March/April 2020 – Recipes (Banana Bread, Blueberry, Lemon and Almond Loaf, Easy Lemon Ice Cream)
It’s been an interesting four weeks so far, food-wise, in this house as we attempt to ride out the Covid-19 lockdown and hang onto our sanity.
I realise we are both incredibly lucky in that we are both able to work from home, and in fact work for employers who have not needed to shut down/furlough people for the duration. In fact in some ways apart from removing my twice a week commute to the office in central London, my life is not vastly different to normal, at least from a work perspective. I’m saving around £100 a week on train and parking costs, to say nothing of all the other little things that cash gets frittered away on in London, and I’m saving 8 hours a week where I’m not just moving to and from the office.
The saved time is going on making sure we eat well, with most meals prepared from scratch or using previously prepared items from one of the freezers. People have been known to laugh at me for what they regard as my over-preparedness, but in the face of the oncoming Brexit stupidity, I just quietly got on with making sure that the pantry was well-stocked, the fridges and freezers were full, we had all the wine we could manage to find room for, and there was enough toilet paper.
When the panic buying started, I was already in a comfortable place, well aware that I could feed us for at least a month or two, even if it might get a tad boring towards the end. I maintain I inherited these tendencies from my father, who could NEVER be persuaded to throw food away, even if it was lurking underneath a fur coat that would have had Alexander Fleming whooping for joy! He “inherited” it, I suspect, from his mother, Charlotte, who gave birth to him (and his twin, Herbert) in December 1922 in Markleeberg, in Germany, right in the middle of the period of the Weimar Repubic’s crash into hyperinflation. Either way, he was very careful with food, hating to waste anything, while conversely being so generous with food when it came to feeding other people that there would often be so much available there would be no way we could get through it.
Whatever the causes, I am very much my father’s daughter in many ways. This is not a household that generates food waste despite the fact that I never knowingly under-cater! I cannot remember the last time I had to throw any foodstuff away. It helps that I have a large chest freezer (inherited from my parents) in the shed, a tall upright freezer sitting in a corner of my office, and a fridge/freezer in the kitchen. This means that I can cook, freeze and preserve to my heart’s content. Hence, in the current situation, while I might nor always have the absolutely correct ingredients, I can usually improvise and we’ll end with something tasty, if not exactly as its original creator intended.
This is why we now have three banana bread loaves in the freezer (we ate the other one last week), made with a bag of bananas that have been lurking in the freezer for a number of years – how many I would not like to speculate on. I used the recipe devised by the fabulous Felicity Cloake in her utterly brilliant “How to Cook the Perfect…” series in The Guardian newspaper over a number of years.
Serves: Around 12-14 slices
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- 350g ripe bananas (peeled weight)
- 180g plain flour, plus extra for the tin
- 2½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 160g soft, light brown sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 4 tbsp melted butter, plus extra to grease, slightly cooled
- 50g walnuts, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 170C. Put two-thirds of the peeled banana chunks into a bowl and mash until smooth. Roughly mash the remainder and stir in gently.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, and grease and lightly flour a baking tin about 21x9x7cm.
- Put the sugar, eggs and melted butter in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to whisk them until pale and slightly increased in volume. Fold in the bananas and the dry ingredients until you can see no more flour, then fold in the walnuts.
- Spoon into the tin and bake for about an hour until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a rack to cool completely.
- Try not to eat it all at once! It’s glorious on its own or buttered.
For further inspiration, I’ve been turning to a Facebook group that has, sadly, in the last few days, seemingly gone out of business, but that did provide a brilliant forum for keen cooks. The idea behind the Great British Chefs Cookbook Club was that a book was selected each month and we would all buy it and then cook from it, reporting back on the results. Of course you didn’t have to do anything, you could just read and thing “that’s a good idea” and then do nothing. This month, it was declared a free for all, where you could cook from any of the previous two dozen books. Now, there must have been a glut of buleberries or something, because suddenly everyone seemed to be making the same cake, a blueberry, lemon and almond loaf from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, Simple. Now simple is not a word you would associate with Ottolenghi normally, and to be honest that was one reason I hadn’t bothered with the book. He’s often roundly mocked in his Guardian column for including obscure, impossible to get hold of ingredients in his recipe. As I didn’t have the book, I was able to copy it from a photo of the page that someone had added to their post!
Anyway, as it turned out, this recipe really, really is simple, if you overlook the fact that I didn’t have any self raising flour and couldn’t get hold of any for love or money. As a consequence of the great British flour shortage, I dug around in the pantry and found a tub of flour that may have once had a label but has since lost it. It may, as it turned out, have been gluten free. Anyway, I lobbed in three teaspoons of baking powder and the end result is tasty if slightly heavier than I would like.
Blueberry, Lemon and Almond Loaf
Serves: Depends how greedy you are! Ours lasted a week between two of us.
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- 150g unsalted butter
- 190g caster sugar
- 2 lemons (2 tablespoons zest, 2 tablespoons juice)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 90g flour
- 15g baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 100g ground almonds
- 10g flaked almonds
- 200g blueberries
- 70g icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the vanilla extract in a bowl and beat for 3-4 minutes until it is light, then lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, in small additions, scraping down the sides. Add the flour, salt and almonds in three additions. Then fold in 150g blueberries by hand and pour the mix into your loaf tin.
- Bake for 15 minutes then sprinkle the remaining fruit over the cakr and return to the oven for another 15 minutes until the cake it golden brown. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes more.
- Make the icing with the rest of the ingredients.
Finally, I managed to lay hands on a box of fresh fruit, with no choice as to what was in it, and found myself in possession of more lemons than any sane person could possibly use. And thus, we now have lemon ice cream, which is both rich and smooth and wonderfully creamy, but which also packs a refreshingly sharp punch of lemon. I should note that I dispensed with all the whipping the double cream stagem just added it to the other ingredients and lobbed it in the ice cream maker. 25 minutes later, I had a lovely “soft scoop” textured ice cream.
Easy Lemon Ice Cream
Serves: At least 4
Prep: 3 hours 20 minutes without an ice cream maker, 45 minutes with one
- 1 large lemon, juiced and zested
- 200g (7 oz) caster sugar
- 250ml (8 fl oz) milk
- 250ml (8 fl oz) double cream, chilled
- Combine the lemon zest and sugar in the container of a food processor. Process until the zest is very fine.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the zest mixture and milk until sugar has dissolved, then stir in the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, whip the double cream until stiff but not grainy. Gently fold the whipped cream into the lemon mixture until blended.
- Pour the mixture into a 23x13cm (9×5 in) loaf tin, and cover with cling film. Freeze for 3 hours, or until firm.