Weather-wise, it is a miserable, mid-January day; we’ve had snow and rain so far, and now we have sleet. Nothing doing in garden in these conditions, so I have decided to simplify the set-up of this website.
My lovely Stephen purchased my WordPress package for Christmas 2016 and created the basic structure for me. I got going a few days after Christmas 2016, and in my initial enthusiasm created lots of tabs and sub-pages. I’ve lost track of what I’ve posted where and, in all honesty, as my joy is in writing, both the act of crafting how to say what I want to say and, physically, putting pen to paper, rather than in website construction and optimisation, it takes me ages to remember how to post to these sub-pages each time I have written something I want to share. One of the upshots of this is that I create lots of content (see, I AM getting to grips with the jargon), but it is in long-hand in one of my trusty notebooks.
I’ve been having a look at some friends’ sites and those of other bloggers, cooks and photographers I enjoy and concluded I’ve overdone the tabs. I am going to remove tabs and shuffle content around. Because I am not clever enough to fathom another way of doing it, I have collected together and stacked earlier blog posts below this entry. This may mean you have already read some of these posts. Sorry about that. I’ve included dates of original posting to make older material evident. And as the nice people at WordPress have made it child’s play to post to my primary (home) page, once I’ve finished today’s simplification exercise, I will focus on typing-up and posting the material in my notebooks.
Christmas-time catch up, Food for Friends, Brighton
I visited and originally posted this review on 29 December 2016. More recently, Jez and I visited Food for Friends for a post-Christmas catch-up on 27 December 2017. The food was just as good.
Three course lunch from the Christmas Menu 2016 (£28), Food for Friends, 17-18 Prince Albert Street. Brighton, BN1 1HF
www.foodforfriends.com Instagram – foodforfriendsrestaurant
Starter: chestnut, parsnip and cumin rosti served with cranberry relish and sautéed garlic kale
Main course: Jerusalem artichoke fritters and caramelised turnip gyoza, served on a celeriac and pistachio puree with leeks and a spiced plum sauce
Dessert: spiced poached pear, chocolate Cointreau mousse with orange powder and a flax and chai seed snap
I spent most of 2014 working in Brighton and have eaten at Food for Friends, “Brighton’s award-winning vegetarian restaurant in the historic South Lanes” several times. Last Thursday was the first time I had eaten there as a vegan. I met my school friend, Jez, for lunch on the sunniest, mildest, late-December day imaginable. We hadn’t booked in advance – schoolboy error – so couldn’t be seated until 3pm. This was not a problem as it gave us a chance to wander along the seafront and take in a leisurely Bombay Sapphire and gin aperitivo at Alfresco in the Milkmaid Pavilion (www.alfresco-brighton.co.uk Instagram – alfrescobrighton).
Both Jez and I opted for the three course Christmas menu. As I was driving and Jez isn’t a big drinker, we had sparkling water with lunch. We both chose the chestnut and parsnip rosti for starter, which was delicious. The presentation was delicate with the rosti displayed demi-lune dotted with cranberry relish. The only (tiny) jar was that it was served on a slate; I’m rather a “bring back the plate” advocate. The slate didn’t detract from the flavoursome crispness of the rosti and creaminess of the relish. The kale added a welcome flavour contrast – just the right touch of brassica bitterness – and was a crunchy explosion in the mouth.
I hadn’t appreciated – which I absolutely should have done if I’d concentrated on the menu properly – that my main course was also a rosti-esque fritter. So texturally my starter and main courses were similar, although the flavour was deliciously distinctive. Beautifully presented, with fritters alternating with gyoza dumplings and interspersed with tender leek, this course was tasty and generous. Jez opted for grilled king oyster mushrooms served with chestnut and rissole cakes, saffron mash and a red wine and cranberry jus. We both cleared – and I mean properly South Wales, our mothers grew-up during rationing, cleared – our plates.
For dessert I chose the most prettily presented, tender spiced pear (as one of my friends commented, the chef must have had a Spirograph for Christmas) served with the crispiest chia seed snap (think superfood peanut brittle). Jez opted for apple, cinnamon and honey crumble with vanilla rum custard and fresh cranberry. I assume Jez’s dessert was tasty. I can only assume as he wasn’t letting me anywhere near it and he – we both – demolished our puds. Yum.
As we were seated later, and missed the main lunchtime rush, there was a very relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant. We spent a good couple of hours over lunch and there was no suggestion of hurrying us along. A couple nearby came with their new-born and the staff had time for coo-ing over the infant and really made a fuss of the parents. A very comfortable vibe.
