Easy, Morning or Afternoon Tea, Sweet

Gratitude / Chocolate, Caramel & Marshmallow Cookies

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” Alphonse Karr

Something I’ve been struggling to write about, mostly because my tightlipped Britishness isn’t sure how, is the incredibly kind words sent to me over the past few months. Scores of The Imperfect Kitchen readers sent me messages, either on the blog or by private message and I read each of them frequently during my time away from here.

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I didn’t respond to any individually. I’m still unsure how to express my gratitude appropriately, convinced that each would have turned into some awkwardly gushy tome of thanks. I’m sorry if you were hoping for a response to your notes and hope that it’s sufficient to write here that every single one of your messages meant the world and were one of the things that kept me waking into the possibility of light each day.

I shouldn’t be surprised by now that the world is full of wonderful people. And I should be even less surprised that my readers and fellow-bloggers are some of the most thoughtful. I’m not nearly as competent at expressing my thanks as I want to be. But if a little warmth sinks into your heart today and you find yourself smiling for no real reason — that might just be a tiny piece of my gratitude seeking you out.

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As a small offering of thanks before I start writing in earnest again; here’s a very favourite recipe that I often play with liberally from Paris Pastry Club for you all to share with those whose kindness means something to you. Or may be with those you would like to introduce to a little more kindness. These cookies are charmingly soft in the middle and slightly crunchy on the outside, almost like brownies. The marshmallow is sweet and gooey, counteracting the almost sharp sweetness from the dark chocolate; and sitting unobtrusively in the middle, comforting and cradling, is the caramel. If I could bake these for each of you and share them over a cup of coffee at my kitchen table, I’d be one happy lady.

Until then, enjoy.

  • 100g (3 ½ oz) dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • 3 tbl sp dulce de leche (if you can’t find any in the shops, here’s a link to a couple of ways you can make your own)
  • 1 tbl sp unsalted butter
  • 90g (3 oz) plain (all purpose) flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 75g (2 ½ oz) light brown sugar
  • 24 mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 200˚C / 390˚F and line a baking sheet with baking paper

Place the chocolate, dulce de leche and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over simmering water until melted (you can also do this in the microwave, just be careful not to burn the chocolate)

Set the bowl aside to cool down slightly

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl

Beat the egg and sugar in a separate bowl for a few minutes, or until light and fluffy

Gently fold in the melted chocolate mix

Working quite quickly, tip in the flour mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon

The dough will feel quite sticky and soft so use a couple of teaspoons to shaped into 12 walnut-sized balls and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. Place two mini marshmallows in each ball and press down slightly

Turn down the oven heat to 170˚C / 340˚F and place the tray in the oven to bake for 10 minutes

The cookies should still be soft and their tops will be slightly cracked

Leave to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a serving plate

I have no idea how long these last in an airtight container, they’ve never lasted anywhere near that long in my house. Please feel free to let me know if you ever manage to find out…

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Dessert, Super Easy, Sweet

This Stuff Called Joy / Spiced Rhubarb & Pear Crumble with Vanilla Custard

“Man is fond of reckoning up his troubles, but does not count his joys.”
Dostoyevsky

As a continuation of last week’s post on 10 reasons to be universally grateful, I’ve been thinking about the snippets of life that can’t help but break into joy.

Just to be clear, I don’t mean the schadenfreude joy that reading the annual Darwin Awards brings. Or even the cackling joy brought on by an unpleasant person’s public demise — I’m looking at you Robin Thicke (from a sexually safe distance), while thinking about my favourite #AskThicke tweet of your whole PR disaster, from @JoLiptrott, “When you’re not busy objectifying women, making light of rape and justifying sexual violence, how do you like to relax?”.

No, this post won’t be about the joy that’s dulled by the satisfaction of someone else’s suffering (although I think there’s a place for that in life). This is about the joy that sparkles through life and lights up our days. Unsullied joy.

Like these guys.

I posted this little gif in my Dark Chocolate, Whipped Peanut & Caramel Cookies recipe the other week and every single time I glance through The Imperfect Kitchen page it pulls joy from the base of my stomach, all the way through my chest and tugs at the corners of my mouth and eyes.

