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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Going bananas!

It's been a recurring theme on many Aussie foodblogs over the past year: we miss our bananas. I think most of you have heard by now that in mid-March 2006, Cyclone Larry announced itself in far north Queensland and destroyed 95% of Australia's banana crop. At the time I remember a few people giggling, heh, bananas! Cyclone comes through and we lose bananas! But when the reality of our banana-less existence sunk in, and the prices of the few left in Australia shot up to about $16 a kilo, the situation was miserable. Australia wouldn't import bananas in the interim, so we could help our own farmers; mentioning this to some friends in the UK recently sparked a fairly heated argument about protectionism and our moral duty to help poorer countries who need to export the few goods they have. Like most things, I can see both points of view, and we decided to abandon the argument and go and have a pint instead.
Lady Lunchalot is today celebrating Banana Sunday, in which we celebrate the return of bananas to reasonable prices; currently about $3 a kilo, although I've been told that something disastrous has happened again up there, and prices will rise again. She gives a good potted history of the banana situation the past year, and made me realise how much I did miss those things: especially those mornings when I'm running late, and it's the perfect thing to grab and eat in the car...i.e. pretty much every morning.

There's a bit of a coincidence with the banana cake I made. I tore the recipe out of a New Idea magazine in the lunchroom at work, on Friday 17 March, planning to make it after I bought a few bananas to go soft. Cyclone Larry hit on the Monday morning, and my banana cake plans were put on the shelf. For a long time!
So, here is is finally. It's a bog-standard very easy banana cake recipe, sent in by a reader, but the thing that caught my eye was the inclusion of coconut cream. I can't say I can taste it in the finished cake, but it does make the cake very moist. I think it would keep a long time. The recipe recommends drizzling with passionfruit pulp before serving, but I forgot to buy any. My eye fell on my bottle of pomegrenate molasses, and I decided that would have a similar sort of tang. Well, what a revelation! From now on, I'm always adding it to my bananas; the sweet-sour tang perfectly offsets the almost sickly sweetness of the bananas. Plus, aren't pomegrenates the fruit of love? Seems appropriate, considering the event coming up this week. So, one cake is decorated in Valentines day hearts, and the other is heart shaped, and drizzled in the fruit of love. All's well with the world. :-)
Read on for the recipe:

Easy Banana Cake
From New Idea, March 2006

1 cup caster sugar*
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour**
1 cup mashed overripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup coconut cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
125g butter (1/2 pack) melted
Passionfruit pulp to serve (or pomegrenate molasses)
Cream cheese frosting:
25g butter, room temperature
75g cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups icing sugar mixture
1 tsp grated lemon rind

1: Grease a deep, 20cm round cake pan and line with baking paper. Preheat oven to 190C (moderately hot)
2: Combine sugar, flour, bananas, vanilla, coconut, coconut cream and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in melted butter until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan.
3: Cook for about 1 hour, or until cooked when tested. Stand cake in pan for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool
4: To make cream cheese frosting, beat all of the ingredients together in a small bowl with an electric mixer until well combined
5: Spread frosting over top of cold cake. Just before serving drizzle with passionfruit pulp.

* I used 1/2 cup caster sugar & 1/2 cup raw sugar
** I used 1 cup SR flour & 1/2 cup wholemeal SR flour. I think you could use all wholemeal SR without any problems.

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  • Nicki, this is close to the recipe I use to make banana muffins. Sour cream or plain yoghurt can be substituted for the coconut cream. It's great to hear that bananas are back at an affordable price. Enjoy!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/11/2007 08:18:00 pm  

  • Hi Niki
    I have to say as a lifelong banana hater, the destruction of the banana crop would not exactly have been hailed as a culinary tragedy in my house (maybe a humanitarian or an economic crisis, but certainly not a culinary one!!) But I can imagine how awful it would be if something I DID love were wiped out and unaffordably expensive for ages. And strangely enough, through my banana hatred I have always adored banana loaf and banana muffins, so even I would have missed those! Having recently reacquired the recipe for my mom's banana loaf, I am intrigued by the idea of pomegranate molasses with it - definitely sounds worth a try!

    By Blogger Jeanne, at 2/12/2007 11:26:00 pm  

  • I had no idea that Austraila suffered a banana crisis! Nextdoor in New Zealand we must have been importing from somewhere else because our prices do not seem to have changed. Apparently our chicken prices are on the increase due to shortages of Australian grain - now that will drive me bananas!

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