The sweet peas are up. I don’t think the bathroom windowsill is really the best place to keep them (the cat has definitely nibbled at least one of them) but currently it is the only option.
Speaking of the cat…Gertie had the snip last week. She’s now sporting a directional haircut (i.e. a shaved patch) but is otherwise seemingly none the wiser. She still enjoys sitting directly on my head so can’t be that cross with her fate.
There’s been no allotmenting for the past few weeks, me being a fair-weather gardener. But the seed catalogues are here and I’ve been circling the cima di rapa, tomatoes and cosmos, thinking of the new season. Matt’s plotting ways to achieve straight parsnips (not joking). Underneath the concrete skies of a February city, the abundance of summer is hard to imagine…but the yearning for sunshine is strong. I’ve been gawping at Mediterranean cookbooks, as if it might be possible to absorb the bright light of whitewashed villages by osmosis. It isn’t of course.
There’s been a lot of baking on Notes from the Veg Patch of late: in February, it’s the kind of cooking I need. This black banana cake is one of the best everyday baking recipes, and uses up dead fruit in the process. The blacker and deader the bananas, the better your cake will be.
This is one of those cakes where the sum is better than its parts. It’s actually just a regular creamed sponge, moistened with ground almonds and bananas and spiked with chunks of dark chocolate. Served warm, the chocolate will go all melty on your tongue (Matt just ate a slice still warm from the oven and made groaning noises). But it’s also sturdy enough for lunch boxes and is useful for general snacky-ness.
The secret to a good creamed sponge is making sure the butter is really, really soft, and then creamed thoroughly with the sugar. Fancypants cooks would use a Kitchenaid; I prefer a wooden spoon.
Then add in flour, almonds, eggs and vanilla, then finally fold in the mushed up bananas and chocolate. Bake for an hour and that’s it. Good, easy everyday baking.
Black Banana Cake
Adapted from www.bbc.co.uk/food
175g butter, really soft
100g light brown sugar
75g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
2 large eggs
175g self raising flour
250g bananas (about 2 fruits)
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
Pre-heat oven to 170c. Prepare a loaf tin with baking parchment (my tin is 22cm x 7cm x 11cm tall). Cream the butter and sugar until very light in colour and fluffy. Fold in the flour, almonds and eggs in turn, to make a very stiff batter. Mash the bananas and stir in with the vanilla and chocolate. Mix thoroughly. Bake for about 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean. Eat warm with ice-cream or leave to cool in the tin. Keeps for a few days in a tin but it’s best the day it’s made.