Monday, 20 May 2013

Old is new again with Stephanie Alexander's Banana Cake

One ol' banana is all you need and the browner the better.  

This is our favourite banana cake recipe found in Stephanie Alexander's 'Kitchen Garden Companion' cookbook.  

Deliciously moist and light... this cake is perfect for any occasion!

Today, we made it in a loaf tin, as opposed to the round tin, and I much prefer this. 

Banana Cake 

Cake Ingredients
125g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
2 free range eggs, room temperature
1 cup mashed ripe banana (I use 1 medium banana as too much can make it dense and heavy)
few drops of pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of wholemeal plain flour (plain is fine, however wholemeal gives it a rustic feel)
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or mixed spice)
1/2 cup buttermilk (I use natural yoghurt or milk with a teaspoon of white vinegar) 

Crumble Ingredients
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
60g unsalted butter, chopped
1/2 cup plain flour 
2 tablespoons rolled oats

1. Grease and line a 22cm cake tin. 
2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius
3. To make the crumble topping, mix sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon and ground ginger in a bowl. In another bowl, crumble butter into flour and oats with your fingers to make pea-sized pieces, then toss flour mixture with sugar mixture. Set aside until needed. 
4. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add banana and vanilla.
5. Sift flour, bi-carb soda, salt and cinnamon and add to banana mixture, alternating with buttermilk. 
6. Spoon into prepared tin and scatter the oatmeal crumble topping over the uncooked batter. 
7. Bake for 60mins with crumble topping in a round tin or 50mins without crumble. 65mins in loaf tin. *If cake starts to brown but needs to cook a little longer, cover with foil and return to oven.
8. Cool cake in tin on a cake cooling rack for just a few minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.

To serve:  
As I don't use the 'crumble' part of the recipe, these are other ways I use to complement the cake. 
1. A simple dusting of icing sugar on top. The children love dusting the icing over cookie cutter shapes, or even Tupperware's Shape-O shapes are great too. 
2. Cream cheese icing. Mix 125g cream cheese, 50g softened butter and 1 1/2 cups pure icing sugar in mixmaster until smooth. I add lemon zest and juice to this for a bit of zing.
3. Dollop of fresh cream, sour cream, vanilla ice-cream or dollop cream.
4. or simply enjoy warm out of the oven! 

How will you choose to enjoy your banana cake? I'd love to hear from you! 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Butcher and ox-tail soup

Out of all the shops we frequent, the butcher is always the one the children are desperate to go to. "Come! Come! Mine - come!" screams my daughter excitedly. 

Why? What is the thrill of the butcher?

It's The Stamp.

I remember the butcher I went to with mum when I was growing up. That butcher gave us a 'mintie' each - the 'Great Australian Lolly'. My siblings and I would stand around kicking sawdust on the floor and chewing away, while we waited for mum to collect the sausages or mince for dinner. 
I think the butchers are a winner if they provide a little treat while you wait. 

Today at the butcher, I was in luck. The last pack of ox-tail bones had our name on it. Ox-tail has a season and it's hard to come by. 

For dinner, my husband and I enjoyed ox-tail soup following the recipe here. Just right for a chilly night like tonight. 

Rich ox-tail soup

2x ox-tails jointed
plain flour
2 tbspn oil
2 onions, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 cups white wine
425g tinned tomatoes, crushed
1 tbspn tomato paste

1. Roll oxtails in plain flour.
2. Heat oil in heavy saucepan and brown the oxtails. 
3. Add onion and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
4. Mix wine, tomatoes and tomato paste well and add to saucepan.
5. Bring to a boil while stirring, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Top up with a little water if necessary.

to serve: crusty bread, fresh parsley on top
on the side: we had boiled chat potatoes with sour cream

I used our Emile Henry pot which I find the best for slow cooking anything from Bolognese to casseroles. 
I topped up the pot with chicken stock from the freezer, to cover the ingredients. 
I also added a handful of fresh parsley to the pot.


Happy daughter, happy mum, happy tums! 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Poetry: 'The Star' by Jane Taylor

Nursery Rhymes are beautiful, traditional and familiar. They most often are the first things babies hear being held lovingly in arms. Mother and baby gazing at each other for hours with so much joy, enormous amount of love and sheer delight. 

I was recently looking through 'The Oxford Book of Children's Verse' looking for new poems for the children et voila! There I found it.

Why learn part of a poem when the whole, is just so uplifting?

The Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are! 
Up above the world so high, 
Like a diamond, in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon, 
Then you show your little light, 
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night. 

Then the traveller in the dark, 
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go, 
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep, 
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

As your bright and tiny spark, 
Lights the traveller in the dark --
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

A beautifully calming and descriptive poem to end the day with your little ones tucked under their covers.  

Good night. 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Autumn and the Liquidamber Tree

We grew up with a liquid amber tree in our front yard. It is huge now, towering over our now seemingly little house. It is 'The Tree' that you landmark for our home. "Yes, see that big tree on the right, that's our house". 

When Mum and Dad first moved there one winter, my older brother was due that spring. What delight Mum had when the tree first began to bud and show its bright green, almost leathery leaves.  The tree had been planted no more than ten years earlier.  As it grew and we grew, we began to climb. The branches almost begged to be climbed. I remember distinctly the rhythm of climbing: the repetitive placement of hands and feet was important in the speed and ease climbing those first ten to fifteen branches. We climbed up so high! We had no fear.

I had always dreamed of having a tree house, but it never happened, it wasn't a disappointment for me though. There were other things our tree could be. I had even named some of the branches, like the one which was near to the pedestrian path had a name for me. Something like the 'Landing Branch' because I could creep along slowly, slowly, slowly until the branch was almost touching the ground and then quickly jump off before it sprang back up. 

During autumn my brothers would rake the leaves into big piles which were then mowed down. Running through piles of the crunchy leaves always brought a smile to my face. Even now, I can't help myself when walking past a crunchy looking leaf. 

The seed pods which we called 'conkers' are a great sensorial experience. Green and fresh from the tree they are slightly cool, softer spikes and moist, or the brown, dried hard, crunchy ones which are very spiky in the hand and painful under bare feet!  

We also enjoyed adding the dried out brown conkers with the kindling to the fire. We had an open fireplace in our lounge room. They looked spectacular when the fire caught onto them. 

This is my favourite tree. It displays the seasons so dramatically. I now use this tree to explain the seasons to the children. Right now we are in the last month of autumn. The leaves are changing from green to yellow, orange to red, and the last leaves hanging will soon fall to the ground for winter to reveal the tall bare trunk and long branches.

Winter is near. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013


I have a drawer in the kitchen. It's where the potatoes go. It is also where all the empty boxes go. 

You'll find various pastas, cereals, biscuits, plastic fruit containers, toothpaste boxes... anything that could be used for our 'shop'. 

The first time the children played 'shops' we had a basket of toilet rolls as 'dinner rolls'. Long rolls from the cling wrap and foil were baguettes, wholemeal loaves or for the sweeter option, cinnamon buns. We had coffees, lattes, baby-cinos using the take away trays for multiple orders. Hair care was also there, shampoo, conditioner and gel. Soap boxes too.

Paying with card? We have an eftpos machine. Credit, savings or cheque? Sign or pin?  

I could even have a shopping list collected for me while I waited on the couch. The items would then be arranged into various paper bags, and if I needed help, the shop keeper and his assistant would pack them into my couch, which had been since been converted into a car. Such service. Isadore Sharp would be impressed! 

I'm not sure who enjoyed it more - me or the children. Just so delightful. 

We are collecting again for our next 'pop-up' shop. 

Will you have your loyalty card with you? 

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