes and pastries but just can’t be beat. I’ve made a few things out of here which have all been excellent. This was my first attempt at baking with my new oven so had to adjust a bit (and covered the loaf for the last 15 mins or so baking time so as not to overcook the top) but am really pleased – it’s delicious (and made great use of a handful of manky bananas).

Banana Tea Bread

225g (8ox) Be-Ro Self Raising Flour
1/4 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
pinch Salt
75g (3oz) butter (i used Bertolli butter-like spread)
175g (6oz) caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
450g (1lb) bananas, weighed with skin, peeled, mashed (i had just under this – about 4 large bananas)
100g (4oz) walnuts, chopped

1) Heat Oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line the base of a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin
2) Mix together flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt
3) Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, add the eggs a little at a time alternately with the flour.
4) Stir in the bananas and walnuts and place in prepared tin. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours. (i checked after an hour and turned the heat down to 160C for the last 15mins- i have a fan oven – and covered the top of the loaf with parchment so it didn’t burn).
5) Cool on a wire rack

 

Advertisements

Oaty Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble – One new recipe a week

It was Fathers Day in the UK yesterday so i’d planned to use the Rhubarb from Father-in-laws’ garden plus some i’d picked up from the supermarket to do a crumble. I’ve made crumbles before and love them, so had planned to try a new Nigella Lawson recipe which is in her book Feast but, thanks to TheYoungLady having a protracted tantrum which meant i didn’t start preparing the rhubarb until over an hour later than planned, so reverted back to a Delia Smith recipe i’ve made before. I know – so, not strictly one new recipe this week but it was the most successful crumble i think i’ve ever made (of the handful i’ve done!) and i was really pleased with it. TheYoungLady helped make the crumble mix and even ate some too (though decided she didn’t like the custard…what?). If you’ve never come across Delia Smith before, she is basically your mum, but with every recipe under the sun. Her cooking is pretty failsafe, not overly complicated and accessible. My mum bought me the Complete Cookery Course when i went away to University. I never used it then of course but find myself going back to it regularly (even for basic things like white sauce) now all the time.

Recipe for Basic Crumble Topping and Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble taken from Delia Smith’s classic Complete Cookery Course (Classic edition). I used the topping variation with oats but have included the basic and variations here. Serve with your choice of custard, ice cream, yoghurt etc (we went with custard this time). After baking, i left mine in the top oven for the afternoon and the crumble topping settled to a lovely oaty, crisp crust. Delicious. My comments in italics.

Basic Crumble Topping (Serves 6 people – ahemor fewer people who just happen to love crumble)

8oz plain or wholewheat flour (225g)
3oz butter (75g) at room temperature – i used half fat butter-like spread (Flora)
3-4oz soft brown sugar (75-110g), according to taste – i used 2oz soft brown sugar and 2oz demerera

Pre-hear the oven to gas mark 4, 350F (180C).
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, then add the butter and rub it into the flour lightly, using your fingertips. Then when it all lookscrumbly and the fat has been dispersed firly evenly, add the sugar and combine that well with the rest. (i combined it all at the same time but thats because i don’t read recipes properly)
Now sprinkle the crumble mixture all over the fruit in a pie-dish or shallow gratin dish, spreading it out with a fork. Place the crumble on a high shelf in the oven and bake it for 30-40 minutes or until the top is tinged with brown.

Variations on the crumble topping
1) Instead of all flour use 4oz (110g) wholewheat flour and 4oz (110g) jumbo or porridge oats (i used half plain flour and half porridge oats).
2) Instead of all flour use 4oz (110g) wholewhat flour and 4oz (110g) unsweetened muesli
3) For a nut crumble topping, use 6oz (175g) wholewheat flour and 3oz (75g) chopped nuts. You will need to use only 3oz (75g) of soft brown sugar with the 3oz (75g) of butter.