A lovely meal, great company (we had so much to catch up on) and a selection of flavoursome vegan options which combined to put the biggest smile on my face.
See you soon, Food for Friends.
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute (www.happinessresearchinstitute.com)
I originally posted this on 30 January 2016
I had this cute little 300-page book for Christmas. It is very tactile: just under A5 size; hard back (it makes a very pleasing sound when you drum it with your fingernails); non-glossy pages; appealingly naïve, construction-paper artwork; and some gorgeously evocative photographs.
The book is an easy read: I’m a relatively quick reader and polished it off in two sittings. I visited Copenhagen about 10-years ago and have a couple of Danish friends. The Little Book of Hygge seemed to capture the city and my friends perfectly. The relaxed culture, the right work/life balance, the focus on friends and making the most of each and every weekend, and the obsession with rye bread open sandwiches.
The book contains various checklists for achieving hygge (“hooga”), the feeling that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, everyday moments more meaningful and special. Key components are a cosy spot, candles, woollens, open fires, cakes and friends. I sound dismissive; I don’t mean to. I loved this little book and lapped it up. Indeed, I am typing this surrounded by candles, drinking sherry and eating cake and wearing a jumper. I am a convert (I will have to forego the pickled herring though).
The book has also got me thinking about cwtchiness. The Danes insist hygge has no absolute translation into English; cosiness is the closest approximation. But what about Welsh cwtchiness? Cwtch is commonly understood to mean a hug, but it can also mean safe place or cubbyhole, both of which seem to be vital for hygge.
There have been 10 books published about hygge in the last couple of years, plus dozens of magazine articles and blogs. Perhaps if I fuse cwtchiness with a bit of mindfulness, a speckle of nostalgia and throw in a few bakestone and bara brith recipes I could be the publishing sensation of 2017? Just a thought.
I really enjoyed this little book and it put Copenhagen and Denmark firmly back on my “to do” list, for more on which, watch this space over the coming weeks.
Off to a tasty start in 2017
The following blog was originally posted on 5 January 2017.
The first week of January saw me at a series of work business planning meetings at our picturesque head office in Monmouthshire. I work with a core group of about a dozen people and there are only a few occasions a year when we find ourselves in the same place, at the same time. As we are based all over the UK, indeed the world, and so seldomly get to spend time together, these weeks also have a social side and resulted in us sharing a team dinner and a couple of lunches.
Here’s what I ate and my thoughts.
The Beaufort Coaching Inn and Brasserie, High Street, Raglan, Monmouthshire, NP15 2DY (visited on 3 January 2017)
Our first evening together was for dinner at The Beaufort, a pretty inn dating from the 16th Century in the centre of the village of Raglan. We were a good-sized party of 12 (particularly for the first working day in January, I suspect). The restaurant was quiet, possibly one or two other diners.
A slight breakdown in intra-office communications meant that The Beaufort hadn’t been notified in advance that there was a vegan in our party. No biggie, these things happen. I had a word with the kitchen staff who liaised with the chef and explained the predicament. I needed to do this as although the restaurant menu had lots of wonderful-sounding options – many of them Spanish-inspired – for meat and fish eaters, the three vegetarian starters looked to contain dairy and it was unclear quite what the vegetarian and pasta main dishes of the day comprised. There was also a range of “today’s specials” on the chalkboard, but nothing vegetarian.
The Beaufort team were very helpful and pleasant, pointing out, of course, that if they had been notified I was a vegan, they could have prepared something special for me. The soup of the day was vegetable and I could have it as it was made with vegetable stock and contained nothing “non-vegan”. And tasty and warming it was too.
To settle my main course, I risked, just momentarily, getting into one of those circular conversations I sometimes encounter with restaurant kitchens. I’m not being mean-spirited and I know they make the offer with the best of intentions; they go a bit like this:
Restaurant: We didn’t know we had a vegan diner so haven’t prepared anything in advance, but we can make you anything. Just tell us what you want.
Me: Thank you so much. Do you have hummus?
Restaurant: No, sorry.
Me: Do you have chickpeas so you could make hummus?
Restaurant: No, sorry.
Me: Do you have dried pasta, as I could have that with a tomato and basil sauce.
Restaurant: No, sorry, we only have fresh egg pasta.
