Friday, 24 February 2012

Banana bread for Dory

I often, as you might guess, struggle to feel positive about stuff. Any small knock can send me spiralling into an unwashed, disconsolate, uninspired, make-up free bundle of nerves. In recent times, Kitty being ill has been a sure-fire way of me plummeting into despair. A tiny cough, a bout of teething, a sticky eye and I'm moping round the house with eye bags and dirty hair, snapping at my husband and refusing to do any washing up or laundry.

But recently, I've been fighting back. Kitty's been ill for about a week now. Started with a hacking cough, graduated to full-on fever, dull eyes, sporadic weeping (mainly at 3am) etc. It's been pretty tough. Our new plan of action is to have dinner eaten by 8pm and be in bed asleep by 9pm so that when 2/3am comes around and with it an hour or so of analgesic administration, cooing and soothing, we are prepared for it and not utterly fucked by 7am the next morning because we stayed up until 11pm watching Borgen.

My other plan of action is to get up the next morning, have a shower, wash my hair, put on fresh clothes and put my old ones in the wash. I make an effort to keep the house tidy, I try to make dinner every night, rather than barking "Let's just get a takeaway" at my husband.

It helps, it works. This illness, although with its persistent blubbery hacking cough, feverishness, sleeplessness and general horror, has been the longest and worst illness Kitty has had to date, hasn't sent me quite into the depths of despair that it would have done 6 months ago.

And so when the sun came out yesterday and I had a rush of blood to the head having smelled spring on the breeze, (like a demented Carwash in Will o' the Wisp), I decided to bake something.

I have been meaning for a long time to make a lot of things out of the Leon 2 cookbook, which is about baking and puddings. Recipe Rifle's very own pork pie is in there - with a picture and everything - on pages 284/5. And Henry, a friend of my husband's, who runs Leon, remarked the other day that I hadn't mentioned the cookbook once here. That's because I can't see what good it would do them and I'm staggered that he noticed, but still I took the hint.

And then Henry and his wife Jemima, who as coincidence would have it was my first ever boss, went and had a(nother) baby! Little Dorothy "Dory" Dilys Dimbleby. What a little peach she is. And my husband Giles is her godfather, which really means that I get to go absolutely bonkers with his credit card twice a year.

Let me tell you a story about my godfather. His name is Sir Douglass Wass and  he was, I think, my dad's boss when dad was a spy worked at the Treasury. The story goes that dad said to Sir Douglas when I was born "Will you be her godfather?" and Sir Douglas said "Oh I am very bad at that sort of thing but yes sure." And by then it was too late for dad to say "Oh forget it then you useless bastard." And as a result I heard absolutely hide nor hair from Sir Douglas. Ever. Never. Like, NEVER. But then I didn't actually have a christening so he may have been within his rights.

But it didn't stop me from thinking that it was something about me, something I'd done, that made him not especially interested in fulfilling his godfatherly duties. It left me feeling really quite shit about myself, seeing as my other sisters had perfectly normally functioning godparents. And next-eldest didn't have a wretched christening either.

So I can now, at last, lay a bad godparenting ghost to rest by being, via Giles, the world's best, most extravagant and mad godparent ever to Dory. I have started by purchasing a new hat for the christening.

And I am following this up with a banana bread baked in her honour. Yes I know it's more bananas, but I need the potassium, okay? And this banana bread is absolutely outstanding - much better than the other banana bread recipe on here. It is very banana-y, it's basically a lot of bananas held together with eggs and flour.

One of my favourite readers, Oraleek, just made the other banana bread, I note via my comments, and I feel very bad that she's been diddled out of making this one because I didn't post in time. But what can I say - life stinks.

Banana bread from the Leon 2 cookbook 

50g pecan nuts
150 veg oil
200g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
350g ripe skinned bananas
75g natural yoghurt
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
225g wholemeal spelt flour (yes they sell this in Waitrose)
1 extra banana, peeled
2 tbs caster sugar

1 Pre-heat your oven to 170C and butter a 2lb loaf tin and line it (YES you must do this, don't be lazy) and line a baking sheet, too.

2 Spread the pecans out over the baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 mins until golden and smelling yummy. you could probably also do this in a dry frying pan

3 In a bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs

4 In another bowl, roughly mash the bananas. I do mean roughly - you are going to stir them a lot later, so don't worry if there are very big lumps at this stage. Add the youghurt and mix together. Sprinkle over the bicarb of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and stir again.

5 Mix the banana mixture and the sugar/egg mixture together. Chop the pecans and chuck those in too. Then sprinkle over the flour and stir until things are only just combined. Over-mixing is disastrous here so I actually left about 15% of dried flour still visible, which resulted in some seams of flour left running through the cake. So be brave, but not too brave. Spoon the batter into your smugly lined tin.

