I made these to be sold at the school sports day. We’re raising money. Well, we’re always raising money aren’t we? It’s what Mums do. READ MORE
I made these to be sold at the school sports day. We’re raising money. Well, we’re always raising money aren’t we? It’s what Mums do. READ MORE
I struggled with what to call these. Sugar free flapjack? Refined sugar free flapjack? Baby flapjack? Or just plain old flapjack? I went for weaning flapjack in the end, but frankly anyone can enjoy these whether they’re 6 months old of 106 years old.
Manage your expectations though if you’re a sugar addict. These are not syrupy sweet like regular flapjack. But they’re still delicious.
Makes about 16, but depends how large you cut them
Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 2 and pop the kettle on. Grease and line a 20cm x 20cm tin.
Peel the banana and break into pieces. Place in a jug with the dates and boiling water. Leave for 5 minutes and in the meantime chop the figs and apricots into 1/2 cm chunks using scissors. Use a stick blender to blitz the banana mixture to a fine purée, being careful not to spray yourself with boiling water.
Combine the puree, oats and chopped fruit in a bowl until well mixed then press into the prepared tin. Bake for 30 minutes until the edges are starting to brown and the top feel firm. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack then cut with a very sharp knife once cool. Store in a tin for up to 5 days. Freeze, well wrapped for up to a month. Defrost at room temperature before serving.
I’m not a Mum who treats sugar as the devil. I have a very sensible (well I think so) theory that by saying something’s off limits you create all kinds of both negative and exciting connotations. Dieting, giving up smoking, stopping dating unsuitable men… by saying it’s off limits all of a sudden we all want it more. So this recipe is a welcome surprise. I’d read about blitzing frozen bananas up to make ice-cream but had never really trusted that it might rival my love for the proper creamy stuff. I was wrong. Add some frozen morello cherries and honey and I’m there, face first in the tub, not sharing with anyone. Well I am almost 40 weeks pregnant…
Three years ago: Banana and custard melts
Cherry & banana ice-cream
I freeze my bananas ahead of time, whenever they are slightly on the turn. Don’t whatever you do freeze the bananas whole and then try to blend with a domestic blender. It will likely cause a lot of smoke.
Blitz the banana pieces and cherries with a stick blender or in a large food processor with the blade attachment until smooth. Add honey to sweeten slightly and re-freeze in tubs. Ta-da! Lovely ice-cream with loads less guilt.
Photography by Minal Photography.
What’s that saying? Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. I’m not sure we have time in our house to breakfast like kings, we’re mostly too busy locating book bags, brushing teeth and discussing the all-important question of which shoe goes on which foot. I am almost never late for anything, but mornings are a rush.
Breakfast may be guilty of being a bit boring in our house, as I suspect it is for many. I asked people on my facebook page what their kids eat and the resounding answer was toast, cereal and some form of English breakfast/pancakes at the weekend when time is more abundant. For what it’s worth my kids mainly eat cereal followed by toast, fruit and/or yoghurt. Pretty wholesome in my book.
Or not. I recently went shopping for some Shredded Wheat as a friend was coming to stay for the weekend – her son loves the stuff. Her little one also has a nut allergy so I of course made a point of checking the ingredients of both the real deal and also the own label alternative (well I am the Bargain Queen after all). The wholesome looking shredded-wheat-knock-off listed no nuts but did include sugar, salt and indeed all manner of chemical things I didn’t like the sound of. I switched back to the branded version with gusto which just contained, well, wheat.
So it felt very topical when a few days later the folks at Organix asked me to take part in their #NoJunk challenge, because, as much as I might have thought breakfast is a wholesome affair in my house, it basically isn’t. I’ve made a very late new year’s resolution to start checking out what’s in the food my children (and my husband and I) eat – with a war declared on junk. This isn’t about not baking treats like cakes and biscuits, in fact homemade treats – where I know what’s in the cake/biscuit/flapjack, are most definitely on the menu. What’s not, are the off the cuff purchases where junk could easily be hiding. In short, I’m going to be studying labels before putting my hands in my pocket.
Here’s a no junk recipe that takes about 3 minutes from grabbing the ingredients to serving. Perfect for busy mornings and a break from the usual cereal and toast. I’m launching the #NoJunk challenge for Organix on Monday – why don’t you sign up too? And maybe share some no junk recipes that feed your family? There’s even a blog hop with a fantastic prize worth £108 of spa goodies!
NB: Photography by Minal Photography.
Serves 1, scale up as required
Place all the ingredients into a blender, then blitz until all the berries have disappeared. Serve immediately either as it is, over ice or with the rest of the banana for dipping. (You can use a stick blender and measuring jug to blitz the smoothie if you don’t own a blender.)
NB: This was written in support of Organix #NoJunk challenge.