Me: (feeling self-conscious by now as I am acutely aware that the team member who organised the dinner is getting more and more stressed about not having notified of my veganism and I don’t want this person to feel bad) No problem, can you do me a jacket potato with some salad and olive oil and balsamic vinegar?
Restaurant: No problem and we’ll put some chargrilled asparagus and peppers on that too.
And they did and it was perfectly nice. I enjoyed the ambience of this period inn, the craic amongst colleagues, many of whom hadn’t seen each other for months, and the with-no-notice vegan food served. Was it the most adventurous vegan fare I’ve ever been served? Well, no, but I was never expecting it to be on a Tuesday evening in early January in a rural restaurant. The others in our party enjoyed their food and tucked in heartily.
The Clytha Arms, Clytha, Near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 9BW (visited on 4 January 2017)
The following day we ate lunch at the Clytha Arms. Oh my, this award-winning pub and restaurant (various Camra awards, a Harden’s best restaurant award and a Which Hotel Glorious Gastropub award, to name but a few) really was special.
Our number had swelled to 15 and we were seated across two banks of tables in the dining room. There were many features at the Clytha Arms that appealed to me, above and beyond the food. The crockery and glassware were pleasingly rustic and not too “matchy” (I have a long-time and growing dislike of perfectly matching sets of cutlery and crockery). The restaurant also displayed and sold a small number of locally, hand-thrown ceramic bowls, jugs and mugs (one of which may have found its way back to Surrey with me) and I suspect several of the dishes and plates on which our meals were served were of this ilk.
To the food. The chef greeted me as soon as he knew we had arrived and had two vegan options for me, a sweet potato and chickpea curry or a polenta burger. Partly because the former is a recipe I make at home every month or so, and partly because I have never quite mastered the art of really good polenta, I opted for the burger. It did not disappoint: served without a bun, the burger was set on a crisp and plentiful leaf-salad with homemade relish. The burger was delicious, with a crisp outer shell and a soft and warm inside which melted in the mouth. And it held together on my fork, something I never seem to be able to achieve with my invariably too-crumbly polenta burger efforts. The attentive chef also took the time to advise me on which bread to select from the basket so as to avoid his buttermilk-based sourdough starter. I very much appreciated this.
My colleagues selected from a range of tapas dishes which looked and, they tell me, tasted, incredible.
Based on this visit, the Clytha Arms deserves its award-winning status and is somewhere I want to visit again.
Estero Lounge, Commerce House, 95-97 Monnow Street, Monmouth, NP25 3PS (visited on 5 January 2017)
www.thelounges.co.uk Instagram – estero_lounge
On the Friday we visited Monmouth’s Estero Lounge for lunch. This was my second visit to Estero Lounge – we hosted a post-course dinner here, soon after it opened, last summer – so I knew vegan options were available.
Estero Lounge is one of a small chain of restaurants across the South West and South East Wales, based out of Bristol. I enjoy the experience at Estero Lounge: the atmosphere is buzzy and relaxed and the décor fun and eclectic. I like that babies in buggies were being fed next to besuited professionals enjoying a business lunch. And they happily found a quiet corner in which one of my colleagues, who is in training for Ironman and takes every opportunity to run or cycle, could securely stow his very expensive bicycle. You get a genuine sense that everyone is welcome.
On this occasion we were seated upstairs and as a couple of the team had to leave pronto to catch trains and planes, we didn’t hang about ordering. A vegan menu was available, although several of the vegan options were also available and clearly flagged on the main menu. I chose the lounge flatbread, with falafels, pickled red cabbage, tomato, Roquito chilli peppers and hummus. Oh, yeah, and as I knew I had a long, Friday evening drive across the M4 and around the M25 ahead of me, I also threw in a side of sweet potato fries.
The food was tasty although the perfectly-formed but very wee falafels seemed a little lost on the expanse of flatbread which covered my plate like a non-frilly doily, and I would have liked more pickled cabbage. Star of the show were the supremely crisp sweet potato fries which I suspect were coated with semolina prior to frying to achieve such delicious crunchiness.
I am researching the options for arranging and hanging pictures and photographs at the moment, ahead of a late 2017 or early 2018 project at home. Estero Lounge has probably hundreds of pictures and photographs across its walls and I spent much of the lunch thinking about their hanging, what I liked and what I didn’t like. Nourishing food for thought as well as for the belly – result! I will be back and see that the chain also has a branch in the city of my ancestral home. Perhaps I’ll persuade Mum into a visit next time I’m back as there’s a vegan dark chocolate and ginger torte on the menu I think I could go a couple of rounds with.