Rhubarb and ginger crumble
Use 2lb (900g) rhubarb (i had about 800g and added an apple and a half to get up to 900g), 3oz (75g) soft brown sugar and 1 level teaspoon ground ginger.
Cut the rhubarb into chunks, then place in a saucepan together with the sugar and the ginger. Cook over a gentle heat (covered) for about 15 minutes (mine was done in a about 8 minutes but i was on a high heat – duh!) stirring to get the uncooked pieces at the top down into the heat. Try not to overcook it though – it should be chuncky, not mushy. When it’s cooked, drain off about half the juice (i kept this syrup – well what was left after daughter kept eating it – to drizzle over yoghurt) then transfer the fruit to a pie-dish, sprinkle with a crumble topping and bake for 30-40 minutes.

The chocolate chilli cake volcanic eruption – One new recipe a week

So, with the prospect of the French Open Mens tennis final and footy in the form of the European Championships taking up most of my Sunday, i made the most of my OH taking TheYoungLady swimming to bake a cake – for sustainance during all this sport-watching obviously!

It had been some time since i’d baked just by myself and i’d forgotten how much i enjoyed it. Whilst i love baking with my daughter, it can be less than relaxing at times and i decided i needed to bake solitary. I have some rhubarb (from father in law’s garden) so a crumble is on the cards but i fancied chocolate and thought i’d dip into a book i haven’t yet cooked from. Viewers in the UK will be aware of the TV amateur baking competition phenomenon that is The Great British Bake Off and the firm guidance of renowned cookery writer and baker, Mary Berry and Master Baker Paul Hollywood. The book i have (The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake – recipes by Linda Collister) is from the second series and does include some scary technical challenges but also some great ideas for baking with kids and baked goods that aren’t too complicated (ahem – see below).I however made a couple of mistakes which proved to be quite dramatic.

Chocolate Chilli Cake (described as ‘A plain and fairly simple chocolate loaf cake..with a kick)

Makes 1 large loaf cake

250ml semi-skimmed or full-fat milk
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) broken up
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
250g plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g unsalted butter, softened
300g light brown muscovado sugar (i just used normal light brown sugar)
1 tablespoon black treacle
3 large free-range eggs at room temperature
cocoa powder or icing sugar, for dusting

1 900g loaf tin, about 26 x 12.5 x 7.5cm greased and the base lined with baking paper

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Heat the milk in a small pan until scalding hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, ginger and Tabasco (for some reason i must have misread the recipe and added the treacle here too – DON’T). Stir or whisk gently until melted and smooth. Leave to cool. Meanwhile, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Set aside until needed.

2) Put the soft butter into a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until creamy. Make sure the sugar is free of lumps then gradually beat it into the butter, followed by the treacle. Beat thoroughly for 4 to 5 minutes or until the mixture looks much paler and fluffier in texture.

3) Beat the eggs with a fork just to mix, then gradually add to the mixture, beating well after each addition. Using a large metal spoon, stir in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternately with the cold chocolate milk (Book tip – Make sure the chocolate milk is cold before mixing it into the creamed mixture or it will melt the butter). When thoroughly combined pour into the prepared tin and spread evenly.

4) Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until form and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes – the cake will shrink slightly – then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. For the best flavour, wrap the bake in foil and keep for a day before cutting. Dust with cocoa powder or icing sugar before serving.

The two mistakes i made were: putting the treacle into the chocolate milk and not cooling the chocolate milk enough. So what happened in the over was a Vesuvius-like eruption of cake mixture when in the oven:

Chocolate Chilli cake batter erupting in oven

So, i was panicking a bit at this point and was might glad i’d put the loaf tin on a huge baking tray. I was thinking i’d put too much baking powder/bicarb in, but i’d definately stuck to the recipe. It soon settled though and so ended up looking like this when cooked:

So, the bonus here (thanks to my OH:-) is that i ended up with a loaf cake plus extra bits! However, am not too despondent and have learned from my mistakes. Next time, i’ll definately make sure my chocolate milk is cool enough and not add the treacle to it. It tastes great though next time i’d also add more ground ginger and Tabasco for heat (i can’t really taste the Chilli). Next day it tasted even better, was still ridiculously moist and even my daughter wolfed a wedge of it down (she loves baking but normally doesn’t eat cake!).