Another is my toddler’s singing. I’ve written before about his adventurous additions to the Old MacDonald song. Well now he has an ever-growing repertoire of adorable songs and dance moves. His refusal to sleep still drives me insane, but these days he so often couples his sleeplessness with a quiet rendition of ‘5 Little Ducks’ or a more rousing rendition of ‘Baby Crocodile, Don’t You Bite’. Hearing him sends shivers of love through me and I always have to smile — which only encourages the little monster.

There’s the silent joy at the end of a deep meditation, the belt-loosening joy of an overly full stomach, the breathless joy of uncontrollable belly laughter. The satisfied joy of a job well done, the relieved joy when there’s enough money to pay the bills each month, or when that brown substance around my son’s mouth is mud instead of…

The groaning joy at one of my Dad’s jokes. The excited joy of a reunion with my family on the other side of the world (15 weeks until we fly to London!). The sheepish joy in making up after an argument. The comforting joy of a loving hug at the end of a tough day.

The peaceful joy in writing alone in a cafe with great coffee. The parents-will-get-this joy of a slowly sipped cup of tea. The tastebuds-tingling joy of a beautifully crafted donut or a perfect slice of lemon tart. The incredulous joy at seeing my readers’ engage with The Imperfect Kitchen as it reaches out to more of you all the time.

The reassuring joy of talking honestly with a trusted friend and realising that I’m never alone in anything I feel or experience. The aching joy of facing loss and walking through the pain to a more sincere life. The tentative joy of allowing a friend to love me, without instructing them on how much is too much. The grown-up joy in setting an appropriate boundary of self-care. The releasing joy after great, gulping sobs of grief. The vulnerable joy of opening my heart to life even though my fears cry out.

The joy of getting it wrong and getting it right and getting it every shade in between. The joy of still feeling joy when life is steeped in sorrow. The joy of finding joy again after walking through seemingly endless darkness.

And the most fulfilling joy of bringing joy to others.

And you? Have I missed anything that scatters joy through your life today?

TIK_Spiced Rhubarb & Pear Crumble with Vanilla Custard

What about the joy of a simple and comforting pudding? I make crumbles all the time, they’re my ‘go to’ dessert when I feel like something sweet but can’t be bothered with too much effort. In this one, tart rhubarb and mellow pear are enhanced by smokey maple syrup and warmed throughout by a classic spice blend of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. This easy dish will impress all your dinner party Joneses, or is a perfect pud during lazy afternoons curled on a cosy chair with a good book and a cup of tea. If you’re cuddling up for winter, pair it with my creamy vanilla custard recipe below; or, if you’re lounging in summer, serve my apple and strawberry version with scoops of vanilla bean ice cream.

Enjoy.

  • 200g wholemeal flour
  • 150g light brown sugar + 2 tbl sp for the topping
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 150g unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 4 ripe pears – peeled, quartered and cored
  • 500g rhubarb (trimmed weight)
  • 50g raw caster sugar
  • 1 tbl sp pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbl sp cold water

Preheat your oven to 200˚C/390˚F

In a medium bowl, whisk together wholemeal flour, light brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of ginger, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg

Add the cold, cubed butter and, using your fingers, mix the butter into the flour until the whole mixture resembles coarse sand and starts to clump together

Set aside

Chop the quartered pears in half, then chop the rhubarb into finger-length batons

Place the pears, rhubarb, caster sugar and water in a saucepan, cover and cook gently, over a low heat, for 8 to 10 minutes until the rhubarb is just softened, but still holding its shape

Stir in the maple syrup and remaining ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg before tipping into a large ovenproof dish

(Both the rhubarb mix and the crumble topping can be frozen for up to 3 months, just defrost in the fridge before using)

Use your hands to scatter the crumble on top before sprinkling over the remainder of the brown sugar

Bake for 40 mins until golden and bubbling at the sides

Spoon into bowls and serving with the vanilla bean custard

Vanilla Custard

  • 250ml milk
  • 250ml double (heavy) cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 80g caster (superfine) sugar

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan

Using a sharp knife, split vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out seeds

Add bean and seeds to milk mixture and place over medium heat

Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until hot (do not allow to boil). Remove saucepan from heat

Whisk egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a heatproof bowl until well combined

Remove vanilla beans from milk mixture. Pour hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly

