Simply food

RESCUED RECIPES

When I was writing The Graveyard of Good Ideas, I came across a stash of forgotten recipes. Banana bread was one of them. I called it the “world’s best” then and it still is.

World’s best banana bread served on Spode ‘Sheffield’ plates

A big move, such as the one we undertook last autumn, means a lot of sorting out and chucking away, especially of paperwork. We still brought over 50 boxes of stuff with us, but it could easily have been a hundred. Writers are reluctant to discard their archives. On top of that, my beloved was once a magazine editor and archived copies of her publications Epicure and Fuge had to be kept, naturally. Buried in the reams and reams of paper that survived shredding, was a small box of stained recipe cards that must have been decades old. I hadn’t made some of these recipes for ages, although a few of them are so familiar I can make them without a reminder.

Just for fun, I have started a new binder, with a cover title and photo. I’ve called this new-old collection The ones that got away and illustrated it with a few errant green peas that were a trial element for the cover of Simplifood, but which escaped. This fifth cookbook may never make it to completion, but at least it will give me fodder for a few more articles.

The ones that got away

Every cook has a fave recipe for banana bread, allegedly handed down from granny or some other worthy. I have no idea where this one came from, but it always turns out exactly as I want it to and produces a delicious moist loaf. The hardest part of making this bread is waiting an hour for it to cool on a rack.

While I was checking out the recipe card, I noticed that on the back I had written a list of tools that were essential. In my first recipe book, I called these common kitchen items “weapons,” since novice cooks at whom How to eat well and stay single was aimed were instructed to treat cooking as a battle for which preparation was the key.

“Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted,” as my late father in law* used to say. Chefs call getting everything ready before starting a dish “Mise en place,” meaning “everything in its place.” It is a great way to ensure you haven’t missed out an essential item before you start. When weapons are uncommon or not part of the normal complement of kitchen paraphernalia, I’ll put this section back in. What I’m not going to add is an overall suggested prep and cooking time, since every cook takes more or less time with each step and gets faster with practice. When practical, I always include a photo taken as soon as the dish comes off the stove or out of the oven.

BANANA BREAD (WORLD'S BEST)

Weapons: 8 ½ in x 4 ½ in loaf pan, electric mixer, parchment paper, wire cooling rack plus bowls, measuring spoons, measuring cups, spatulas, masher and knife.

Shopping list

  • 1 ½ cups all purpose (or cake and pastry) flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup runny honey
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs (extra large, free range)
  • 4 ripe or very ripe large bananas, mashed
  • Vegetable spray

Topping

  • 1 TBSP white or granulated sugar

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C.
  2. Lightly spray a standard size loaf pan with vegetable oil. Cut a piece of parchment baking paper to size so it hangs generously over the long sides, to make removal easier.
  3. In one bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In another bowl, mix brown sugar, honey, cream cheese and butter, cut into small chunks. Then whisk at a medium to medium high setting until it is creamy, no more than 4 mins. Add eggs, one at a time, first mixing in with a spatula, them whisking until blended. Use the spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Don’t over mix.
  5. In a third bowl, mash the bananas thoroughly, using a tool such as a potato masher or ricer.
  6. Add the creamy sugar mixture to the flour mixture with a spatula and stir in together until somewhat integrated. Then scrape in the mashed bananas. Whisk the whole lot on a low setting until blended, but again don’t over mix.
  7. Scrape the resulting batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth down the top. Sprinkle on some more sugar for a glittering topping.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 60—65 mins, until a wire skewer comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cooL for 1 hr. After an hour, if you can wait that long, lift the bread out of the pan and leave it to cool completely.
  9. After mandatory taste testing of a few slices, slathered with unsalted butter, wrap the rest in kitchen plastic and store in the fridge for up to 3 days, if any slices escape.

ONE LAST NOTE: Banana bread is the ultimate comfort snack when winter seems to hang on forever and snow is falling in big fat flakes, as it is while I write this. 

Today, I’m having the last of the loaf, at three days old perfect for toasting, slathered with butter and delicious Blenheim Palace whisky marmalade. The latter is a present from my middle daughter, who lives near Blenheim in Oxfordshire. I shall see her soon and be able to restock, as a trip across the pond is planned. More on that next time. 

*ANOTHER NOTE: My late father in law, David Scott-Atkinson, whom I have introduced before, was fond of a number of axioms, many of which he learned in the British armed forces. “Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted,” was his favourite, as well as “Orders achieve the success they deserve.” “Check, check and check again,” was another which has stood me well throughout my several careers. Of dining out he said: “I won’t eat in a restaurant I haven’t eaten in before!” He also liked quoting Shakespeare: “I would welcome death as a friend,” and “I put an enemy in my mouth to steal away my brains,” after a hard night drinking. Words to live by.

Featured image: Rescued recipes from the graveyard of good ideas.

Simplifood: Amazing food, simply preparedNigel’s fourth cookbook, is now available as an eBook well priced at 9.99 in any currency.

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This is Nigel’s 367th blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories, or check under CATEGORIES.

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