 

Cheat’s Easy Onion, Tomato, Spinach and Cheese Tart – One new recipe a week

After the near-disaster of the Blueberry Muffins i decided to try and redeem myself a bit and bake something else immediately afterwards. I’d picked up some pre-made shortcrust pastry (which was reduced in the supermarket – i normally make my own and yes, home-made always tastes better but sometimes it’s just handy to have some in the fridge!) and on the back of the packet there was a recipe for an Easy Bacon, Tomato and Cheese Tart which i decided to adapt and omit the bacon and add some onion and spinach instead (both of which we have loads of at the moment). If you want to make your own pastry then an easy recipe is here on the BBC Good Food website. My comments in italics.

500g JUS-ROL shortcrust pastry (or your own-made pastry)
5-6 Spring onions (i just chopped up one normal onion and softened them in a pan)
4-5 rashers bacon chopped (i omitted this but you could also use Quorn or similar veggie bacon)
3 eggs
250ml milk (i used semi-skimmed)
seasoning
2 tomatoes
3 heaped tbsp Cheddar Cheese – grated
A few basil leaves (optional)
(i also included a couple of handfuls of spinach wilted in a pan)

Follow pastry preparation instructions. Preheat oven to 200c (180c for fan-assisted ovens)/Gas Mark 6.

1) Roll out pastry and line a 20cm flan tin (i blind baked mine for about 15 minutes or so but you don’t have to do this – my OH’s mum never does and her tarts/quiches are always excellent and not soggy at all – and i’m not just saying that:-)
2) Gently fry the bacon until just cooked and allow to cool (instead i had my chopped onion on a low heat to soften in one pan and had wilted my spinach in another and laid it on a bit of kitchen towel to saok up any excess liquid). Meanwhile beat together then eggs and milk and add seasoning.
3) Scatter the bacon in the base of the pastry case with the (spring) onions and cheese. Add tomato slices on top (i also added the spinach here) then pour in the egg mixture. (I don’t know about you but i always seem to have some mixture seep a bit through my case here and either have to do a bit of damage limitation if its over the tops by added a bit of spare pastry or mopping up any thats spilled onto the baking tray then getting it into the oven as quickly as possible! – i think i may just need a new flan tin…)
4) Bake for approx. 20 minutes until filling is set and pastry is golden. If desired, scatter with basil leaves.

Was really pleased with this (despite TYL refusing to eat any *sigh*) and it was great cold next day for lunch too.

 

 

The almost Blueberry Muffin disaster – One new recipe a week

One of the perils of baking with children is that you can be so distracted by making sure that bag of flour/box of eggs doesn’t end up on the floor or that half the batter doesn’t mysteriously disappear (into said child) while you’re back’s turned that you can make mistakes. That’s my excuse anyway and i’m sticking to it!

I have made Blueberry Muffins before with TheYoungLady but hadn’t tried this recipe (below) so it is a genuinely new recipe for me. All was going well and TYL was having great fun mixing the dry ingredients, whilst i was mixing the wet. I realised however, only as soon as the muffins that i’d forgotten to put the oil in (which i had sitting out too!) – DOH! Luckily this is a milk-based muffin recipe so it was moist enough and they still taste pretty good. They’ll taste even better next time when i remember all the ingredients…..

Recipe for Blueberry Muffins (recipe 651) from 1001 Cupcakes, Cookies and other tempting treats by Susanna Tee which was a gift a couple of Christmases ago. My comments in italics.

6 tbsp sunflower oil or 85g/3 oz butter, melted and cooled plus extra for greasing (i was just going to use Vegetable Oil, which i’ve used before in a couple of Nigella Lawson muffin recipes)
280g/10oz plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
115g/4oz soft light brown sugar
150g/5 1/2oz frozen blueberries (i used fresh)
2 eggs
250ml/9fl oz milk (i used semi-skimmed as that’s what’s always in our fridge)
1 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated rind of 1 lemon (i just added a splash of lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin (or just use paper cases). Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and blueberries.