Return mixture to saucepan over a low heat

Cook, stirring constantly, for 10 to 15 minutes or until custard thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon (do not allow the custard to boil, as it might curdle)

Eat in greedy joy

TIK_Spiced Rhubarb & Pear Crumble with Vanilla Custard all done

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Easy, Morning or Afternoon Tea, Sweet

10 Reasons to be Universally Grateful / Orange & Cardamon Yoghurt Loaf Cake

I rarely run out of words, stories, or an opinionated point of view; but this week’s one of those rare times when I think I have. And there’s a sneery voice in my head hissing that it’s all over and I’m never going to be able to write anything again. It can all be a bit scary.

To cheer myself up from this line of thinking, I read in-depth coverage of the news (which should tell you just how much of a grumpy, old person really lives inside my young-ish head) and at some point while reading about the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the imprisonment of journalists in Egypt and the Australian Prime Minister referring to Australia as “unsettled” before the English arrived (presumably in the same way that places like North America and India were unsettled. That sort of thing.) I realised that I can so easily become blinkered by my own experience. And that, even if I never write another word, I’m going to be just fine.

Which lead into thinking about gratitude and how many reasons I, and everyone I know, have to be grateful. So I decided to make a list of the biggest global reasons to be grateful. A universal gratitude list for us to have a think about.

To set the scene…

The human species is just one of 8.7 million species on Earth. And our sun is just one of at least 200 billion stars in the Milky Way. And the Milky Way is potentially one of 500 billion galaxies.

Here’s those words in picture form — during which you’ll see why I never impressed my art or physics teachers at school.

This is not drawn to scale. Even a little bit.

Feeling small yet? Well, to keep you from a life of gazing at the sky in nihilistic awe, remember that of the 500 billion or so galaxies, as far as we know, Earth is the only planet that holds sentient life. And we’re it. And of that sentient life, if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re one of the luckiest people; and if you’re female, certainly one of the luckiest women.

And here are our 10 universal reasons why

  1. We could have been born one of the other 8,699,999 species on this planet and spent our lives trying to cope with humanity (I’d wager it’s not easy).
  2. Of the 6 billion humans on Earth, it’s almost a certainty that anyone reading this isn’t one of the 2.4 billion who live on less than US$2 a day, of which 70% are women. I paid 8 times the global daily poverty line just for my breakfast this morning. I’m one of the 2% in the world who can afford to do so.
  3. It’s extremely likely you’re not one of the 3.6 billion people who don’t live in a democracy. My government doesn’t prevent me from writing this blog, and your government isn’t preventing you from reading it.
  4. Without meaning to sound too obvious, if you’re reading this, you can read. Unlike 774 million people around the world, of which two thirds are women. The fact that women can read and write at all, let alone to a tertiary standard, is not as unusual as it was ten years ago, but still makes the women reading this one of 10% of women educated to that level globally.
  5. If you’re a mum reading this, it means that you didn’t die during childbirth, roughly 300,000 women each year aren’t so lucky.
  6. Your children are 95% likely to survive into adulthood and 70% likely to die at a ripe, old age, and those odds are getting better all the time.
  7. If your home is plumbed and your water is clean, you’re luckier than 2.5 billion people without adequate sanitation.
  8. If you don’t hear gunfire at night, you’re luckier than a third of the world population who live in so called ‘conflict zones’.
  9. You’re currently using a computer, which means you have access to electricity. 20% of the world (1.3 billion people) don’t have any access at all.
  10. It’s highly likely that you have some aspirin in your house, or even a medicine cabinet somewhere, which means you’re better off than one third of the world’s population who lack access to essential medicines. In the poorest parts of Africa and Asia this figure rises to half of the population.

How lucky are we?!

This isn’t written in an attempt to make you feel guilty. Some sort of annoying stop-having-a-good-time-and-start-fixing-the-world power drive. Really, I’m just trying to remind myself of the bigger picture and trying to keep hold of gratitude for the many blessings I enjoy. And I may also be quite grateful that I found something to write about this week. Something that can go some way to matching this operatic cake.

This cake’s untamed flavours swan onto your tastebuds and demand your undivided attention. I could go on about how I experimented to reach the exact ingredients; the addition of semolina for a soft density and yoghurt for tangy richness, how the cardamom is rounded out by a slight hint of cinnamon, and so on. But it really is just worth trying it for yourself.