Originally posted on 19 January 2017
My birthday is 18 January and I was again Wales-based. I was staying at Mum’s but, my family being my family, she was away visiting my daughter in the Caribbean while I was in her house. Anyway, my beloved school friends Ceri and Jo took me out for a curry and ensured I didn’t spend this “significant” birthday evening on my own.
Jewel Balti, 368 Chepstow Road, Newport, NP19 8JH (visited on 18 January 2017)
A Wednesday evening in January, so perhaps unsurprisingly the restaurant was quiet. We had very attentive and fun waiters who, of course, flattered us madly, insisting we could not be nearly as old as the 50 on one of my birthday cards indicated. In fairness to them, and they will protest if I do not say this, at the time of dining, neither Jo nor Ceri was 50; only I had attained this milestone.
As school friends who haven’t seen each other since November are want to do, we nattered for ages. Our waiters checked in once or twice that we were ok, but it was all very relaxed with no suggestion of rushing us. We ordered after about half an hour and six popadums (three plain, three spicy, and boy, they were spicy). I went for the mushroom and channa biryani with a medium vegetable curry sauce. Mmmm, mmmm: a rich curry sauce with warmth but not fierce heat (perfect in my book) and fluffy biryani with decent-sized, “forkable” quarters of mushroom and soft chick peas. I left not a trace! I can’t remember what the girls had except that Jo made the supreme effort and tackled a slice of (sweet) red pepper, but would not touch the green one (and who can blame her). We also succumbed to a platter of “real curry house” chips – well, it was my birthday.
Thanks, girls. You were sublime company, as always; I don’t think you were too bad an influence on me, not as always; and one of the best curries I’ve had for ages.
Originally posted on 22 January 2017
As I was away for home on my birthday, my celebrations with Steve were deferred until the weekend. On Sunday we visited The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection exhibition at Tate Modern. Having not booked in advance, we wandered along the South Bank afterwards in search of quick, filling grub.
Steve is vegan too and we both would have been happy with a decent sandwich and snack from Eat, but neither branch we passed on the South Bank had anything vegan available (whether hot or cold). We kept strolling, looking at a few menus outside eateries at Gabriel’s Wharf, but nothing obviously appealing or vegan. The Wahaca street food wagon would undoubtedly have had something vegan, but at 1 degree above freezing, inside seating was a must-have. Getting hungrier and colder by the moment, we ventured into Strada.
Strada, 6 Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX (visited on 22 January 2017)
Nothing on the Strada menu was flagged as vegan but as there were several vegetarian options, we decided to ask if any could be adapted. The maitre d’ was very welcoming and helpful, commenting that ours was the second query about vegan food he’d had in a matter of minutes. I suggested perhaps we could have the margarita pizza without the mozzarella but with other toppings, which he confirmed would be vegan. Strada, a national chain serving “modern Italian” food including a range of wood-fired pizza, pasta, risotto and seafood dishes, currently has risotto zucca on the menu. Billed as a creamy sage and rosemary risotto with roasted squash, toasted pine nuts, baby spinach and dolcelatte cheese, we were assured this could be made vegan by omitting the cheese. So a couple of options, but by this time both Steve and I fancied pizza so had the “vegan margarita” with extra topping of olives, caramelised onions and chargrilled aubergine in lieu of mozzarella. We chose a house side salad and a portion of fries to share too.
I do love a thin-crust wood-fired pizza and on this Strada did not disappoint. Our crusts were crispy around the edge with just the right amount of chewiness in the middle of the pizza. A sprinkling of chilli oil helped pep-up the flavours and the salad and fries were of a reasonable portion size and, respectively, fresh and hot. It showed an attention to detail I found surprising in a chain restaurant that our waiter brought bottles of oil and balsamic vinegar to our table so we could dress the salad ourselves as the house dressing may not have been vegan. A small touch, and a good one.
I wasn’t at all sure what to expect of Strada in what must be one of its busiest locations. In fact, at 5pm on a bitterly cold Sunday evening in January, the restaurant was only a third full and the service was fine. My only point of criticism is that the restaurant was cool and a noticeable blast of cold air passed through each time the door opened. I guess floor to ceiling plate glass windows on to the outside seating area and busy Southbank are great for atmospheric summer dining, but they lead to a decided nip in the air in winter (I wondered why the serving staff had bright red Strada fleeces on when we walked in; and now I know why).