Can I admit I am slightly scared? I am getting very big and very pregnant now and whilst the birth looms large in my head it’s not that which spreads fear across my shoulders, serving them to rise up. Nope. It’s that I won’t be doing much of this anymore. Much sitting at my desk, staring into the garden whilst the boys are at school and playschool, typing away, writing up blog posts, recipes, my newsletter – the things I enjoy doing so much. I often listen to Radio 4 at my desk, with a hot cup of tea. Is it wrong to be mourning these daily treats already? I’m not naive. I know it’ll be mighty busy but do you think there might be time for half an hour a day? Who am I trying to kid… On to the recipe.
NB: Photography by Minal at Minal Photography.
Banana & toffee muffins
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and line a 6 hole muffin tray with cases. Wait until the oven has preheated before starting as these muffins are very quick to make and any mixture with baking powder in doesn’t like to sit about ready mixed for too long.
Mix together the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and stir well. In a jug mix together the egg, milk and oil – beat lightly with a fork and then pour over the dry ingredients. Use the fork to stir until just combined. Add the mashed banana and stir again lightly. Lastly pour the toffee sauce over the muffin mixture and swirl though with a spoon, gently and not too vigorously. Over beating this muffin mixture results in a tough muffin!
Spoon into the cases equally until almost full, then bake for 25 – 30 minutes until browned and risen. Don’t worry if areas of the muffin are a little lower then others – this will be where there’s a pool of toffee sauce. Enjoy warm or cold and eat within 3 days. These freeze well if you can’t get through them in time.
Another half term over, another set of scribbles on my husbands dear Habitat table to scrub off. The house is a bombsite, there are toys strewn everywhere but we had a great time. And I also had an epiphany. A parenting epiphany no less.
I tried to plan the week with a mixture of at home activities and day trips but after a rather sullen visit to the cinema where my husband and I seemed to be more engrossed in the plight of Princess Ana than our two young sons, I realised that actually all they wanted to do was be with us. In that, they wanted our full and undivided attention, not shared with a cinema screen. So simple, so obvious and yet so easy to miss in the wake of soft play centres, cinemas, bowling and all the other half term must haves.
So home we went and set about a spot of kitchen therapy. My sous chefs helped bake and decorate these cupcakes with gusto. They mashed, mixed, whisked, folded, spooned and tasted. You can guess which part was the most popular.
Chocolate banana flower cupcakes
For the cake:
For the icing:
Line a 12 hole cake tin with cupcake cases and preheat the oven to gas 4/180C/fan 160C. Cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon or with a mixer for about 4 – 6 minutes until really light and creamy looking. Add the eggs to the creamed mixture a dribble at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the milk, beat again.
Fold the mashed bananas into the mixture using a large metal spoon. Then sieve the flour and cocoa over the top and fold in again with a metal spoon. When no traces of the flour or cocoa are visible, spoon into the cases equally and bake for 20 – 25 minutes in the centre of the oven until they’re well risen, a little cracked at the surface and a toothpick comes out of the centre of each cupcake clean. Cool on a wire rack, removed from the tin.
To make the icing beat the butter with a wooden spoon or electric mixer for about 5 minutes until light and creamy, then add the icing sugar 1 tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and milk, beat well for another 5 minutes to ensure the icing is really fluffy, then spoon onto the cupcakes once cooled. Use a knife to spread an even layer over the top of each cake.
Press a banana chip into the centre of each cupcake then push 12 chocolate buttons into the buttercream in a circle pattern, to look like petals. These cupcakes keep in an airtight tin, at room temperature for 4 days.
So the whole school run thing is exhausting. Not for the kids. For me. I had no idea how disorganised I was until I actually had to be somewhere for fear of incurring the wrath of the headmistress. I’ve had proper jobs pre children, but they were all in advertising where you do have to turn up for work at some point in the morning, but there’s no bell, no clocking in and out. And well, it was all very civilised and expected that if you rocked up late you worked later. Scrap that, we all worked late anyway. We laughed in the face of a 50 hour week.
So now I am being brought back to school rules and regimes as my eldest son has started school. And I find myself craving nursery cakes, the kind we mums produce for children as a treat when really we’re smuggling fruit and wholemeal stuff into their little bodies.
Slightly adapted from Mumsnet
Banana recipes: Mini banoffee pavs and Banana & custard cupcakes and Joyful banana, butterscotch and fig traybake and Banana and custard melts and Pecan and banana mini pavs and Banoffee Victoria sponge
Easy banana cake
Criminally easy. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180C and grease and line a cake tin – I used a 22cm wide one but anything will do. Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy then add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture curdles just add a tbsp of flour. Then beat in the bananas next, then beat in the flour, baking powder and raisins for a minute or so. Spoon into the tin and level with a spoon. Bake for 40 – 60 minutes until a skewer comes out of the middle of the cake clean. The larger the diameter of the tin the shorter the cooking time as a rule.
Whilst still warm break the chocolate over the top and leave to melt into the cake as a cheat’s icing. Enjoy after school with tired limbs and a brain full of facts about owls and worms.