Enjoy.

  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 245g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 240g natural yoghurt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Zest from 1 orange (I use navel oranges)
  • 150g plain (all purpose) flour
  • 150g semolina
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 125ml fresh orange juice (I juice the orange I’ve just zested)
  • 2 whole cardamom pods

Preheat oven to 180˚C/350˚F and line a loaf tin with baking paper (my loaf tin is 26cm x 11cm x 8cm, if you have a different size just adjust cooking times accordingly)

In a mixing bowl, whisk the butter and 180g of the sugar until pale and fluffy

Beat in the yogurt, egg yolks and zest, until completely combined

Put the flour, semolina, ground almonds, baking powder, cardamom and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a hand whisk to combine (stirring with a hand whisk means you don’t have to sift)

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a third at a time. Completely combine each third before moving to the next

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form

Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter, until just combined

Pour into the loaf tin and bake for around 40 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean

Meanwhile, prepare the orange syrup by simmering the orange juice, cardamom pods and the remaining 65g of sugar in a saucepan for 7 minutes. Make sure you don’t stir the juice while cooking, instead, occasionally give the pan a swirl to keep the sugar from catching

Once the cake is baked, pour the syrup on top and let it soak in

Set aside to cool completely before serving with generous dollops of cardamom cream (recipe below)

Cardamom Whipped Cream

  • 300ml double (heavy) cream
  • 
1 tbl sp icing (powdered) sugar
  • ½ tsp cardamom, ground

Combine the cream, icing sugar and ½ teaspoon of the cardamom in a bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form in the cream. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to use

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Morning or Afternoon Tea, Super Easy, Sweet

No Forgiveness Required / Banana & Coconut Cake {Vegan}

One of the realities I’ve found about writing a regular, public blog is finding interesting topics to write about. Truthfully, it sometimes feels like a burden, those weeks when all I’ve done is found another way sleep training doesn’t work for my son and slept in sanity saving snatches. But the fear of reaching publication time and having nothing written forces me into positions of saying ‘yes’ to experiences I would usually eschew in favour of duvet sanctity.

With that in mind this week, when my sleep deprivation feels at an all time high, I agreed to go to a meditation class with some friends on Monday night.

I genuinely hoped I would have some profound, wise experience to pontificate on, and not only impress you with my astounding spiritual prowess, but could pretend that all was glowing in my world, at least to those readers who don’t see me in real life…

When we turned up, the class was being taught by a girl in her mid-twenties who proudly told us that she had been following a Buddhist guru for 5 years.

Immediately my ego vibrated with frustration. And my head readily chimed in,

“5 YEARS? Is that all?! Eurgh, I’m not going to learn anything. Look at her, all silly and smiley. She’s so annoying and naive…”

My frustration grew at what I felt were overly simplistic views of her religion and meditation. I rapidly descended into irritated shuffling and sighing to myself at the parts I found particularly unimpressive.

I had stopped listening completely to her Buddhist teaching, except to scoff at her shallow and brattishly childish descriptions of attachment creating soap operas in our lives and how boys really liked girls who weren’t attached to them emotionally. My self-righteousness really enjoyed that last one,

“Oh. My. God. She’s using Buddhism to get her boyfriends not to dump her. What a vapid, shallow loser. I think I might hate her.”

Towards the end of the class, as I was mid-loud-internal pompous dialogue about how this was such a waste of the precious time I get away from motherhood, she suggested we use the last fifteen minutes to meditate on someone who triggered our attachment or anger.

I fleetingly contemplated meditating on her, but decided I definitely wasn’t ready to forgive her for wasting my extra-special time, so settled on meditating about my son’s sleeplessness, increasingly cheeky toddler behaviour and the frustration that rises up in me, sometimes to the point that I scare myself by sympathising for the first time in my life with those that snap and hurt their children.

As I meditated, and awkwardly fit myself into his toddler-sized shoes, I realised that he’s brand new to a world in which he’s wholly reliant on others to do things for him. He can’t fix himself a sandwich if hungry, he can’t choose to go to bed a little later if in the mood. At the same time, he isn’t allowed to constantly eat food with sugar, even though it tastes the best. And has to sleep, even though his train set is so much more fun. And has to share Mum and Dad with other people, even though to him there was no world before him and his whole world is Mum and Dad so why wouldn’t theirs be him?