Something Steve and I were mulling over as we ate: last year, the Vegan Society reported a 360% rise in vegans in the UK over the past 10 years. There is now an estimated 540,000 vegans in the UK. Given this growth, how soon will other family-focused and “affordable” restaurant chains follow the lead of the Toby Carvery chain, yes, Toby Carvery, and add a vegan option to its menu, or at least indicate where vegetarian dishes can be adapted to serve as vegan options? To clarify, I am not advocating this because my precious vegan voice needs to be heard, nor because my ultra-sensitive vegan feelings get hurt if I can’t immediately find a vegan option. I’m posing the question because there must be a couple of hundred thousand family and friendship groups across the UK who, like mine, are split between vegan and non-vegan members. So it would make commercial sense to attract us in by listing a vegan option, or a vegetarian option which can be made vegan, on the face of the main menu. Simply put, more of us are likely to visit. Toby Cavery, by the way, currently has a choice of three vegan main courses and a more-than-half-decent chocolate and cherry torte dessert. I understand Harvester has recently added a vegan option, but I have not tried it. Step-up Beefeater, Giraffe, Strada, Prezzo, TGIF, etc, etc. I know the latter three have “vegan-able” adaptation, because I’ve eaten them. If Toby, Pizza Express, GBK, The Lounges and many independent restaurants have sussed the value of this proposition, shouldn’t you?
Museum 0, Booze 5
Originally posted on 18 February 2017
About 12 months ago, and facilitated initially via Facebook, a group of us school friends, the vast majority of whom hadn’t seen each other for around 30 years, started to meet up. I suspect we were all a little nervous at first, but we find we genuinely like each other, there is no edge or competition, which the very wise Ceri has observed there might have been had we reunited at 40, and we’ve had some belly-achingly funny sessions since, and have many more planned. A couple of weeks ago, five of us met up in London, for a bit of culture and a quick dinner. Yeah, the culture bit in the museum lasted about 45 minutes, the hotel bar, pub and restaurant about 4.5 hours – welcome to a St Joe’s meet-up! I chose the museum exhibition, Sarah chose the restaurant: Sarah wins.
The Artisan Bistro, 14 Hollywood Rd, Chelsea SW10 9HY (visited on 17 February 2017)
We had booked the four courses and four matching wines taster menu at £29.50 per person, which is incredibly competitive pricing. For my four friends, all of whom are meat-eaters, this menu included lobster linguini and mussels and sirloin steak (I can’t remember the other courses). Their dishes looked gorgeous and they seemed to enjoy them very much. I called the restaurant a week ahead and explained I was a vegan. I was assured a vegan tasting menu would be devised for me together with matching vegan wines and the Artisan Bistro team didn’t disappoint.
The bistro wasn’t busy, indeed we were the only diners for about the first hour, which surprised me given it was a Friday evening. We received a warm welcome with attentive, but not intrusive waiting staff. We had cocktails to start and then embarked on the tasting. My first course was very pretty and based around a perfectly ripe and seasoned avocado; my next course was based around delicious char-grilled asparagus; a pleasingly filling risotto followed. Finally, the best course – child that I am – was a completely delicious dark chocolate torte. I was very impressed with the food.
I seldom drink wine and have zero understanding of wine body, legs, length, etc. What I can say is that I had whites with my first two courses, a rose with my risotto and a red with dessert. All went well with their food pairings and all went down very nicely too, as did the vegan espresso coffee cocktail I enjoyed at the end of the meal. Not bad at all for someone who doesn’t usually drink and certainly doesn’t drink wine…
I am acutely aware there are no “food porn” photographs included with this post. That would be because I was too busy munching, quaffing and giggling to remember to take snaps. I promise I will try better next time. Above is a snap the waiter took of us towards the end of the evening, hence our relaxed, rosy glows.
I do recommend the Artisan Bistro. A relaxed vibe and great nosh.
What’s that I hear you say? Vegan pasty?
originally posted on 3 March 2017
I frequently get asked what I miss most eating as a vegan. Don’t I miss bacon? Well no, not really: given I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 18, I can’t even remember what bacon tastes like, and I don’t recall liking it that much when I was a kid. It was the thought of no more cheesy, “mayonnaisey” chips that stopped me switching from vegetarianism to veganism for many years. I became a vegan two and a bit years ago and the thing I miss the most is a pasty, or pastie, take your pick: I can rustle up a perfectly serviceable vegan cheesy chips with may-no-aise, I’ll have you know. You can probably imagine my excitement, therefore, when one of the vegan Instagrammers I follow posted that the West Cornwall Pasty Company had released a vegan pasty.
