Banana, apricot and chocolate bread

Banana apricot and chocolate cake4

I don’t know a single child who would turn down a slice of banana bread and my daughters are no exception. And for us parents, giving our little ones a slice of homemade banana bread when they get home from school feels just so, well, wholesome.

This is a lovely take on the standard banana bread; the addition of apricots keeps it extra moist, while the chunks of chocolate are a gooey treat. My recipe is loosely based on one I found for banana loaf in Baking with Kids by Linda Collister. It is indeed a great cake to bake with your children, who will no doubt enjoy mashing the banana, beating the eggs and licking the bowl at the end.

Banana, apricot and chocolate bread

100g butter
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
75g demerara sugar
75g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
75g plain chocolate, chopped
100g dried apricot, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Grease a 900g loaf tin with a little butter and line with greaseproof paper.

Gently melt the butter over a low heat and set to one side to cool slightly.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl, add the sugars and combine. Make a well in the middle.

Pour the melted butter and eggs into the well, and add the mashed banana, chocolate and apricot. Mix everything together thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. When it’s ready, the top should be a lovely golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow the banana bread to cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the tin and peeling off the paper.

If you liked this, you might also like…

Parsnip and carrot cakes

Parsnip and carrot cakes

Maple syrup and banana cupcakes

Maple syrup and banana cupcakes

Chocolate orange cupcakes

Chocolate orange cupcakes

Enough food for everyone IF…

It is an outrageous and downright disgusting fact that the world today has enough food for everyone, yet not everyone has enough food.

Why – when there is enough food to go around – is hunger one of the world’s most shocking problems?

Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. One in eight people on our planet lives with the pain of hunger. Two million children die each year because of malnutrition. It’s sickening isn’t it, when it simply doesn’t need to be like this? It’s not just an overseas problem either. Right here, in the UK, many hardworking people struggle to put food on the table each day for their families.

It’s unfair, it’s unjust and it’s totally preventable.

This is why today, Wednesday 23 January 2013, is a momentous day. Today sees the launch of the IF campaign, the biggest ever campaign to tackle global hunger.

More than 100 charities and campaigning organisations, including Save the Children, Oxfam, Christian Aid and UNICEF, are joining forces to make one helluva lot of noise to draw everyone’s attention to the issue of food poverty – in particular those G8 leaders who are meeting in the UK for their summit in June 2013.

Will you lend your voice to the cause too? We all need to shout about THE FOUR BIG IFS…

Enough food for everyone IF… we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and we grow crops to feed people not fuel cars.

Enough food for everyone IF… governments and big companies are honest and open about some of the things that stop people getting enough food.

Enough food for everyone IF… we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families get enough food.

Enough food for everyone IF… we stop big companies dodging taxes in poor countries.

If we all shout together, we’ll be too loud for our governments to ignore. As a food blogger, I think it’s important I add my voice to the IF campaign. Will you? The success of the campaign depends upon millions of people, people like you and me, coming together and taking action to demand an end to hunger. We have the power to make politicians sit up and listen.

This short animation sums up the IF campaign in a nutshell. It’s only two minutes long. Please watch it.

Sign up to the campaign and find out other ways you can play your part at the Enough food for everyone IF website.

Middle Eastern chicken salad with hummus dressing

We get through a lot of hummus in our house, whether it’s the supermarket variety or the incredibly garlicky and insanely zingy homemade kind. The children love it. When they need a little snack in between meals, it tends to be a pot of hummus I reach for, plus a handful of chopped vegetables or breadsticks for dipping.

The other week I borrowed a recipe book from the local library called Make It Moroccan by Hassan M’Souli, and came across a tasty looking salad smothered in a hummus-based dressing. I’ve never thought of using hummus as an ingredient in anything before, so thought I’d give it a go. M’Souli’s original featured falafel and haloumi cheese but I’ve used marinaded chicken breast in my version instead, and it works a treat. The chicken breast is butterflied and cooked quickly in a griddle pan, so it is beautifully moist and succulent, while the hummus, chickpeas and toasted pinenuts give the salad a lovely, satisfying nuttiness.

