We are in mid November. Sweet, festive November.
Well, I’m not here to talk weather. Not today. I’m here to celebrate—friendship and birthdays. It’s the season to be thankful. To honor the occasion, I want to tell three awesome people—Tony, Hazra, Shaily—who celebrate their birthday this month, how much I value their friendship, how grateful I am to know them.
“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” Walter Winchel. True. Disappointments in life can literally knock us down. A good friend makes room for us particularly when we are hurting, or just feeling a little under the weather. They give us the gift of time, offer their support, and give us confidence to keep going. And I have to say this: I’m privileged to have such graced friends in my life.
Tony, Hazra and I worked in the same organization. I'm a tad embarrassed to admit, but the truth is, I never spent much time with any of them. Yet, they were always there for me when I hit the lows. They gave me courage to face the world, and I'm forever thankful.
Now for Shaily. She’s this cute, smart, vivacious kid who lives in the same compound as I. We not only live in the same neighborhood, we used to carpool to campus where she was a student and I was an employee. Whats more, we even share the same birthday, ha. No wonder I connect with her so well.
Wherever in the world you are—strangers, acquaintances, family, friends—if you are reading this, come on, grab a glass and let’s toast to friendship.
Happy Birthday, my friends!
It’s customary to mark any celebratory occasion with food. And I’m celebrating with some bite. I have here a fabulous chocolate mousse cake from Patisserie Suisse, which says let’s celebrate—more appropriate for the occasion. Wait, you didn’t think that I made this gorgeous cake right? I wish, but I didn’t! What I did make is this homely banana walnut bread. Okay, it may not look impressive, especially next to the choco cake, but it tastes fabulous. In fact, it has become quite popular with my family in just two attempts—something the hubby, brother and son enjoys. Not one dissenting voice from the family, ah.
There is a story behind why I chose a banana bread recipe for today.
My friend Hazra’s baking skill is legendary at work. She mailed me her banana bread recipe immediately after I started blogging. Sure enough, I’ve been meaning to bake it for the past 10 months now. Yep, you heard me right—10 months, duh. When I finally decided to do her recipe, I was out of luck—the doc file where I saved the instruction was missing. So, I adapted this other recipe from one of my most trusted sources for new trials these days— Australian Women’s Weekly publication.
This is my first attempt at baking bread, and I was pleasantly surprised with how good it turned out. To be honest, I've never tasted a banana bread before. I’m glad I now have a recipe to use those brown, overripe bananas in the fruit basket, which otherwise ends up in the bin. It’s wholesome, nutritious and tasty too.
Banana bread or cake—whatever you call it—is absolutely easy and very versatile. You can make it using different flours, add fruits or nuts to your taste, or simply do it plain. You can even experiment with various topping—I’ve already tried chocolate chips, and spiced sugar.
This version is superbly moist and deliciously dense, and the banana cinnamon flavor works brilliantly. The scent when the bread is baking is wonderfully enticing.
“Mama, can I have two slices topped with ice-cream?” my son asked, delighting in the waft that warmed the house the second time I was baking.
Yeah, he likes to pair it with a good scoop of vanilla ice cream.
“Sorry baby, you’ll have to wait until I take some pictures” I replied.
“Ugh! Why don’t you switch on the exhaust fan then?” he said.
I smiled. I liked that he was impatient to taste it.
The original recipe asks for 1 cup chopped prunes, but I substituted ½ cup roasted walnuts for a nutty bite. I also did a topping with sugar and cinnamon that adds an extra layer of wonderful flavor. You can actually skip this if you can’t justify a bit of extra sweetness. But hey there are many fun ways to burn down the calories if that’s your concern!
The best bananas to use in this recipe are those that are as ripe and sweet as possible—the peels are pretty black at this stage. If you don’t use over-ripe fruit the bread turns out too dense.
As always, I went a tad nut on the photography. I hope you’ll excuse my obsession.
Banana and Walnut Bread
(Adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly Wellbeing Food that fight back)
1 loaf, serves 12
1 ½ cup (240g) wholemeal self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
100g butter, softened, plus more for greasing
¾ cup (165g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ cup mashed banana
½ cup walnut, chopped coarsely
1 seeded prune, chopped coarsely
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon powder
Preheat oven to 1800C/1600C fan forced. Grease 14 cm x 21 cm loaf pan; line base and long sides with baking paper. Grease the other two sides with butter.
Dry roast chopped walnuts in a pan over low heat, about 5 minutes.
Finely grate the zest of 2 lemons (2 teaspoons) into a small bowl with the softened butter.
Sift flour and cinnamon into a large bow; repeat three times.
Add rind, butter, sugar and eggs to the cinnamon-flour mix. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are combined. Increase speed to medium; beat until mixture is smooth.
Stir in banana, nuts and prune, and spread mixture into pan.
Meanwhile, mix the brown sugar and grounded cinnamon to make the topping. Sprinkle over the bread mixture in the pan.
Bake for about 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Stand bread in pan 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
Cut into thin slices and serve with a schmear of butter or jam, if you like. The loaf can be wrapped tightly in a cling film and kept for 2-3 days—if you have leftover that is.
On a separate note, I’m delighted to announce that I’m on the panel of judges for the November 2011 Does My Blog Look Good in This? (DMBLGiT) event hosted by the lovely Nags of Edible Garden. I’m chuffed to be working with some wonderfully talented bloggers and photographers. You have 5 more days to submit your entries, and I look forward to seeing your delicious pictures. Good luck!
Finally, though I’m not using my facebook personal profile, I've created a fb page to interact with all of you. Creativity is deeply engaging, right? It will be a great pleasure to connect with anybody who is already on fb. You can even “like” my page, if you really like it, that is.