6 Slice your spare banana down the middle and place one half on top of the batter, then sprinkle over the caster sugar. The banana half will sink into the mixture during cooking and look terrific. I advise you to eat the other half to get in the mood.

7 Bake for 45-50 mins.


  1. I did have a Christening, but my (supposed) godfather forgot to come. And we're related. That was the last I heard of him. I hope one day someone will ask me and I will be oversmotheringly fabulously brilliant at the job, just like Giles. x

  2. Ooooh, my godfather didn't get married until I was about 10 but birthday and christmas presents got A LOT more extravagant (jewellery etc instead of a crayola kit) after that point! In fact I am 24 now and my godfather's wife still sends me lovely presents...

  3. Banana-y bread that smells like it is fab. Never understand how when you buy the 'organic' types - bread or loaf or slice etc - which is perhaps more cakey(?) it's always dark in colour. My homemade never comes out like this. I esp like this recipe b/c I prefer it w/o cocoa :-)
    Godfather makes me think of only one thing. Or may be three.

  4. I love banana bread. But really I'm here to ask where you got your hat? I've been thrown into a hat shaped spin ever since it was announced that fascinators will be unacceptable at Royal Ascot (la de fucking da).

  5. Going to have to try this. (Anyone know how many bananas approx = 350g? I am a numpty.)

    For those of us who aren't lucky enough to live near a Waitrose, Sainsbury's also stock Spelt flour. ; )

  6. I had a christening but I have no God parents, how cool is that. Indeed, not very cool at all. (Welsh chapel, and even I am now wondering if that is quite correct, but it is what I was told).

    You are doing great, I still flop with discouragement when they are ill, and I have six foot hulking teenagers. Who sensibly love banana cake, so thank you for reminding me of this (non-existent in France) treat.

  7. 350g of bananas is about 3 medium-sized ones.

    New hat is from the fantastic

  8. I am distraught! My youngest daughter (I ran out of acceptable god parent material by then) has three godparents. Two of which have never bothered to see if she is alive, at least!Maybe she feels utterly worthless too. Another thing for me to worry about. By the way. I have three 'grown-up'? girls, I still fret over their fevers! Always will. Banana cakes sound divine.
    Hope Kitty gets better soon....

  9. We fucked up on allocating godparents for our 3 so two of them have relatives who are also godparents which means they only get one present instead of the hoard that our eldest gets from his godparents AND aunts etc. Not that it's all about the presents of course....

    On that note if you are stuck for an original christening present, Connor was given by his godfather a beautiful box which has inside copies of 20 of his godfather's favourite books of all time - from Chicken Licken and Asterix to To Kill a Mocking Bird to Adrian Mole and everything inbetween - all beautifully inscribed with special messages. Is universally agreed to be the best present EVER.
    L x

  10. Can I just say how great this post is. I can completely relate as a mom and an Aunt. If you saw the state of my house right now..OY VEY! Anyways,love the recipe and will be giving a go as soon as I can find my kitchen under the pile of dishes that are in there.

  11. I think I agreed to be a godfather once, a long time ago. I remember standing in the church promising to do something for one of my cousin's children (I think). I have no memory of who it was. It was a lonnng time ago, OK? And I was, and still am, atheist. Not sure how that stacks up. No more than bananas in bread I guess :-)

  12. Hello Esther

    I finally worked out how to share blogs on Facebook last night, and got an immediate response to yours from a British friend in America who wrote 'I don't just like this, I love it; is there a love-button?' She then said that her chef was making the cake for her.... posh! Think she will be subscribing' Love, Lisa xx

  13. Elizabeth Medovnik25 February 2012 at 22:46

    I'm sorry poor Kitty has been so ill. I'm still congratulating myself for having got round to washing my hair on Thursday, so I admire your self-discipline!

  14. I'm makingthis recipe. It is smelling delicious. Looking forward to eating.

  15. Nom Nom - this looks so good. I shall definitely be trying to bake it this Sunday : ) Really enjoy your little stories, recipes and general writing style!

  16. I'm eating a huge slab of this cake now, and wanted to say thanks - it's brilliant. Recipe filed under 'fucking awesome'

  17. Hoorah! Will be baking this this week. Was just waiting for my bananas to speckle up nicely.

    I hope you are all fine and dandy now.

  18. I'm eating the first warm slice of this as I type. Really very good. My family have all been ill with various flu-type things and 6mo baby has been keeping us up and my 3yo daughter is just generally very trying... But this recipe, has for a few minutes, wiped all that away and offered me a bit of comfort. So thank you! Hope you and yours are all well.