Middle Eastern chicken salad with hummus dressing

Serves 4-6

4 chicken breasts, skinned, butterflied and flattened (cover with cling film and bash with a rolling pin)
a squeeze of garlic puree
handful of fresh thyme, picked
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp hummus
1 tsp cumin seed, dry fried and crushed
½ preserved lemon
1 head of lettuce, washed and roughly torn
large handful of green and black olives
large handful of sundried tomatoes
½ tin chick peas, rinsed and drained
handful of pine nuts, dry fried

Place the flattened chicken breasts in a dish and add the garlic puree, thyme, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Rub the marinade ingredients into the meat and then leave for around 20 minutes.

Whizz up the hummus, cumin and preserved lemon in a food processor with the remaining olive oil until well combined and runny. Add a little more oil if you like to get the right consistency.

Throw the lettuce leaves into a large salad bowl with the olives, sundried tomatoes and chickpeas.

Heat a griddle pan over a fairly high heat and fry the chicken pieces for two to three minutes on each side. Slice into strips and add to the salad.

Drizzle over the hummus dressing and toss it all together. Finally, sprinkle over the toasted pine nuts and serve.

And as this recipe features fresh thyme, I’m entering it into this month’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, devised by Lavender & Lovage and hosted by me, Bangers & Mash.

Lorene’s peach pie

Food is a wonderful talking point, isn’t it? No matter what company I find myself in, as soon as I start talking about food, a proper conversation has started. You don’t even have to be face-to-face. Social media provides so many platforms for foodies to talk and share ideas about their favourite subject.

One of the aspects I like so much about writing this food blog is the way it has helped revive connections with family members across the world, through a shared passion for food. Take my mum’s sister for instance, my Aunty Lorene. I haven’t seen her since I was 14 years old and had pretty much lost all contact with her. But through this blog and Facebook we have got to know each other again.

And increasingly Lorene has taken on the role of one of my ‘culinary advisors’. In particular she was a great help last Chinese New Year, providing recipes and tips for all kind of authentic dishes she remembers from growing up in Malaysia.

Lorene sent me her own recipe for peach pie recently, as she thought it would go down well with the children. Indeed it did, and the grown ups too. It’s a beautifully simple pie, using many store cupboard ingredients, and is delicious served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The four stages of peach pie

Peach pie

320g readymade sheet of shortcrust pastry
2 x 400g tins of sliced peaches
85g butter
2 eggs
170g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5.

Grease a 20cm flan dish and line with the readymade shortcrust pastry, pressing firmly into the edges.

Drain the peaches and arrange in the pastry case – you’ll probably end up with a few leftover.

Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly.

In a jug, beat the eggs and mix in the sugar, butter and vanilla. Then add the flour and combine well. Pour this mixture over the peaches.

Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes until the filling is set and a lovely light golden brown colour. Allow to cool just a little before slicing and serve with ice cream or whipped cream. This pie is also good served cold the next day.

Simple banana smoothie

Normally my children have pretty healthy appetites, so when they tell me they’re not hungry that’s a sure-fire sign they must be poorly.

Over the past couple of weeks both my girls have been a bit ill – and my husband too – and so I’ve turned to the good old smoothie to make sure I get some sustenance into them. Even when they’re feeling pretty grotty, they can generally manage a glass or two of smoothie.

Of course these smoothies are too good only to have when illness strikes and they’re a brilliant way to use up those over-ripe bananas. You can also add any soft fruit you happen to have in. We keep a bag of berries in the freezer and I like to chuck in a handful or two of those. But here’s the basic banana recipe.

Simple banana smoothie

Serves 4

3 or 4 bananas
4 tbsp plain or Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp runny honey
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 pints of cold milk

Chop the banana into a blender or smoothie maker and add the rest of the ingredients. Simply whizz up until smooth and serve to your patients.

Slow roasted pork neck in thyme, rosemary & bay with mint flatbreads

Generally in January I yearn for rib-sticking, stodgy, winter warmers; the kind of hearty, satisfying food that provides an extra layer of insulation against the cold and damp outside.

But occasionally I find myself craving sunshine food; dishes that remind me of blue skies, eating al fresco and the scent of honeysuckle. And this slow roasted pork does exactly that. The sweet, fragrant and tender pork neck is shredded and served simply with flatbreads, salad and tzatziki, very reminiscent of incredible gyros we enjoyed on holiday in Kefalonia last summer.

