Friday, February 24, 2012

Banana bread for Dory

I often, as you might guess, struggle to feel positive about stuff. Any small knock can send me spiralling into an unwashed, disconsolate, uninspired, make-up free bundle of nerves. In recent times, Kitty being ill has been a sure-fire way of me plummeting into despair. A tiny cough, a bout of teething, a sticky eye and I'm moping round the house with eye bags and dirty hair, snapping at my husband and refusing to do any washing up or laundry.

But recently, I've been fighting back. Kitty's been ill for about a week now. Started with a hacking cough, graduated to full-on fever, dull eyes, sporadic weeping (mainly at 3am) etc. It's been pretty tough. Our new plan of action is to have dinner eaten by 8pm and be in bed asleep by 9pm so that when 2/3am comes around and with it an hour or so of analgesic administration, cooing and soothing, we are prepared for it and not utterly fucked by 7am the next morning because we stayed up until 11pm watching Borgen.

My other plan of action is to get up the next morning, have a shower, wash my hair, put on fresh clothes and put my old ones in the wash. I make an effort to keep the house tidy, I try to make dinner every night, rather than barking "Let's just get a takeaway" at my husband.

It helps, it works. This illness, although with its persistent blubbery hacking cough, feverishness, sleeplessness and general horror, has been the longest and worst illness Kitty has had to date, hasn't sent me quite into the depths of despair that it would have done 6 months ago.

And so when the sun came out yesterday and I had a rush of blood to the head having smelled spring on the breeze, (like a demented Carwash in Will o' the Wisp), I decided to bake something.

I have been meaning for a long time to make a lot of things out of the Leon 2 cookbook, which is about baking and puddings. Recipe Rifle's very own pork pie is in there - with a picture and everything - on pages 284/5. And Henry, a friend of my husband's, who runs Leon, remarked the other day that I hadn't mentioned the cookbook once here. That's because I can't see what good it would do them and I'm staggered that he noticed, but still I took the hint.

And then Henry and his wife Jemima, who as coincidence would have it was my first ever boss, went and had a(nother) baby! Little Dorothy "Dory" Dilys Dimbleby. What a little peach she is. And my husband Giles is her godfather, which really means that I get to go absolutely bonkers with his credit card twice a year.

Let me tell you a story about my godfather. His name is Sir Douglass Wass and  he was, I think, my dad's boss when dad was a spy worked at the Treasury. The story goes that dad said to Sir Douglas when I was born "Will you be her godfather?" and Sir Douglas said "Oh I am very bad at that sort of thing but yes sure." And by then it was too late for dad to say "Oh forget it then you useless bastard." And as a result I heard absolutely hide nor hair from Sir Douglas. Ever. Never. Like, NEVER. But then I didn't actually have a christening so he may have been within his rights.

But it didn't stop me from thinking that it was something about me, something I'd done, that made him not especially interested in fulfilling his godfatherly duties. It left me feeling really quite shit about myself, seeing as my other sisters had perfectly normally functioning godparents. And next-eldest didn't have a wretched christening either.

So I can now, at last, lay a bad godparenting ghost to rest by being, via Giles, the world's best, most extravagant and mad godparent ever to Dory. I have started by purchasing a new hat for the christening.

And I am following this up with a banana bread baked in her honour. Yes I know it's more bananas, but I need the potassium, okay? And this banana bread is absolutely outstanding - much better than the other banana bread recipe on here. It is very banana-y, it's basically a lot of bananas held together with eggs and flour.

One of my favourite readers, Oraleek, just made the other banana bread, I note via my comments, and I feel very bad that she's been diddled out of making this one because I didn't post in time. But what can I say - life stinks.

Banana bread from the Leon 2 cookbook 

50g pecan nuts
150 veg oil
200g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
350g ripe skinned bananas
75g natural yoghurt
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
225g wholemeal spelt flour (yes they sell this in Waitrose)
1 extra banana, peeled
2 tbs caster sugar

1 Pre-heat your oven to 170C and butter a 2lb loaf tin and line it (YES you must do this, don't be lazy) and line a baking sheet, too.

2 Spread the pecans out over the baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 mins until golden and smelling yummy. you could probably also do this in a dry frying pan

3 In a bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs

4 In another bowl, roughly mash the bananas. I do mean roughly - you are going to stir them a lot later, so don't worry if there are very big lumps at this stage. Add the youghurt and mix together. Sprinkle over the bicarb of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and stir again.

5 Mix the banana mixture and the sugar/egg mixture together. Chop the pecans and chuck those in too. Then sprinkle over the flour and stir until things are only just combined. Over-mixing is disastrous here so I actually left about 15% of dried flour still visible, which resulted in some seams of flour left running through the cake. So be brave, but not too brave. Spoon the batter into your smugly lined tin.

6 Slice your spare banana down the middle and place one half on top of the batter, then sprinkle over the caster sugar. The banana half will sink into the mixture during cooking and look terrific. I advise you to eat the other half to get in the mood.

7 Bake for 45-50 mins.

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