Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Walnut and banana cake

This is a variant on the classic banana loaf that I have developed firstly for some variety and secondly because it looks a bit posher and is therefore useful for the obligatory school coffee mornings / charity bakes and parties.

I would normally make a basic banana bread and one of these cakes at the same time. I do this by slightly altering the method and making a basic batter then putting half in a cake tin before adding the walnuts and cinnamon to the batter that is left.  This is useful for feeding children who would baulk at anything with walnuts on the top!

300g almond flour
170g honey
2 overripe bananas
3 eggs
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp cinnamon 
75g walnuts

1. Preheat oven to Gas Mark  4 / 180 C / 350F
2. Sieve the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a bowl
3 Mash bananas in food processor or by hand using a fork
3. Add eggs to bananas in processor and blend 
4. Add in the dry ingredients dry ingredients (bar walnuts) into the mixer and pulse until mixed
5.Put aside a handful if walnuts for the top of the cake 
6.  If you want there to be larger walnut pieces remove the mixture from the blender into a bowl and mix in the remaining walnuts.  If you want a smoother texture pulse again in the blender.
6  Pour into  one large cake / loaf tin or two 1 1b loaf tins lined with greaseproof paper or cake cases 
7. Scatter the remaining walnut pieces on the top of the loaf.
8. If in two small pans bake for 40 minutes. Put skewer into middle of cake and if it comes out dry, cakes are ready.  If not give cakes another 5 minutes.  If in a larger tin bake for 45 minutes and check.

This cake can be sliced and frozen.

Spaghetti bolognese (with added veg)

Most people can get together a spaghetti bolognese so the reason for including this recipe is because it includes lots of hidden vegetables that work well with the traditional recipe.  I quadruple the ingredients below and make a huge amount in a stock pot and then have 3/4 portions to freeze as well as that night's dinner.

I can't always afford or find organic meat but I would always buy organic mince from a supermarket or at least grass fed from a butcher as it is not a stupid price. It's important to get full fat mince - it tastes much better and fat is good for you! 

I make my own Italian mixed herbs by mixing together equal amounts of dried oregano, thyme, basil, sage and rosemary.  

I chop the vegetables quite finely because I don't want to draw too much attention to the mushroomsand courgettes with my four year old!  I don't grate or blend the vegetables as I still like the interesting texture of the vegetables and the meat but this is an option if you have children (or partners!) who baulk at any noticeable vegetable pieces or require a smooth texture. 

I cook this with olive oil as I keep everything at a fairly low temperature but if you don't wish to cook with olive oil you could use good quality beef dripping. 

Ideally the final meat sauce should be left simmering for at least half an hour to develop the taste but if you are in a rush to serve dinner it tastes fine after a ten minutes or so. 

We don't eat gluten so we use rice or buckwheat pasta but this would obviously work well with any pasta or as a filling for a lasagne. 

We serve with buttered green beans and or a salad and grated Parmesan. 


500g beef 
1 large onion
1 red pepper 
1 courgette (optional) 
Approx 1/2 dozen mushrooms (double if small mushrooms) 
2 cloves of garlic 
1 tsp of Italian mixed herbs 
1 glass of red wine (optional) 
1/2 jar or 340g passata 
Seasoning to taste 
1 tbsp of tomato purée. 
Grated Parmesan (optional) 


- Finely  chop up the vegetables 
- Heat up a couple of tbsp of olive oil or beef dripping in a large pan and gently cook the vegetables for approximately ten minutes until the onion has softened
- Add the garlic (crushed) and cook for two minutes, stirring continuously so garlic does not burn and become bitter 
- Add the meat, break up with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until meat browned.
- Add the passata, tomato puree, herbs, seasoning and wine 
Stir thoroughly and allow to simmer until it reaches your desired consistency.  This will also improve taste.   For us and this size portion this will be around half an hour.