Pork neck is a very cheap cut of meat but you’ll probably need to ask your butcher for it. Ours doesn’t have it out on the counter as it’s not all that popular; he normally uses it in his sausages. But it is perfect for slow cooking – so delicious and full of flavour, especially when you marinade it in plenty of herbs, garlic and lemon juice. Don’t be tempted to rush the roasting. For a wonderfully succulent texture, the pork neck will need around four to five hours in the oven.

Slow roasted pork neck in thyme, rosemary and bay

Serves 4

1kg pork neck
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
large bunch of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
2 large sprigs of rosemary
1 lemon
handful of bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. You begin with a high temperature to get it started and then whack it right down low to slow cook.

Using a pestle and mortar, roughly crush the garlic cloves with the thyme, a handful of rosemary picked from the stalk and the juice of half the lemon. Put the piece of pork into a medium-sized ovenproof dish, pierce all over with a sharp knife and rub all over with the garlic and herb mixture so it penetrates the flesh.

Chop the remaining lemon half into half again and place in the dish alongside the pork with the rest of the rosemary and bay leaves. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven. (If you’re using an Aga, place in the middle of the top oven.)

After 15 to 20 minutes, just enough time to really get the meat hot, turn the temperature down to 140°C/gas mark 1, or the middle of the simmering Aga oven.

Roast for four to five hours until the meat is tender and beginning to fall apart.

Remove the foil and increase the temperature to 200°C/gas mark 6 (back to the top Aga oven) again for another 10 to 15 minutes to brown the pork a little.

Shred the pork using a couple of forks and pile onto a large serving plate. Bring to the table with a simple salad, tzatziki and a stack of warm mint flatbreads (below).

Mint flatbreads

These flatbreads were inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in his wonderful book Plenty. I’ve swapped coriander for mint, which perfectly complements the Greek-style pork and yoghurt.

280g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
1½ tsp salt
280g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp dried mint
olive oil

Place the flour, baking powder, salt, yoghurt and mint in a large bowl and mix together to form a dry dough. Add a little more flour it it’s a bit sticky. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it is smooth and stretchy. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Divide the dough into 10 to 12 pieces, form into balls and then roll with a rolling pin into round discs about 2mm thick.

Heat a knob of butter and a little olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and fry the flatbreads, one at a time, for a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown. Add a little more butter and oil as required. Keep the flatbreads warm until you’ve cooked them all.

Enjoy with your slow roasted pork!

As this dish features lots of lovely herbs, I’m entering it into Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday recipe challenge, which I also happen to be hosting this month!

January Herbs on Saturday blog challenge – win a copy of ‘Your Kitchen Garden’

Well, here we are in 2013 already. How on earth did that happen? I know I say it every year but 2012 really did feel like it was over in a flash. I hope you enjoyed a delicious Christmas and had a wonderful time seeing in the new year. Ours was lovely. Christmas was a whirlwind of visits from family and friends, while we spent New Year’s Eve very quietly, enjoying steak and chips, good red wine and Jools Holland on the telly. Splendid.

I’m extremely pleased to be welcoming in the new year here on Bangers & Mash by hosting the Herbs on Saturday blog challenge for Karen at Lavender & Lovage.

I first hosted Herbs on Saturday back in July and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The challenge is a fabulous way to share delicious recipes that celebrate cooking with herbs, and I was fortunate enough to meet so many new and talented food bloggers as a result of hosting it last time. I can’t wait to see what comes in this month, particularly after seeing the recipes submitted last month.

To take part in the challenge, simply submit any recipe using fresh or dried herbs by emailing me with the URL for your post. And they don’t only need to be recipes made on a Saturday. At the end of each month, a ‘special blogger’ will choose their favourite recipe from all the entries, and the winning blogger will receive a fantastic cookbook as their prize. The full entry guidelines are below.

January’s prize is Your Kitchen Garden: Month-by-Month by renowned gardening author Andi Clevely.

Highly practical and easy-to-use, with clear illustrations and seasonal charts, Andi Clevely’s book is invaluable for creating a  well-managed kitchen garden providing a plentiful supply of vegetables, fruit, salad crops, herbs and flowers throughout the year. Each chapter focuses on one calendar month, setting out the tasks to be done and featuring crops that will be ripe for harvesting.

