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Not-So-Basic Banana Bread

It’s lockdown, of course we must have banana bread.

Slice Appeal

This third lockdown is hitting a little different isn’t it? Discounting those four weeks in November of last year, our only other experience of lockdown was during the spring. Getting out and safely enjoying your local surroundings is much tougher on a cold, dark evening. In fact nearly everything that lifted my spirits last time just isn’t cutting the mustard this time round. I think the key to getting us through the next few weeks, or indeed months, is changing things up!

I’m taking full advantage of all the activities I didn’t turn my hand to in the initial lockdown and top of my list is baking banana bread. E treated me to the new Nigella Lawson cookbook Cook, Eat, Repeat for Christmas and this recipe is very much inspired by her gluten-free version. Mine is best served still slightly warm with ice cream or early the next day, fridge cold and lathered in salted butter.

Serving Size:
10 generous slices
Time:
1 hour + cooling time
Difficulty:
lemon squeezy

Ingredients

  • 175g flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 bananas (the more bruised the better)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 100g dark chocolate chips
  • 100g walnuts
  • a spoonful of Nutella (for swirling purposes)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 150℃ and stick some baking paper into the base of your loaf tin.
  • Mix together your flour, almonds, baking powder and salt
I do find this recipe so very appeeling
  • Peel and mash the bananas, a good old fork will do for this. Then, take out any aggressions you’re harbouring, possibly towards certain politicians who will remain nameless and beat in the vanilla, yoghurt, eggs, oil and sugar. Make sure you do these one by one so as not to overwhelm the mixture.
Cracking series, that
  • When you’re happy that everything is well combined, tentatively mix in your flour. Again, unless you want your kitchen floor to look like you got into a fight with a pastry chef, go slow. Or if you’re using one of those fancy KitchenAids, frankly you’re cheating.
A great excuse to finish off any baking bits left over from Christmas
  • Here’s the fun bit, fold in the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, I’ll allow you a blitz in the blender if you really loathe chopping. And just to be extra decadent, I added a spoonful of Nutella and swirled it into the cake batter to make a marbled effect.
She’s a beauty!
  • Gingerly tip into the lined loaf tin and pop her into the oven for an hour. At this point I poked a kebab skewer (of course I don’t have cake testers) into the centre and it was still pretty liquid. I turned the heat down to 120℃ and let her sit there for another 20 minutes whilst I went on a walk.
Must…resist…urge…to…eat…
  • Tempting as the smells may be, leave your loaf to cool down before you attempt removal! It’ll be worth the wait, trust me! We had ours for pudding with freshly sliced bananas and cream. It’s healthy because there’s fruit in it, right?
It’s worth the wait – you can crust me

You can always swap the nuts out if you prefer or use rice flour and GF baking powder to turn this coeliac friendly. I’m sure E has some tips for a vegan version too! Happy baking ~L.

It’s so good – you won’t beloaf it

The Big 3-0 In Lockdown 3.0

L celebrates her “milestone” birthday during the UK’s third national lockdown.

Well, I had hoped it wouldn’t happen, but it has. I’m finally joining the rest of my loved ones in celebrating a Lockdown Birthday. Now, let me be clear before I type another word: I know there are terrible, frightening things happening in the world right now, of much more importance than this little Capricorn, but I still felt “funny” about it all…

Growing old is inevitable, growing up however…

I was chatting with some of my friends last week, who all felt similar about celebrating this milestone under the current restrictions. It’s not that I had grand plans of a dirty thirty in Bordeaux, although that would’ve been delightful. I think it’s that being born in January, my birthday is quite often a bit of an after thought. This month is not only long and dark, it’s also the time of year we typically introvert, diving head first into fun activities such as Dry January, Veganuary, countless diets and detoxes, returning to school and last minute tax returns. Hardly puts you in the mood for a party, does it?

VB eat your heart out

Turning thirty had a lot riding on it. It’s the mystical age I often used growing up to set as a measure. As Emma Bunton articulated in Spice World: “do you think I’ll always be Baby Spice, even when I’m (gulp) thirty?” It would also firmly put in me in the “Overs” category of the old X Factor format. “Overs”…how rude is that?

Thirty, flirty and thriving

All this having been said, I am shocked to confess that this birthday is probably one of the best I’ve ever had. Having zero expectations for the day and no added pressure from my loved ones asking: “have you had a good time?” meant that my simple, relaxed day was really enjoyable.

I spent most of the morning mooching round the house in my new pyjamas that I treated myself to at Christmas, playing nostalgic tunes from my childhood as loudly as I wanted. Vince popped out to get me a takeaway vanilla latte after my brunch of Nutella pancakes. It’s always the little things that matter most, am I right? Whilst he was out, our local Postie arrived with cards, flowers and an embarrassingly large box for me to open.