I realised at this point the insanity of expecting my young child to behave in a way that’s acceptable to me. Not that he shouldn’t have clear boundaries and solid parenting, but that by becoming angry with him for not behaving, I’m attaching my peace and joy in life to a small child whose current chosen purpose in life is building and destroying a wooden train track.

A paragraph from The Seven Storey Mountain came to my meditating mind,

“Mother must have been a person full of insatiable dreams and of great ambition after perfection: perfection in art, in interior decoration, in dancing, in housekeeping, in raising children. May be that is why I remember her mostly as worried: since the imperfections of myself, her first son, had been a great deception.”

When I think about how I would like my son to remember me, ‘worried’ and ‘perfectionist’ wouldn’t make the list. And yet, by my painful search for perfection in my life and by unintentional extension, in him, I am at risk of being remembered in just this way.

We finished the meditation and I resolved to mindfully focus on detaching my peace from my son’s behaviour. It’s been about a week and so far so good. I’m feeling less affected when he throws a temper tantrum because I’m not doing something he wants. I’m less frustrated by his naughtiness and as a result, the boundaries I’m setting seem to be born more out of his needs rather than my exasperation. I’m still finding his sleep training difficult, but I figure that we’re all at our least at 3am… And it’s definite progress.

As for the meditation teacher? I reflected after the evening that I should probably call one of my wise women to talk about it.

She laughed loudly before firmly pointing out my ferocious spiritual arrogance. She asked me how I would feel in that girl’s shoes – a brand new teacher with a relatively new subject, trying desperately to connect with a room full of fidgety people, hoping she’s doing it right and fearing she’s not. And pointed out how lucky I was that there was anyone at all teaching meditation near me. And how especially blessed that this girl, with her measly five years of meditation experience, had gifted me a breakthrough with my son that I’d been unable to reach anywhere else. I had a chance of being an improved and happier parent, thanks to her.

By the end of the conversation, I saw my total lack of compassion. That the teacher didn’t need my forgiveness, she needed my gratitude for helping me to see a little clearer, and a humble and sincere apology for my arrogant behaviour during her class.

Dammit.

Vegan banana & coconut cake today. I have a friend whose newborn can’t take any dairy and I wanted to make a cake she could eat. But, as always on The Imperfect Kitchen, health alone is never a good enough reason to make something, it has to taste absolutely delicious as well. Banana loaf is one of my staple cake recipes and I’ve made it very badly at times as I often play with the ingredients beyond all sanity. This vegan version was a happy accident during one of those experiments and I’ve been contentedly making it alongside the non-vegan version ever since.

Enjoy.

  • Coconut cream from two 400ml cans of coconut milk (recipe at the bottom of this post)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 450g flour
  • 2 large bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup finely desiccated coconut
  • 1½ tbl sp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 50g pure icing sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180˚C / 350˚F

Grease a 9 x 19cm (3.5 x 7.5 inch) loaf tin and line with baking paper

On a high speed, blend half the coconut cream and the caster sugar in a large mixing bowl for 5-7 minutes, until soft peaks form

Slowly mix in the flour and baking powder, blending all the time

Add the banana and desiccated coconut and blend for another full minute

Pour into the loaf tin and bake for about 45 minutes, until the loaf is golden, well risen and springs back when pressed with a finger

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire tray until cool

Meanwhile, put the remaining 250g of coconut cream into a bowl with the maple syrup, vanilla extract and icing sugar

Whip for about 5 minutes until soft peaks form

Spread onto the cooled banana loaf

Coconut Whipped Cream

  • 400ml can full-fat coconut milk

Chill the coconut milk in the coldest part of the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight, taking care not to disturb or shake the container, the coconut milk will separate with the white liquid on top and the clear on the bottom

Once cold, gently turn over the can, open it, and carefully pour the clear liquid into a small container to save for another purpose, such as smoothie making (if you get too much of the clear liquid mixed with the white cream, the cream will not whip properly. Put the coconut milk back in the refrigerator and wait until it separates to try again). You are left with beautiful, thick coconut cream to use in this recipe.

