Bananas

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Bananas present an interesting problem to those in the UK who try to eat both seasonally and locally. Unless you have a super heated and large greenhouse it is highly improbable that you will be able to grow your own bananas, even if you do manage it they are unlikely to fruit. Furthermore, as far as I can establish there appears to be no one trying to do so in this country on a commercial basis.

As for seasonal, well once you’ve accepted the fact that bananas have to be imported then they are pretty much available all the year round… So what are you to do ? Well you either ban the carbon traitor from your diet or you accept that fact that you are unlikely ever to achieve carbon neutral nirvana and salve your conscience a bit by buying fair trade. The other thing you can do, having accepted that you’d rather not live without bananas in your life (which my friend Wingnut is more than happy to do, considering them as “the evil yellow devil herb”) is to make sure that you don’t compound the carbon sin by letting them go to waste.

If I haven’t got the time to incorporate banana into muffins, cake or breakfast pancakes prior to freezing then I have been happily skinning them, quartering them and sticking in a plastic bag for several years now. What I had not tried until recently was to follow the Economy Gastronomy trick of freezing them whole, skin and all. For those that try it please note, if you are in a hurry the skin is difficult to get off, and if you leave them to defrost you end up with a nasty black slime all over your work surface….they also take up more room then their quartered brothers.

We are ODing on bananas at the moment as in addition to buying a large bag of bananas at the weekend I decided to start clearing out the freezer prior to Christmas and the first thing I was confronted with was a number of EG style frozen bananas. So I have been working my way through recipe books. I didn’t try on this occasion, but I have in the past tried Nigella’s healthy banana muffins. (the original recipe doesn’t have the chocolate)  My recommendation is “don’t”; they sacrifice taste in the pursuit of healthiness, would rather eat less and enjoy some flavour (interestingly her Banana and Butterscotch muffins are nice).

Alternatively a healthy muffin that is surprisingly nice are the Banana Bran Muffins from “Economy Gastronomy” – yes there is a reasonable amount of sugar in them, but they do make over 24 reasonably sized muffins and the mixture keeps in the fridge so you can make them in advance and cook them when ready and freeze your leftovers. Disadvantages are they are more complicated than usual muffins and take longer to cook. Recommendation from Spider is that they are nicer warm.

Nigella’s Banana Bread is nice, thought Tessa Kiros’ banana bread from “Apples for Jam” would be nicer due to use of brown sugar but there was no marginal difference. Susan Austin’s Banana Pancakes are what breakfasts were invented for, and they freeze. I’ve also tried the Banana and Oats Smoothie from Leon:Allegra Mcevedy which…I am hoping to tempt Spider with at the weekend.

Finally this is more a serving suggestion than an actual recipe and has been known in my family for at least 35 years as “Banana’s Valentine”. Take a skinned banana. Sprinkle with dark brown sugar. Pour over a reasonable amount of evaporated milk, leave to stand for a few minutes. Eat with enthusiasm.

Christmas Cake indecision

I was flicking through How to be a Domestic Goddess:Nigella Lawson trying to choose a Christmas Cake which wouldn’t end up sitting on the sideboard like last year and I came across her Certosino which is a “fabulous spicy fruit cake” which is decorated with dried fruit and nuts. It seemed to fit the requirements of our family namely fruit cake, nothing too heavy, perhaps slightly alcoholic, easy on the icing. Also I have most of the ingredients in, just need to buy a few things.

Anyway I was all set to make this when I got struck down with the lurgy meaning that I’ve since had a lot of time in bed and between sleeping have been reading cookbooks and have of course changed my mind. Same idea as the Certosino just the cake itself uses up more of what I have in the cupboard including a tin of chestnut puree which has been sitting neglected in the kitchen since last christmas.

The Easy Action Christmas Cake (from Feast) can be found here. Normally with recipes from Feast I automatically halve the quantites but this recipe actually suggests if you don’t want a large cake then you could make a small cake and 12 muffins – so that’s what I will be doing between now and Christmas as soon as I get the all clear and can cook again. I know I’m cutting it fine, but since there is no icing involved, just sticking fruit on the top and glazing with jam, I can if I need leave it until Wednesday night…not going to mention christmas cake again this year but will post a pic when I finally get myself off this sickbed and into the kitchen.

My new years resolution is less procrastination, more action… sitting here reading a time management book !

The first Christmas cake

So called because this is the first Christmas cake I am making this year, for the works Christmas Cake competition – the idea is that anyone who wants to enter makes a cake and then people who want to try cake pay a £1 for charity (probably Water Aid) and then vote on the winner.

Anyway, my entry is not a traditional cake but is something that I associate with Christmas, gingerbread or rather ginger cake…my kitchen is currently full of the lovely smells of ginger and cinnamon and caramel and…cake ! The version I eventually went for is from The Kitchen Diaries:Nigel Slater and is one I am particularly fond of because it has a hidden surprise of real stem ginger hidden deep in side. The recipe for it was published some years ago in The Observer also [here] and its kinda appropriate as when Nigel made it for his article in the observer “the rain is crashing down on the kitchen roof”, and that’s just what it’s been doing here all day.

The intention tomorrow is to ice it with the lemon icing for Ginger Cake in Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess because as she points out, its hard to sell something which is so unrelentingly brown…

Other than the cake today has been quite quiet, Husband went down to pick the Student up from Cardiff and Spider and I cleaned the living room, including moving the sofa which is where I found the Toffee Brownie recipe – I have now amended the quantities in the recipe I posted several days ago.

Next weekend I will be making this years actual christmas cake – again not traditional because last year we were still eating it at the end of January…

Double Ginger Cake with lemon icing...

Double Ginger Cake with lemon icing...

Unidentified Breaded Objects

Circumstances meant I had a day off on Thursday. I tried to make good on a long held promise to Husband for scones, clotted cream and lemon curd (this was a celebration week).

When I was growing up my Mum would make scones at the drop of a hat, she even used scone dough as a pizza base…once, after I’d left home my parents visited me (160 mile round day trip) and I wanted to give them afternoon tea. So I telephoned Mum and got her recipe for scones, rolled the dough out, cut them out, put them in the oven. When my parents arrived however, what they got was not a delicate, light, fresh vehicle for cream and jam but dense hard little biscuits… Mum had assumed I knew that scone dough has to be rolled out quite thickly…

On this occasion I wanted to avoid any chance of the scone resembling a digestive and opted for a guaranteed light and delicate scone so followed the recipe for “Lily’s Scones” (Domestic Goddess: Nigella Lawson) which Nigella describes as “dreamy lightness” . I even got the tape measure out to ensure that the dough was at least 3cm high.

Anyway, should have followed my instinct

Scones ready for lift off

Scones ready for lift off

which told me that you don’t need a thick dough when using raising agent… this was the result !

Was more than pleased therefore when Husband announced a change of plan, we were going to Birmingham to indulge the family noodle obsession at Wagamama’s. Have therefore bunged both the scones and clotted cream in the freezer as the start of Christmas preparation.

Tomorrow I start the christmas cards, can’t avoid christmas anymore…the problem with christmas is that I am so used to “not” buying things that I’m not sure I know how to shop anymore !