Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Banana bread

When I was at school, there was such a thing as "tea", which happened at 4.10pm every day. This wasn't my grammar school, mind. At my grammar school you got booted out at 3.30pm and bought a Crunchie bar on the way home if you were lucky. But at the ludicrously expensive private school I insisted on going to from 16 to 18, (because there were BOYS), there was "tea".

Tea consisted of three things: toast, cake and cups of tea, served in thimble-sized catering cups with weeny handles so that if you spilt the whole lot all over the floor (this happened quite often) it didn't matter. The toast was made from white bread and eaten with peanut butter and jam. And the cake... well I don't remember anything about any of the other cakes they made except the banana bread.

O God! That banana bread. I was always starving at school. Starving. And it wasn't because I was a teenager, it was because there was hardly any time to eat food, only time for reading books and writing things down and worrying about your spots leaking through the concealer-and-powder you applied at first break.

By teatime I had probably consumed about 700 calories but probably expended 1,000+ all over my books and in the direction of whichever poor sucker I'd got a crush on that week. I had just about enough beans to drag myself on my belly, reaching hand over hand, whimpering along the pavement - being stepped over by better-looking and better-dressed boys and girls with no spots - to College Hall, a ramshackle and wonky building that looks like it was built by witches, down a small cobbled passageway off the main drag to Westminster Abbey.

You could hear the noise from 200 feet away as starving pupils clambered like huge, clumsy wasps over the trestle tables piled with Warburtons medium-sliced, Asda own-brand strawberry jam and Skippy peanut butter. And, some days, on the serving hatch, sat huge steel catering trays filled with row upon row of sliced-up banana bread.

Paydirt. I never ate fewer than three slices. And I simply didn't understand why no-one else was as wowed by it as I was. But that's being a teenager for you, I suppose.

This is a recipe I found on the Waitrose website, which is generally reliable. It also has the saving grace of having no dicking about with rubbing in or creaming together the butter and sugar - my most hated thing.

I have also added, for fun, some bashed up chunks of chocolate and walnuts, but if you prefer your banana bread as God intended, leave them - and/or the walnuts out too. I doubt it'll make any difference to anything.

But do NOT, please, be tempted to add cocoa powder for a hint of chocolatiness because it will dry the whole thing out and make it gross. No reason why you should, but I did this once because I'm an idiot and it was a disaster and someone might as well benefit from my mistake because my husband certainly didn't.

Banana, chocolate and walnut loaf

Makes 1 1kg loaf

350g self-raising flour
3 large or 4 small overripe bananas (yes, they must be overripe - any point up until actually mouldy is fine).
120g sugar
50g melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
125ml milk
some veg oil for greasing your loaf tin
handful of walnuts, chopped - if using
6 squares cooking chocolate, chopped - if using

1 Sieve the sugar, flour and salt into a bowl.

2 Add the egg, milk and melted butter and stir. At this point the mixture will look way too dry - don't panic and add more milk, thinking "Oh God Esther's such a spazmo". When you add the bananas it will all make sense.

3 Mash and add the bananas. Now is the moment to also nuts, chocolate, a dash of cinnamon, vanilla essence, or anything else you fancy.

4 Give it all a good stir and turn out into your greased tin. Bake at 180C for 1 hour.

If you try to slice it when it's still warm it will all fall apart, best to wait until it's cooled down and then it will slice up really well.

The rubbery texture you get is a classic banana bread side-effect.

Eat spread with butter and worry faintly about your mocks.


  1. I feel the same about the shortbread they used to serve at my primary. It was delicious. No shortbread, not even Claire Clark's, can compare. We were never allowed more than one.

    It took me about thirty years to find out that you can freeze bananas and then just use the (what becomes) blackened goo to use for making banana cake. Talking of black and your other post, yes stretchy black way to go, I found, for pregnancy.

    And after.

  2. Mine is similar, but different .. and I guess that's the beauty of Banana Bread.


  3. The thing I love about your blog is the stories. It's probably because I'm incredibly nosy, but there's a recipe AND a nice story to go with it. It's so earnest, and heartwarming.

    My dad makes legendary banana cake. Mine just doesn't compare.

    In my kitchen today I made some fishcakes. I've not done this before and there was a bit of mess involved, and I thought to myself that 'no matter what Esther says I bet she doesn't get in this much mess' ... but the house is tidy again, my boyfriend will come home to find me working on my thesis, and have no idea of how much mess I made, he will just see the five (actually quite good looking - if I may say so) fishcakes in the fridge. Let's hope they taste good!

  4. Fuck! Earnest is exactly what I'm trying to avoid. Damnit.

    Oh my god my kitchen is a fucking bomb site, ALL THE TIME - flour strewn across the floor, sauce flicked all over the walls, dirty pots and pans in the sink, unwashed. And my kitchen is mostly white so everything shows up. I spent most of my time on my knees cleaning the kitchen to loud pop music.

    So yes: I DO get into that much of a mess. No word of a lie.

  5. Weird. Weird. Weird. I made Banana Bread today. I just had a craving. And I am not pregnant. When I posted this news, with photos, on my Facebook page, another friend commented that she too had made Banana Bread today - on a whim! And now, I come onto your blog to see that your latest post is Banana Bread. Just the weirdest.

    My recipe produces a lovely moist Banana Bread... I add soured cream and it must have chocolate chunks... but no nuts! I also put slices of banana (pre-soaked in lemon juice so they don't burn) on the top for decoration and extra deliciousness!

    Is there a petition we can sign to make September 28th National Banana Bread Day?

  6. Claire Fairhurst8 June 2011 at 23:16

    I was looking through recipes from the past year and discovered this one for Banana Bread. I love banana bread but have never made it before. Your recipe is simply FANTASTIC!! I made this today and was amazed at how simple it was to make and how brilliantly it turned out. I added Green & Blacks 70% plain chocolate and some walnuts. It tastes delicious. Thank you very much!!

  7. Lovely story, lovely banana bread.

  8. I was just staring at some mouldy bananas in my fruit bowl. I've been out on the tiles every night for about the last 3 months and I feel like I have much in common with those bananas. In a bid to stay in this week and conserve my soul, reduce waistline etc I must find something to do tonight. I've already cleaned the computer with cotton buds, ironed everything I own, alphabetised the spice rack ( again) watched loads of shite T.V. Im gonna make this banana bread right now, and hopefully transform those mouldy bananas into something sexy and delicious...cos theres fuck all hope for me...TBC

  9. Usually I just read the blog because I really like how you write rather than because I can be bothered to cook something outside of my repertoire...but when I spied the overripe bananas I remembered reading at least 3 banana bread recipes on here, so I thought I'd give it a go. Emma x

    Obvs because I am so rubbish, I only had 141 g of self raising flour and couldn't be bothered to go to the shops in the cold.....so have attempted to salvage four giant muffins. Will probably be a disaster but they are looking good in the oven so far!

  10. Coooor! I just made this with my 2 and half year old as we had 4 mushy bananas to use up and it is deeelish! I didn't have cooking chocolate but really wanted the choc in it so I chopped up 2 freddo's into 6 pieces each instead. Yum!

  11. Oh and P.S. I tried the idea of decorating with lemon juice soaked slices of banana on top but they did all burn so had to pick them off!