We’ve been back in Cornwall for three weeks and, ahem, I believe there have been no blog posts during that time. We’ve been busy trying to get the house finished and there has also been the lure of the unusually fabulous British weather, so we thought we’d squeeze in some walks and see a few more places before the mass arrival of tourists when the school holidays start in a couple of weeks time.
On the house front, we are nearly there – it has been almost a year since we started, but we are delighted with the result. We are far from tidy and there are plenty of finishing touches to do (like swapping the Turkish carpet in our living room, which doesn’t remotely complement the furniture, for the one that is currently underneath the dining table in our house in Turkey – despite our best efforts, it was too big to go in our largest suitcase, so ended up being left for our next visit).
The plumbers, carpenters, joiners and decorators have done a magnificent job, not just in transforming the house, but in valiantly eating their way through many baking experiments and still coming back for more. Here are some of my favourite transformations, the best (and definitely messiest!) of which has been knocking out the wall between the staircase and little sitting room downstairs, which now finally has a table and is about to become my office/sewing room amongst other duties.
My office/sewing room/spare sitting room (look, no wall…)
Main living room – wood burner has sprinted across to the other corner…
Guest bathroom has just accommodated its first guests
Last year’s temporary kitchen, now finally in its real role as utility/coat room
Small, but perfectly formed – the new kitchen, where all the goodies start out in life
Anyway, that’s enough of the house, you get the idea, but I am sure you can see why we generally prefer living in the ‘after’ version of events.
Since we’ve been back, I’ve been working on more egg-free, dairy-free cakes and bakes, and this banana bread is now probably my favourite banana bread of all time. The only slight downside is that it doesn’t improve with keeping, so needs to be sliced and stashed in the freezer if you are not going to eat it within a day or two. It is absolutely delicious toasted, so even when it is past its best, it would make a perfect breakfast or elevenses.
I got the idea of adding the sherry from a Nigella Lawson recipe, the original version of which actually uses rum. I have reduced the amount of alcohol, as it seemed completely wasteful to use more than you need and then drain it off – who wants to pour good sherry (or rum) down the sink? If you don’t want to add sherry* (and there would be negligible amounts of alcohol left once it’s been boiled AND baked), then use a little apple juice, tea or even just hot water to plump up the fruit. The fruit needs to soak in the liquid until it has cooled down – a few hours is even better.
As with any banana bread, this really needs bananas that have ended up in the bottom of the fruit bowl, forgotten and squidgy – this brings out their natural sweetness and helps give the cake a lovely fudgy texture.
I’ve used ‘Orgran no-egg’ in place of the two eggs in the original recipe, but you could substitute the equivalent amount of either flax/chia ‘eggs’ or aqua faba – all options would work well, as the bananas add both texture and bulk. I’ve substituted brown sugar for the original white and doubled the amount of fruit – sorry to meddle with your recipe, Nigella, but thank you anyway for the lovely idea for the cake. You could also add chopped walnuts or pecans if you wish, or even a couple of handfuls of pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds for extra crunch.
(*Waitrose own brand, Croft Original and Harveys Bristol Cream sherries are all suitable for a vegan diet, along with several others).
Fruity banana bread (vegan)
Cuts into 8 – 10 slices
You will need a 1kg loaf tin (approx 27.5 x 12 cm), lined or well greased.
2 tablespoons medium or sweet sherry (or same amount of rum, fruit juice, brewed tea or water)
150g dried fruit (I used Asda mixed fruit, but use any combination you like, or just sultanas)
3 bananas (preferably over-ripe – ones with black skin are fine)
175g very soft dairy-free margarine (or use sunflower oil)
150g light brown or Demerara sugar plus extra for sprinkling
175g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, cider vinegar or rice vinegar
A pinch of salt
2 teaspoons Orgran ‘no-egg’ dissolved in 4 tablespoons cold water (or 2 flax eggs or 4 tablespoons aqua faba)
Put the fruit and sherry (or your other chosen liquid) into a small saucepan, bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and leave to cool – by which time the liquid should be almost entirely absorbed by the fruit. (You could also do this in the microwave if you prefer, and you can certainly do it further ahead if you wish).
Important: the baking soda will begin to react immediately it comes into contact with the wet ingredients containing the vinegar, so make sure your oven is hot and your tin prepared before you start mixing the cake.
Once the fruit/sherry mixture has cooled, pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
If the bananas are not very soft, mash them with a fork (or use your electric whisks) until they are a smoothish paste.
Add the margarine (or oil), sugar and vinegar to the bananas, along with two tablespoons of the flour and the pinch of salt, and whisk until they are combined – the mix may look a little curdled, this will be remedied when you add the rest of the flour.
Now pour in the dissolved ‘no-egg’ (or other egg substitute) and the fruit/sherry, and mix until combined. Sieve in the rest of the flour with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and fold in with a spatula, making sure there are no floury lumps. You will see little bubbles appearing on the surface – this is the baking soda reacting with the vinegar, so you need to get your cake in the oven PDQ or the baking soda will run out of puff.
Tip the mix into your prepared tin, smooth the top and scatter generously with brown sugar, then bake for around one hour to an hour and a quarter. Check after 50 minutes and cover loosely with foil if the cake is getting too brown. The cake is baked when it has started to slightly pull away from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out without any sticky mixture adhering to it. I baked mine for one hour, then left the cake in the turned-off oven for another 15 minutes, but every oven is different, so you will need to check.