Herbs on Saturday for January – guidelines on how to enter

  1. Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date is Thursday 31 January.
  2. Display the Herbs on Saturday badge (as shown above and below) on the relevant recipe post, with a link back to this post  and also to the challenge page over at Lavender & Lovage.
  3. Email me as many recipe links as you like, there is no limit and the recipes and posts can be from any day, not just Saturday!
  4. If you tweet your post, please mention #herbsonsaturday, @BangerMashChat and @KarenBurnsBooth in your tweet – I will retweet all that I see.
  5. The recipe can be one of your own or one you’ve seen elsewhere. You are welcome to republish old recipes/posts but please add the information about this challenge as listed above with the Herbs on Saturday badge.
  6. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page and at the end of the month there will be a round-up of all entries received.
  7. A guest blogger will choose their favourite recipe at the end of the month, and the winner will receive a copy of Your Kitchen Garden: Month-by-Month.

If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line. I’m really looking forward to receiving your entries for Herbs on Saturday!

January’s entries:

  1. Nigel Slater’s Hangover Salad from London Busy Body
  2. Herbed Cheese and Bacon Souffles from Caroline Makes
  3. Cumin Spiced Chicken with a Puy Lentil and Chargrilled Courgette Salad from How to be a Gourmand
  4. Mushroom, Onion and Thyme Focaccia from Lancashire Food
  5. Swamp Juice from Tinned Tomatoes
  6. Parsley Pesto from Chez Foti
  7. Slow Roasted Pork Neck in Thyme, Rosemary & Bay with Mint Flatbreads from Bangers & Mash
  8. Creamy Lemon Butter Beans from The Garden Deli
  9. Roast Chicken with Bulgur Wheat Stuffing and Roast Butternut Squash from Food Eat Love
  10. Bacon-Wrapped Salmon from Fab Food 4 All
  11. A Really Useful Asian Broth with Awesome Add-Ins from Food to Glow
  12. Rosemary and Thyme Chickpea Pancakes (Socca de Nice) from Food to Glow
  13. Saltimbocca alla Romana from Rita Cooks Italian
  14. Spicy Pork Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Beans from Farmersgirl Kitchen
  15. Parsley Pesto from The Botanical Baker
  16. Chicken, Sausage and Vegetable Hotpot from Lavender & Lovage
  17. Dukkah & Sun Dried Tomato Muffins from Fuss Free Flavours
  18. Fridge-Raid Smoked Salmon Spaghetti from Crumbs and Corkscrews
  19. Tiger Prawn Curry with Basmati Rice from Lavender & Lovage
  20. English Parsley, Walnut and Stilton Pesto from Marmaduke Scarlet
  21. Easy Shakshuka (Spiced North African Tomato and Eggs) from Food to  Glow
  22. Carrot Ginger Lime Soup with Sweet Potato Hummus from The Taste Space
  23. Butternut Risotto with Butternut Crisps from Chez Foti
  24. Middle Eastern Chicken Salad with Hummus Dressing from Bangers & Mash
  25. Chicken Breast Fillets with Sage from My Little Italian Kitchen
  26. 5:2 Diet Minestrone Soup from Tinned Tomatoes
  27. Rillettes de Canard from Blue Kitchen Bakes
  28. Cauliflower & Pear Soup from Elizabeth’s Kitchen
  29. Croustade de Canard (Duck Pie with Figs) from Delicieux
  30. Roasted Mushrooms with Rosemary from Cherrapeno
  31. Zero Effort Spicy Carrot Soup from Dinner with Crayons
  32. Thyme, Black Garlic and Tomato Flatbreads from Blue Kitchen Bakes
  33. Bresaola Spirals from Leeks and Limoni
  34. Shakshuka from Exploits of a Food Nut
  35. Peashoot, Bacon & Ricotta Penne from Anne’s Kitchen
  36. Nigella’s Chicken Tagine from Blue Kitchen Bakes
  37. Kroppkakor – Swedish Style Dumplings from Delicieux
  38. Belleau Minestrone from Belleau Kitchen
  39. Sicilian Style Tuna with Salsa Verde from 8&Ruth
  40. Smoked Mackerel Salad with Yoghurt, Horseradish & Dill Dressing from Recipe Junkie
  41. Lemon Chicken with Cannellini Beans and Rosemary from Lavender & Lovage
  42. Cheesy Chorizo Flatbreads from Blue Kitchen Bakes
  43. Goats Cheese Souffles with Thyme from Maison Cupcake