Bananas – love them or loathe them, they are one of the most versatile foods & make some of the best tasting treats. Now I don’t usually get all fired up about fruit, but they’re getting a bit of press recently & it’s not good – apparently, people are throwing away millions of pounds worth of bananas a year because they’re a bit blemished, bruised & generally not very beautiful! So don’t throw them away – show the banana some love!
As with most things, it’s what’s on the inside that counts & for me, bananas are pure gold. Growing up, my Mum loved banana sandwiches (I really didn’t!) & she would put bananas in smoothies, pancakes & a plethora of puddings, just to get me to eat them. Beautiful banana splits were piled high with vanilla ice cream, squished strawberries, a swirl of cream smothered in chocolate curls, soft fragments of fudge & a handful of the original 1970s dessert topping: hundreds & thousands! It took minutes to make & seconds to demolish.
When my son was a baby, I mashed bananas with other soft fruits for an easy but healthy dessert – in fact, I would purée all kinds of foods for him when he was weaning & freeze it in small batches, so I always had a supply of mini meals for my mini me (he’s very tall now & makes me look dinky!). Jars were great, but it was cheaper & easier to make my own, plus I knew exactly what was in them. As he got older, I would blitz a banana in a blender with some Greek yoghurt, a bit of honey, a splash of milk & a few strawberries or blueberries (or both). Less than a minute later, smoothies for breakfast & minimal washing up (always a bonus!).
And then came the delightful discovery of the chocolate banana loaf & it’s one my family’s favourite treats. Use really over-ripened bananas here – as bruised & blotchy as you can get – check out the reduced section of your local shop & if you have a few leftover, just freeze them. My tip is to double the mixture & make two – they tend to evaporate rapidly!
What you need:
2 medium-large very ripe bananas
4oz light Muscovado sugar
5oz self-raising flour
2oz softened butter, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
1 large egg
A tip of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (just a tiny bit)
A few drops of Vanilla extract
3 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk
50g walnut pieces
100g plain chocolate chunks (smash up a bar of chocolate)
What to do:
Heat the oven to 180*C & prepare your loaf tin (standard size) – brush the inside with melted butter, then line with greaseproof paper.
Put all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl, except for the walnuts & chocolate. Mash them up together until squishy & lumpy – you want it to be combined, but not purée.
Add the chocolate chunks & walnut pieces, stirring gently to evenly distribute them in the mixture. Add the milk a little at a time until it’s a bit looser – more like a thick, natural yoghurt consistency (but with nuts & chocolate in!).
Pour it all into your prepared loaf tin (use a spatula to make sure you get all the mixture out of the bowl) & bake in the centre of the oven on a baking tray for approximately 45 minutes. Use a skewer to test if it’s cooked – poke it in the middle (the thickest part) of the loaf & if it comes out clean, then it’s ready. If not, give it another five minutes & check again. Once cooked, leave it in the tin on a cooling rack for five minutes, before gently easing the loaf out onto the rack. Carefully remove the greaseproof paper from the edges & leave to cool completely (about half an hour or so).
All that’s left to do is indulge in a thick slice with a cuppa – it’s moist, chocolatey & comforting, plus it makes a great addition for afternoon tea. Store the rest in an airtight container or freeze a few slices for when you fancy a treat. I really want to say this keeps well, but it never lasts very long in our house!
So get baking & bling up those bin-bound bananas! A x