Place the eggs in a large jug or bowl and beat lightly, then beat in the milk, oil, vanilla extract and lemon rind. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the beaten liquid ingredients. Stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until well risen, golden brown and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Life. Yoga. Walking. Reading. Buddhism. Baking. Thats all.

It’s been a funny few weeks – not funny ha ha but funny in the way that the universe reminds you of the wider world and how it still continues to kick you up the arse whether you need it or not. The last couple of weeks have included: having the winning bid for a house so we are in the throes of preparing to move after two years of wanting to; attending a funeral; the death of one of my most-loved musicians (RIP MCA) who helped shaped not only my musical education but my knowledge of wider world events and philosophies; all manner of frustrating and exhausting shite at work; doing a second freelance job in the evenings; PMT through the roof with water-weight shifting up and down by up to half a stone daily and my daughter coming down with Chicken Pox.

All this is just LIFE of course and the above will seem trivial to many facing much harder times than me, but nonetheless, it all left me feeling a bit knackered and not quite myself and i felt i had to readjust things a little to try and avoid getting some horrible lurgy which would make me feel more overwhelmed and stressed and as a functioning mother, partner, employee etc it’s  total pain in the arse when i get ill and i am not a good patient!

I had been registered for the Glasgow Womens 10k but had simply not been getting out to run and when i had been out, had really not been enjoying it. This lead me to beat myself up a bit and harking back to my previous attempts at trying to consistently run (and largely failing). So, i decided to just not bother and write it off. I wasn’t running for charity so really the only person i’d be letting down was myself but as the running/not running was making me feel bad about myself i figured stopping worrying about it would make me feel better all round. And it did. (And as it happened, the day before the 10k, my daughter’s chicken pox started coming through so i wouldn’t have gone anyway).

Having felt some relief at giving up on a form of exercise which i just wasn’t enjoying, i thought more about what i did enjoy and came back, yet again, to Yoga. So i’ve made an effort to do some yoga for between 20 minutes and an hour 3 or 4 times a week (every day would be ideal but am not quite there yet!). I’m already feeling much better about exercising and in accepting that whilst yoga won’t change my body as quickly as running, the mental benefits are so much greater. I’ve also added some walking into the mix – so much more civilised than running:-) and i’m hoping to get into hill walking at some point too.

As for the crappy second freelance job, i ditched that (did i really want to write about bodybuilding supplements??) and picked up my kindle again; read some chick-lit (as a break from the Scandi-crime) and got a couple of free ebooks on Buddhism (re: MCA) to reignite something i’ve been interested in for years but never properly explored.

My favourite form of yoga is Vinyasa Flow (strengthening, aerobic, quick and importantly not the same postures every time unlike Ashtanga) which i also complement with some more gentle routines. I’ve been doing DVDs at home and once we’ve moved, i’ll look into classes again too. My current favourite dvds include:

Tara Lee: Beginners Yoga and Beyond: Elements of Yoga (grounding Hatha – for gentler days but you still feel your body working)

Eionn Finn: Power Yoga for Happiness (a number of routines here from just over half an hour to full class length – challenging routines excellent for building strength and he is a great surfer dude, so the routines are easy to follow and fun to do – you will sweat)

Claire Missingham: Yoga (excellent Vinyasa Flow for intermediate/advanced. Few bits i just can’t do on this DVD but i love that its challenging and her style is really encouraging)

Seane Corne: Vinyasa Flow Yoga 2 (lovely Vinyasa Flow simply done)

Body Shaping Intensive Yoga (does what it says in the tin – couple of shorter Vinyasa based routines 30-40 mins plus 60 mins – you will sweat)

Rodney Yee: My first Yoga dvd’s some years ago were by Rodney Yee and i still use them (including Intermediate Yoga and Power Yoga Total Body Workout) but when time is short i like AM Yoga for your day (5 20 minute routines) and his Ultimate Power Yoga (not quite ‘Power Yoga’ but 5 2-30 min routines)

I also did some baking again with TheYoungLady, which we hadn’t done for some time. The cakes were dreadful (that’ll teach me to follow a recipe off the side of the packet…) but helped me feel like i was a bit more Me again.