You can generally tell if the buttercream is homemade at a children’s birthday party without even trying it. Just look out for abandoned, naked cakes with the icing brutally licked clean off. Kids have a 6th sense for sniffing out icing made by Mum or Dad and they love it. I don’t think they hugely care whether it’s perfect or not. It’s us adults who worry about that kind of stuff.
This is an easy peasy recipe for a buttercream with just a bit of a difference that my sons really rather like. Light and fluffy and tasting just a little bit like a banana milkshake. Just call me kitsch.
Covers about 12 cupcakes but depends on how large the cakes are and how much icing you like
– 200g soft, salted butter
– 400g icing sugar
– 2 tbsp banana milkshake powder
– banana foam sweeties or banana chips to decorate your cakes with
To make in a KitchenAid: Use the flat beater to cream the butter until soft and light – about 4 minutes. Then add the icing sugar spoon by spoon, mixing on a low speed until all incorporated, then add the milkshake powder. Beat on high for 7 minutes until the buttercream looks like mousse – flecked with air bubbles, then use to pipe onto cupcakes or to sandwich larger cakes together. Place more buttercream on the top and add sweeties!
NB: If you don’t want banana buttercream then simply substitute the milkshake powder for another flavour such as 2 tbsp vanilla extract/Baileys/Malibu/orange extract etc. My favourite is vanilla.
NB: This buttercream can be made using a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon but it will take a LOT longer. I can’t tell you how long as it completely depends on how hard you beat the mixture and how much you move the mixer about. Look for a mixture similar in texture to mousse with flecks of air running through it. I find it very hard to achieve the same lightness without a stand mixer though – I would employ the strongest person in the house to have a go!
I am almost never late. I hate lateness for all the reasons anyone might do. It implies a certain sense of importance… that the late person somehow thinks their time is so much more important than the poor person waiting. It’s plain rude. And yet here I am with a late recipe. I could tell you I’ve been working every day until silly o’clock recently. Or I could tell you that I’m not feeling so good. Or I could just stop making excuses and get on with the recipe. The late recipe. Here she is… ta da! I hope she was worth waiting for.
Comments, as always, welcomed.
Pecan & banoffee mini pavolovas
Makes about 7 but depends how large you make your mini pavs.
Whisk your egg whites until beginning to hold their peaks. Then whisk in 1 teaspoon of the castor sugar at a time. I know this is laborious but if you rush it and throw the lot in you’re less likely to make sure it all dissolves into the egg and you might end up with weeping meringue. Might.
Once the sugar’s all in, the mixture should look really white and glossy, then add in the cornflour and white wine vinegar. Whisk again. The combination of these ingredients makes for a mallowy chewy middle to your meringue so whilst they’re desirable they’re not a reason to run to the local shops if you don’t have them. Then use a metal spoon to very gently fold in 50g of the crushed pecan nuts. Don’t stir or use your mixer as if you do the meringue collapses.
Pop some foil or baking parchment on a baking tray, fixing it down with a little sticky meringue. Then spoon about 2 heaped tablespoons of the meringue onto the foil/parchment to make each nest. You can leave in a big snowy heap or use your fingers and the back of a teaspoon to slightly hollow out the middle for holding double cream later. Up to you. (You can squash the meringues after baking instead to make a pocket for the cream if you prefer, but they will crack as you do this.) Then sprinkle another 20g of the crushed pecans over the top of the meringues.
Bake at the bottom and on the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 140C. (For these are the coolest areas of most ovens and we’re trying to dry these meringues out, not bake them so that they brown.) As soon as they go into the oven turn it down to about 100C, or 90C for a fan. Then after 45 minutes turn the oven off entirely but don’t open it.
About 35 minutes into baking I tend to open the oven door and have a little prod to make sure the oven has worked it’s magic and the outsides of the meringue are hard. If not they need a little longer than the aforementioned 45 minutes. Then I DO NOT OPEN the oven for the last ten minutes of baking. I turn the oven off and then leave the little snowy meringues to slowly come to room temperature for a few hours. Easier to just make these last thing at night and leave them until the morning in your oven.
Once completely cold I fill with whipped cream, sliced bananas (dipped in lemon juice if not serving immediately to stop any browning) and toffee sauce, oh and more pecans. Both crushed and whole. This is a serious dessert for people who are serious about things like cream, sugar and nuts.
Essentially a very lazy recipe… just follow the recipe for this to make the pavlovas. Then add 200g whipped double cream, some sliced bananas and if you feel inclined you could make you own toffee sauce. Or you could just buy one. This is a Friday night pudding for when you need maximum gratification and minimum effort. Make the meringues on a Wednesday and you may just fall in love with yourself come Friday dinner time.
I heart toffee sauce. Look at this stuff. If you want to make it then this recipe is very good. Good old Mary.