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Dessert, Easy, Sweet

The Definition of Success / Banoffee Pie

I wrote a post about moving through my fears to start writing. In the post I spoke about regret and success. This led to a conversation with my father that I’ve been thinking about frequently since.

He loves the blog (he’s my dad, it’s his job to love everything I do) but suggested that my definition of success was way off base.

In fairness he absolutely didn’t say that, he was lovely and gentle and supportive in his choice of words. But what was behind those words was, “your definition of success is just plain wrong kiddo.”

One of the many things I love about my dad is his thoughtful approach to the words people use versus the sentiment behind the words. He’s always challenged me to be more specific, to choose words and beliefs carefully, to continually question preconceived notions – of which I have an embarrassing number.

So when he said that he disagreed with my post’s concept of success, and I had stopped pouting, I once again delved into the words I use and the meaning I place on them.

After some reflection, I realised that my definition of success is almost entirely based on areas I believe I’m unsuccessful. I have a great relationship with my family, a loving marriage, a wonderful child, good friends and a home I adore. But I haven’t found passion, applause and a lot of cold, hard cash in my working life – therefore, for me, the definition of success is based on this, the area I believe I haven’t succeeded, rather than all the areas I’ve found joy.

I also frequently move the goal posts around success. So, when I first started writing this blog I just wanted to engage the part of my mind that was always fettered into silence. Pretty quickly, I wanted someone to read it and tell me they liked it. Then I wanted a group of people who felt truly engaged by my words. One day soon only world domination via WordPress will suffice…

I think that part of this is healthy human interaction. I strive to be better because I can. But part of it is fuelled by the suspicion that I’m not good enough, and that’s the part that causes me pain.

I’ve spent time since then trying to focus my attention on the areas of my life that shine with the successes brought by joy.

Some people I know write a gratitude list each day. One friend keeps a pretty stone in her bag, whenever she finds it while ferreting around for something, she immediately pauses to think of something she’s grateful for in that moment.

Others set aside time to sit and observe the world moving about them, looking for the sparkly moments that permeate life, the instants we’re usually too busy to see – a smile between strangers, a moment of unasked kindness freely given, a green space lovingly tended in a city.

Something that I’ve been trying recently is finding moments in my cooking. Instead of cooking while planning the photography, new web design and dinner for my family; I’m revelling in the soft snowfall of flour, the snap of breaking chocolate, rolling each flavour in my mouth while testing and enjoying the opportunity to improve rather than panicking that it’s not going to be good enough. And I’m definitely becoming happier for it.

Now, onto world domination…

Bananas are currently in season in Australia and they are looking and tasting good. I’ve had a lonely jar of Bonne Maman’s caramel spread sitting in my fridge for a while, and suddenly had a childhood memory-based brainwave about the time one of my cousins and I made an enormous banoffee pie and sat in his living room, inhaling the soft banana caramel goodness while watching an entire afternoon of film after film. A successful afternoon if ever I’ve had one.

I’ve made quite a few of these beauties since that day and through much trial and error, this one is my clear winner.

Bottom

  • 225g digestive biscuits (graham crackers work as a substitute for Americans)
  • 100g pecans
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pinch salt

Middle

Top

  • 75g pecans
  • 1/2 tbl sp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tbl sp light brown sugar
  • 4 ripe large bananas
  • 275ml double cream (heavy cream for Americans)

You can either make one big Banoffee Pie in a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin, or make four individual pies in 11cm loose-bottomed tart tins – the choice is yours!

Put the the biscuits and pecans in a freezer bag and smash them to smithereens with a rolling pin

Stir together with the melted butter and salt

Press the mixture into the tin or tins of your choice, pressing down to line the base and sides

Keep the base in the fridge while you make the filling

Melt the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar

Add the caramel spread and salt

Stir constantly until smooth

Pour over the base, and chill for an hour

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium high heat

Add the pecans and toss to coat

Add the sugar and stir frequently until caramelised

Turn onto baking paper and allow to cool

Carefully remove the pie from the tart tin

Whip the cream into soft peaks and spread on top of the caramel

Thinly slice the bananas

Arrange the bananas and candied pecans on top of the cream

Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

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