What do you do to help you feel a bit more like You again?

Sometimes, you just need a Nigella Chocolate Banana muffin

I have mentioned here how i’ve been recently inspired to get back into baking again and today, at home with my daughter, and in frankly in need of something chocolatey (ladies – you know you have certain days, nay weeks, of the month when you need this…) and rather than just head to the Spar for a massive bar of chocolate i reverted back to a recipe which i ripped out of a magazine last year and promptly made (then got the bookbook it came from).

The recipe was for Chocolate Banana Muffins, from Nigella Lawson‘s book Kitchen. I only really got into Nigella last year and am completely converted. I love her appetite for food, eating and the pleasure of sharing food (and yes, also the pleasure of stealing stuff from the fridge when no-one else is looking…). This recipe, as are most recipes for muffins, is pretty easy and its possible to do it with a young person ‘helping’. Actually, my young person is nearly 4 and did all the banana mashing and the bulk of the mixing so was pretty useful to have around.

I’ve copied the recipe out below but it, along with hundreds of other recipes are available on http://www.nigella.com. Some of the comments on the recipe page suggest these are a bit dull but i suspect they just aren’t using good enough Cocoa Powder and are folk used to the huge monstrosities of muffins available in the shops which just taste of fat and sugar. I used Cadbury’s Bournville Cocoa Powder which gave them a lovely rich taste. Also, you could add chocolate chips etc if you wanted more chocolate gooey-ness but for me, these are great as a chocolatey hit withough making you feel guilty (hell, even the bananas make them feel positively virtuous…) Enjoy!

Makes 12 (though don’t last very long…)

Ingredients

  • 3 very ripe or overripe bananas (Tildy nb: go for large rather than small here)
  • 125ml vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs (Tildy nb: Nigella uses Large unless specified)
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons best-quality cocoa powder, sifted (Tildy nb: i go HEAPED tablespoon-fulls)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 x 12-bun muffin tin

Method

Serves: Makes 12

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and line a muffin tin with papers. Don’t worry about getting special papers: regular muffin cases will do the job.
  2. Mash the bananas by hand or with a freestanding mixer.Still beating and mashing, add the oil followed by the eggs and sugar.
  3. Mix the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb together and add this mixture, beating gently, to the banana mixture, then spoon it into the prepared papers.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes, by which time the muffins should be dark, rounded and peeking proudly out of their cases. Allow to cool slightly in their tin before removing to a wire rack.

(recipe at http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chocolate-banana-muffins-5158)

 

I can’t take credit for these home-made pizza’s

Not sure if i’ve mentioned here that i haven’t really baked much this year. I did quite a bit of baking last year, much of it with my 3 year old daughter. Messy yes, but she loves the mixing though rarely actually ate any of the cake. And of course, therein lies the problem of baking. Unless you have a large household or have folk coming round for tea every other night, then you will undoubtedly have to eat a reasonable amount of cake/tart/muffins/brownies etc which whilst the glutton in me thoroughly enjoyed but my waistline did not.

I digress – i have been re-inspired recently, largely by reading lovely food blog posts such as this to have a shot at making bread. I have only ever made one oven loaf before, which was similar to this one on the BBC Good Food mag website (minus the asparagus which i just didn’t have in). It tasted great and was amazingly easy and i’m not sure why i haven’t done it again. I think i’m going to attempt soda bread.

My Other Half has in recent years been getting into cooking too, specialising in home-made pizzas, Indian dhaals and curries, excellent veggie bakes and lasagnes and chutneys. He’s also the master of our bread-making machine which we go through phases of using. Having done a loaf at the weekend he decreed he was going to try to do more hand-made loaves. We have a large Magimix food processor (which i don’t use nearly enough) but which is great at making pastry and pizza dough.

OH’s home-made pizza’s are usually accompanied by wine and trashy weekend TV or a film. He made these last weekend (one with cheesy/olivey, the other nice and spicy with pepperdew peppers and chillies). They were fabulous.