Archive | January, 2012

Banana goodness

3 Jan

So, most weeks I’ll buy some bananas at the supermarket, as I know he’ll take a banana to work each day, and it’s a way of getting towards that 5-a-day of fruit and veg.  I hadn’t really thought through the whole Christmas/New Year thing and how it might interrupt his banana consumption.  So, this morning I decided to do something with the three blackening bananas left on the side in the kitchen.

Banana loaf was the obvious choice.  Or I have a good foolproof and adaptable banana muffin recipe. But if I’m going to make muffins in the next 24 hours, it’s going to be vodka-soaked-cranberry muffins, using the cranberries from my vanilla cranberry vodka which are currently in the freezer waiting to be enjoyed.

So, I turned to the internet for inspiration and good old Nigel Slater came up trumps again. He calls it black banana cake.  And I’m not sure if that is a reference to the state the bananas are in before you start, or the fact there is plenty chocolate in there, so the cake will be darker than you might expect for a banana cake.  I figure it’s probably the former.  As ever, I vaguely modified the recipe as I went along, but you can find his original here.

Banana choc nut cake

175g/6oz unsalted butter, softened in the microwave as it’s so cold in the kitchen.  In fact it was softened so much that some of it was melted, and I had to beat it back together again

175g/6oz sugar (half golden caster, half light soft brown muscovado type sugar)

75g/2 ½ oz mixed nuts (Nigel wanted hazelnuts but I had mixed in the cupboard so that’s what I used)

2 free range eggs

175g/6oz SR flour

2 very ripe bananas (Nigel asks for about 250g/9oz in weight, but all I know is I used two ENORMOUS bananas)

About ½ tsp vanilla essence (Nigel only wanted a single drop)

175g/6oz good quality dark chocolate chopped into rough chunks

A little Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 170C/325F/GM3

Line the base and sides of a 20cm x 12cm / 8in x 5in loaf tin.  I used a 1lb loaf tin – cake is still in the oven so I’ll find out soon if it was big enough (it was!)

  1. Toast the nuts.  Rub them in a tea towel to remove their skins if you can be bothered (I didn’t) and then grind them in a food processor, or with a zizzer or whatever implement you have to grind nuts. You’re looking for a pretty fine consistency – a bit like sand. I used a hand held zizzer, you know the kind of thing you’d usually use to blend soups.
  2. Beat the butter with the sugar till light and fluffy
  3. Add the eggs one by one and beat into the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Mix in the nuts and SR flour.
  5. Peel the bananas and chop them into small pieces into the bowl with the sugar/butter/egg mixture.
  6. Gently fold in the vanilla, bananas and chocolate nuggets into the cake mixture. Don’t overmix.
  7. Shlop into the prepared loaf tin. Dust with a little Demerara sugar (I forgot to do this, and doubt it will matter too much).
  8. Bake for 1hr – 1hr 10 mins, covering the top with foil if the top looks like it’s about to burn.

Oh my world, it’s amazing!  Lovely light texture, strong zing of chocolate when you get a nugget of it.  And gentle banana flavour running through it all.  Scrum.  Eat with a cup of Earl Grey tea, in a china teacup of course.

Banana choc nut cake anyone?

Books 2012

2 Jan

Hmmm.. I had some rather grand plans last year about my reading.  Some achieved, some nowhere near… but perhaps that is the way with reading, sometimes you see something and you want to read it there and then, and you pick it up and off you go. Other books you see or you hear about, and you decide to read them, but you don’t start them for a while.  I have so many books on my shelves that aren’t yet read, but most of them will be one day – and in 2011 I made inroads into the pile.  I do worry that having a kindle may reduce the speed at which I get through the To Be Read pile though – they make it just too easy to buy something there and then.

Anyway, what am I going to read this year?

I’ve already finished my first book: the last in Stieg Larsson‘s Millenium series.  Not the best.  And I think they all could have done with some serious editing, this one particularly.  And I wonder if anyone came to this book first,would they ever understand it and be bothered to wade through the bits that make little sense? Who knows?

I’ve also got a book half way through: Jeanette Winterson‘s utterly brilliant Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal.  I’ll try to finish it in the next few days, and then start my Book Group book for January: Jamrach’s Menagerie.  I’ve got it loaded onto my kindle already, so that’s a good start.

What else, what else this year?

  1. I still want to attempt Ulysses.  And read a Margaret Atwood.
  2. And I still want to read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  3. I’ll finish Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography
  4. The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life by William Nicholson.  I read a good piece about it the other day which inspired me to put it on my wishlist.
  5. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman.  Is it Stephen?  I think so. I heard about this when it was first published and meant to buy/read it then.  I forgot.
  6. Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I have a beautiful hardback illustrated edition of this, bought at the Edinburgh International Book Festival a few years ago. I started it this year, but I just hate carrying big books around with me.  Perhaps I have to download it onto my kindle too.. would that be too extravagant?
  7. I’ll read Book Group books, even if I don’t always make it to book group.
  8. I’ll aim for 30 books this year.  I think I can do that, although I’m also hoping to increase the number of things I make this year, and not just foodie stuff – I’ve been doing a lot of knitting recently, and have started sewing again, so who knows what homemade goodies will appear from the Valley in 2012?



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