  19. Right, I made this last night. The house smelled divine (open-plan, tiny house). Anyway, I did everything the recipe said but the loaf sank in the middle. I believe this is because I put it at the top of the oven (so just the edges cooked well, and were on the verge of burning in places)... Is this why it collapsed? Help me. Should it have been on the lower shelf? Sorry to be so clueless... I stuck it back in for a while but didn't want to risk blackening the top.

    It tasted amazing but it's not sliceable and you need a fork.

  20. Yes collapsing in the middle is a result of over-cooking. It needs to be in the middle, or bottom shelf. BUT even then this is a reasonably heavy dense cake, so it is always going to sink in the middle a bit. For a lighter consistency, use less banana x

  21. You will not believe this but I was just coming back here to find that OLD recipe for banana bread !
    Number one - I've got 3 bananas representing my life in the fruit bowl - old, covered in bruises and on the turn.
    Number two - I spoke to hot Scottish office colleague from the upstairs office on Friday afternoon in the kitchen. HSOCFTUO asked what I was doing at the weekend and in a bid to sound like perfect wife material I blurted out " Oh just a quiet weekend really..baking" to which he replied in his Sexy Scottish accent with his twinkle twinkle baby blue eyes "Well I hope you will make some of that delicious banana bread again, that was my favourite"
    So now I have to. BUT, FUCK. this is a different recipe, and I don't have all the ingredients, and I live in Brixton and the supermarkets are all full aisles and aisles of chicken and crisps. But I do have till 11pm to amend my Sainsburys delivery.
    OK, this recipe or the original one ?
    No pressure but this could be my future husband. And it will be entirely your fault if we don't get married, and if we do you can wear that new hat and make a speech.
    This is like that Gold Blend advert from the 80s..will they or wont they...stay tuned to see if I get my leg over due to Esthers banana bread.

  22. is that 150 ml of veg oil ???

  23. Banana Bread love update. Hot Scottish Office Guy From The Upstairs Office DID NOT have a chance to eat any of the banana bread. Then winked and said in that accent you'll just have to make some more. So, like the desperate twat that I am I made another the next day. Then I felt like a desperate twat, didn't take it in to work, stuck it in the fridge, cried, drank a bottle of wine, joined a dating agency and researched botox. Staring out my window it looked as though the Jamaican barbers were having a good time, all standing outside on the street, drinking Courvoisier, having a laugh. So I took banana bread over. Jaws dropped, Afrotumbleweave blew by, no one said thank you just pointed at the shelf with scissors "stick it up there"
    Last night I was chased down on the street by one of the barbers asking me "hey, when you gonna make more of that ting ? It was delicious man! And where you going looking all pretty".."Ermm banana bread? um OK I'll make you some more, I'm going out for a steak now errmmm got to dash" "Who you going with your boyfriend, cos I can come with you ya know." "No, I'm fine on my own thanks. This morning I found a book left on my doorstep - Bake ! by Nick Malgieri. Hardback aswell, 20 quid.
    That banana bread does have magical love powers...just not on the man I intended it for.

  24. Made this for the first time today. I'm not the most confident of bakers but my goodness me. Absolutely delicious and drama free.

    Try it.

  25. Banana bread recipe is excellent taste and very delicious. I like this Bread recipe and easy to make at home.

  26. I have been planning on making this since first posted and finally had all the ingredients together, made it and am crying over a soggy mess. Words cannot express my disappointment. What did I do wrong? Not long enough in the oven or trying to take it out of the tin too soon? Smells amazing though.

    1. if you followed the temperature and time instructions your oven might just be a bit cooler than mine and it needed longer in the oven or to be on a higher temperature. Although it IS a reasonably soggy cake I am very sorry it was such a disappointment, that's terrible news.

    2. Thanks for the feedback Esther. I managed to scoop it up and putting the (virtually cooked) edges to one side put the goop back in the tin and into the oven for another 20 minutes, reinventing the dish as a scrumptious bannana pudding to be eaten warm with ice cream. It was still pretty soggy but at least the batter wasn't raw. I did use an extra frozen bannana to make it up to the correct quantity and I wonder if this had an effect on everything, taking longer to start cooking? It hasn't put me off trying again!

    3. SHRIEK!!!!! A frozen banana!? you insane mentalist - of course that's why it didn't work. Oh my saints... try it again and do not use any frozen ingredients and it will turn out just fine. xxx

    4. Just made this again with no frozen ingredients. Perfect and delicious and only five years later ?!? Where has the time gone?

  27. To the person with a soggy mess - you need to make sure that your baking powder and bicarb of soda are fresh. If they have been open longer than 6 months then throw away and get new ones. Re frozen bananas, you can use them as long as they are thoroughly defrosted beforehand. I quite often stash a surfeit of ripe bananas in the freezer.

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