Lucy Madden’s Blog

Some years ago in Belfast I bought a banana plant.  I was assured that it would, with proper care, in time bear fruit.  I’m still waiting, although every year huge new leaves unfurl from its base.  The disappointment is lessened by the fact that today bananas are seen everywhere, all year round.  It’s hard not to think that if bananas were not so universally available, they would be more valued as a tropical delicacy.

Transportable, digestible, full of nutrients, a good banana is a remarkable fruit, the perfect fast food in its own packaging.    It’s no wonder that after the citrus, the banana is the world’s most traded fruit.  In 1999 there was much excitement on an archaeological dig in south London when a perfectly preserved banana skin was discovered.  It was dated back to 1500 but it seems unlikely that the banana was anything but an oddity in Tudor times since its popularity is a more recent phenomenon.  Whether you like your bananas bright yellow, with brown spots, brown patches or black, there are few better snack foods.  If you don’t like overripe bananas, turn them into bread or muffins, as in the recipes below.   Heating the fruit intensifies the flavour and emphasises the starchiness.  Banana sandwiches, beloved in my childhood years, seem to have fallen out of favour with the young.  Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Elvis is said to have met his end with a banana fried in a sandwich with peanut butter and bacon.

The best bananas are said to come from the Windward Islands where small farmers work thin volcanic soil on steep slopes in uncertain weather conditions, conditions which allow the fruit to develop more slowly – resulting, the producers claim, in thinner skins and a finer flavour than those grown in flat fields under constant sunshine.  Similar weather conditions are never going to prevail in my garden, which is why my quest to produce the fruit is unlikely ever to succeed.

 

BANANA BREAD

This is more of a cake than bread.  Eat it warm from the oven or it is almost as good next day.

 

2 ripe bananas, mashed

75g/3 oz butter at room temperature

110g/4 oz brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

225g/8 oz plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

50g/2 oz sultanas

Cream the butter with the sugar and stir in the egg, the vanilla essence and the mashed bananas.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg and stir into the butter/sugar mixture to combine the ingredients well.  Lastly stir in the sultanas.

Spoon the mixture into a greased loaf tin and bake at Gas 4/350F/180C for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the loaf.  Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out.

 

BANANA MUFFINS

2 ripe bananas, mashed

225g/8 oz plain flour

110g/4 oz caster sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg, lightly beaten250ml/8 fl oz milk

120ml/4 fl oz vegetable oil

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and make a well in the centre.  Blend together the remaining ingredients and mix into the dry ingredients until just blended.  Take care not to overmix.  Spoon into 12 muffin cases or greased muffin tins and bake at Gas 6/400F/200C for 20 minutes until well risen and springy to the touch.

 

BANANA PARCELS

 

For 6 people

6 medium bananas

2 tablespoons butter

2-3 tablespoons soft brown sugar

6 tablespoons cream

Cut 6 large squares of foil.  Peel and slice the bananas and divide between the foil squares.  Divide the remaining ingredients between the parcels.  Gather up the foil, twisting the top to seal, and either place on a cooling barbecue grill for 20 minutes or cook on a baking sheet at Gas 5/375F/190C for about 20 minutes.