Saturday, 19 November 2011

Butterscotch banana loaf cake

Several nights ago I found myself watching ‘Louie’, Louis CK’s show. It was the one where he calls the grocers and orders, among other items, 6 bananas that are misheard as 60 hence he ends up with a lot of bananas. Totally not the point of the show but it got me thinking what I’d do had a large bunch of bananas landed in my kitchen. Little did I know what the cosmos had planned.

For several days now a winter/ tropical storm is bringing out my crave for winter foods and so far soups, casseroles, hot pots and baked apple cakes have already made an appearance in the kitchen and on my plate. The next morning I headed to the farmers market and without a banana thought in my head. Thats not strictly true, secretly I was hoping to find a rare bunch of ripe bananas among the green bunches always sold and as luck would have it I passed by a glowing stand radiating with bright yellow, some would say over ripe bananas past their best days. Perfect for baking, I thought.

At half the price I bought the lot and found myself standing in the kitchen surrounded with quite a few bananas. Whether it was a hunch, intuition, quantum physics or simply a coincidence, I had prepared in advance and had given the subject a little thought. So some I mashed, zip locked and froze for future use, some have now been transformed into a jam, now jarred, and some ended up in a Butterscotch banana cake that I like to refer to as ‘how I like to start the weekend’ cake.

The recipe for this cake was taken from Dan Lepard's latest cookbook.

A food columnist on The Guardian’s food channel, his latest cookbook arrived at my doorstep earlier this week and it’s a hefty one. With over 500 pages featuring hundreds of recipes from sweet to savoury, breads, cakes, tarts, candies and desserts it took me several hours to go over it and dress it up with technicolor ribbons marking all the ‘must bake’ recipes.

Turns out over- ripe bananas was just the place to start. And you never know which bananas tomorrow will bring.

Butterscotch banana loaf cake

Adapted from ‘Short & sweet: The best of home baking',

by Dan Lepard.

This cake begins caramelizing bananas before adding the sticky mixture to the batter. The result is a moist spicy banana toffee loaf that’s light and mildly sweet and pairs wonderfully with a cup of coffee, dunked in a bowl of custard or served with a dollop of sour cream.

For the butterscotch bananas:

2/3 caster sugar

50 ml water

2 bananas, sliced thickly

1-2 tbs unsalted butter

2 tsp vanilla extract or ½ vanilla stick, deseeded

a pinch of sea salt

for the cake:

½ cup caster sugar

¾ cup virgin coconut oil (or any other neutral flavoured oil)

3 medium eggs

50 g plain yogurt

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup rye flour (of wholemeal/ spelt)

2 tsp of mixed spice ( I prepared a mixture freshly ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, Kampot and Melegueta pepper)

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

  1. For the butterscotch bananas: pour the sugar and water in a large frying pan and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until the liquid turns to a rich caramel colour. Reduce the heat and add the bananas, butter and vanilla. Cook the bananas in the sauce until they’ve softened. Sprinkle the sea salt then set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a bowl, sift the flour, rye flour, mixed spice, baking powder and baking soda.
  4. In a separate large bowl mix the sugar, oil and eggs to a thick, yellow batter.
  5. Add the caramelized bananas and yogurt and mix well.
  6. Fold the flour mixture into the batter, not too much, just until incorporated.
  7. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 40 minutes. The cake is ready when it turns a tanned caramel colour and a skewer inserted into it comes out clean.
  8. Release the cake from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Where Champagne wishes come true

Turns our 2 weeks in France was just what I needed. I spent the majority of October immersed in the French terroir, enjoying the local food culture paired with wines I never dreamed of drinking.

Freshly baked breads complete with a cracking crust, butter rich pastries, macaroons, guimauve (hand made marshmallows), foie gras, mushrooms of all sorts in shades of autumn, scallops, cheese and charcuterie, Champagne and other local exquisite wines were all present, naturally.

In between long hours of lectures on the local food culture, history, science, theory, testing and tastings, visits to markets, vineyards and wineries I barely had time for to pinch myself, keep track and make sure this was all really happening. The experience was grand, rich and full, so this is merely an amuse bouche.

A food gypsy at heart, life seems to be the time I spend in between travelling in search of good food; local, seasonal, contemporary and traditional, Haute and bas.

In France, as we all know, mealtimes are never taken lightly, the forks face down (long story), wine is always present on the table to help wash down the food and much of the food is unapologetically drenched in as much butter as it can absorb (it tastes good).

Some of the highlights included an all night guided tour to Rungis market, the largest wholesale market in Europe, exceptional food & wine pairing pedagogical meals, fascinating lectures by leading professionals including Hervé This, the French chemist that in addition to the discovery of the perfect temperature for cooking an egg also coined the term ‘Molecular Gastronomy’. This link is an interesting read.

Rungis market is situated on the outskirts of Paris and we spent a night wondering through the various oversized warehouses, passing by an astonishing cornucopia of fresh fish and seafood, poultry in all shapes, shades, breeds and colours, feathered game birds and cuddly hares, hanging beef carcasses, pork slices, endless stacks of cheese, glistening innards, local and not so mush fruit & vegetables, some seasonal and some less so.

During mealtimes we had a chance to sample the local culinary tapestry, always accompanied with a choice of local wines, sparkling water, bread and at times, butter. Last but never least was dessert, flans and tatins, salted butter caramel, crème brulees, Florentins, glaces & sorbet, tarts and chocolate, it was always there and along with everything else, never taken lightly and never forgotten. Just as I’d have it when I rule my own country.

I could go on forever about the fantastic food, the new friends I've made, the places I saw, the wines I had, the pastries I devoured, the foie gras that melted in my mouth, the Chateau Margaux, the Champagne and all but instead I'll let the images speak themselves.
Au revoir France, until next time.