Love these so much I could burst!

I settled down to watch 13 Going On 30, (honestly worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before. Mark Ruffalo in a romcom – what’s not to like?) and cracked open the bubbles!

There had better be a pot of gold with my name on it underneath that!

To work up an appetite, we headed out on our daily walk. We’ve been doing around 50km a week since Christmas and we’re loving our rambles. Mother Nature treated me to a special present on this day – check out that light!

Once the sun went in, we headed home to check out our local Chinese takeaway – which did NOT disappoint and provided left overs for the next day too. I often think leftovers are actually better than the main event. By the time I’d zoomed the family and caught up on my messages, it was midnight and I’d officially made it 30 times around the sun.

Over the past year there have been so many projected scenarios for my birthday, including spending it in Cardiff with my Phantom cast, locked in a hotel room abroad quarantining, a small family shindig for our support bubble and a lockdown party for two. As E reminded me on Facebook: “lockdown birthdays are all the rage at the moment”. As ever, she was right, and I wouldn’t have had the day any other way. ~L.

Happy 29+1th to me!

Hearty Suppers From Yesteryear and This Week

The joys of vegan cooking for January

Grab a cuppa, it’s blog time

It’s been one of those weeks: a busy schedule back at work following a gloriously relaxing fortnight off over Christmas coinciding with Lockdown 3.0 and, very sadly, a family bereavement on Thursday. As we often do at a time of loss, I spent some hours trawling through old photographs which, by an enjoyable and memory-packed meander, brought me to my old blog site. There I found a long-forgotten post about my early cooking adventures as a vegetarian back in the last Millennium and thought that as it’s Veganuary, and we all need a bit of comfort cooking, I’d share that blog post with you here. I think it’s aged pretty well…

The first cookery book I can remember acquiring was The Colour Book of Vegetarian Cooking, edited by Carole Handslip. I have the 1984 reprint.

In Upper Sixth, I turned vegetarian and this little recipe book was bought for me for my 19th birthday by first year uni friends, Jayne and Sarah. I had spotted this cookery book in the remaindered bookshop in Bath and Jayne and Sarah bought it for me.

By today’s standards, it’s a pretty slim volume, with only about a third of recipes accompanied by a photograph of the finished dish. But, in my early years of being “a veggie” I turned to it often and, as a consequence, it is well-thumbed and more than a little grubby. Indeed, the page for gnocchi with tomato sauce and that for corn and asparagus flan – neither of which I have ever made – had quite welded together and I had to separate them with great care; with great care and a serrated knife. Many of the recipes have egg and dairy as principal ingredients, but there’s a sub-chapter dedicated to nut and pulse dishes, so I headed there. I opted to make the bean and tomato hotpot, adapted to account for my lack of a large leek (a shallot, green pepper found idly withering in the crisper drawer, chopped-up stalk of broccoli and additional carrot made for gallant stand-ins) and eschewing of butter. I also doubled the quantity of tinned tomatoes and chucked in a tin of butter beans in addition to the kidney beans. I found a bag of Apache potatoes sprouting nicely in the back of the fridge, so once I’d “de-eyed” them, they were halved for the hotpot topping.

Bean and tomato hotpot from E’s first cookery book

This really was a very easy cook and resulted in a tasty dinner which went down well with both vegan, and the non-vegan, diners. It reminded me how much this particular book had been my vegetarian cooking primer for many years. Three pages on from the hotpot recipe I found the one for vegetable curry. I followed this recipe for years and remember well the first time I made it, up in the fifth floor kitchen of our halls of residence in Somerset Place. That first time led to an earth-shattering revelation: turmeric turns cauliflower yellow! A discovery so profound I made a note of it on the page of the book.

(Adapted from a post on Hiraeth, There and Everywhere in January 2017)

Assembling the ingredients for a Nanny Val-inspired stuffed butternut squash recipe

Back to this week, I made a tasty supper following a recipe Mum had sent me for stuffed butternut squash. The stuffing comprised sautéed onion and garlic, most of the flesh of the roasted squash, red lentils, stock and a heap of herbs, with toasted walnuts and cashews folded through just before stuffing the shell of the squash and returning to the oven to roast for a further 40 minutes. I served it with steamed kale dressed in chilli oil. Nourishing, healthy and perfect for a winter’s evening. Thanks Mum for the recipe, which I will certainly be making again.

A tasty supper of stuffed butternut squash, steamed kale and little bites of vegan cashew cheese

What have you been rustling up for dinner these mid-winter evenings? ~ E