West Cornwall Pasty Company, kiosk by platforms 1-14, Victoria Station, London SE1E 5ND (visited on 3 March 2017)
http://www.westcornwallpasty.co.uk Instagram – wcornwallpasty
According to their website, West Cornwall Pasty Company launched two vegan pasties at the beginning of the year. One, billed as a “Thai green veggie pasty packed full of green beans, red and green peppers and sweet potato in a light Thai curry sauce”, is listed as a guest pasty, and I think I may have missed my chance with this one. The other is the wheatmeal vegetable pasty and this was the one I found at the kiosk outlet on Victoria station (after scouring, in vain, the various West Cornwall Pasty Company kiosks I have encountered at numerous motorway service areas over the past three weeks).
It was VERY nice. Short, bran-filled pastry and a well-seasoned filling to crave and seek out time and time again – potato, swede, onion, celery – all the components you want in a veggie pasty. I loved it. It was hot and filling and hugely hit the spot. I will be back, frequently, I suspect.
Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Under-rated Organ by Giulia Enders
I originally posted this on 5 March 2017
I have been having a bit of “tummy trouble” over the past few years. It is currently being investigated; fear not, I don’t think I’m about to shuffle off this mortal coil because of it. Anyway, I was discussing my predicament with my kind, wise, funny, beautiful and medically knowledgeable friend, Mandy. She recommended this paperback to me with the telling caution, “don’t be put off by how young the author looks in her cover photograph, it’s really very good”.
It is, particularly the first half. I enjoyed reading about the “second brain” we all have in our guts and how this can be nurtured, how it needs to be looked after, and how it can be so decisive in how we feel, in general health terms. Much I read resonated with symptoms I have experienced over the years after eating, or not, certain foods and reading about our gastro-oesophageal anatomy and physiology was absorbing and took me back to Biology A-level classes with Mr Evans in the science block.
My interest waned in the last quarter of the book, which looked at gut flora and fauna and focused in detail on several of the many million gut bacteria we are all blessed with. I’m not sure if it is the scientific names of the bacteria which put me off, or whether gut bacteria are simply less interesting to me.
What Giulia Enders manages to achieve in this book is an easy read which zips along covering some detailed points of biology and anatomy in a digestible form (sorry, couldn’t resist). Her sister has provided illustrations and graphics to accompany the text. These are childlike, indeed childish, in their execution and although one or two helped me make sense of something anatomical the text was describing, most I felt did not add much to the overall reader experience, except to break-up paragraphs of text.
Anyway, thanks to Mandy for the referral. I’m happy to have read this one; it has helped me understand a number of my symptoms and reactions. This coming week I meet my consultant to discuss the results of my recent colonoscopy, so my timing in finishing this book was neat too.
Originally posted on 5 March 2017
I’ve worked away from home for most of February 2017, and each weekend have been hurriedly topping-up the stock of food in the house for my loved-one to eat during the week. The provisions have been purchased without the benefit of a stock-take, by which I mean I have zoomed around the supermarket with my shopping trolley buying supplies of “what we always eat”. One of the upshots of this is that this morning I spotted we had 18 bananas sitting in the dish.
The medium soft cohort has been peeled, chunked and frozen for smoothies; “banana bread” the very soft cohort shouted at me. And this would have been perfectly straight forward and not really worthy of a blog entry had I not been out of baking powder and soft brown sugar and virtually out of sunflower oil. I decided to improvise…
On the sugar front, I substituted the missing soft brown sugar with the (very hard and compacted) remains of a packet of Muscovado and a jar of apple puree and in the absence of either self-raising flour or baking powder I experimented with half-and-half plain and buck wheat flours and a liquid raising agent in the form of bicarbonate of soda mixed with Alpro (vegan) almond milk yoghurt. For oil, I combined the dregs of the sunflower oil bottle with some of the pecan nut oil my Mum bought me as a gift from a recent visit to America.
I had a decent upper-arm workout loosening the sugar and all in all I am pleased with the result. As the batter was more liquid than usual, I allowed extra time in the oven and the loaves are tasty and, vitally for me, moist. A little darker than usual and the crumb is close-textured but eminently cut-able and really rather gorgeous with peanut butter spread across a slice. And no bananas wasted!