Recipe for a Fun Banana Chocolate Bread


Does the world really need another banana bread recipe?

With a ton of banana bread recipes on the blog, okay make that half a dozen, I had decided a while ago not to post any more banana bread recipes on the blog. 

Remember those home grown bananas? Finally, the last batch did turn into an overripe lot, and what better way to put them to good use! Since I was baking these for a weekend treat, I  added some chocochips and some Nesquick mix to make banana bread in the kid's favourite flavour, chocolate. Yay, how unique! ;) 

He has turned into quite the fussy eater these days. I'm yet to figure out the reason for this. 
Possibly, being a 6 year old hurtling towards being a 7 year old means he has to express his own wishes more often and make sure he gets them. This is an ongoing battle and a whole lot can be written on this, but we shall get back to the cake on hand.

This is a one bowl cake, if you don't count the mixer that is. It does help if you blend the ingredients in a mixer or a blender, especially the oil, yogurt and bananas - saves some time in whisking them to a fine puree. Otherwise, mix it all, scrape it into a loaf tin. Bask in the glorious aromas for the next 40 minutes. 

Get a chopping board, a knife and some plates ready, keep your coffee to brew, and enjoy your 4PM with a thick slice of this delicious banana and chocolate cake.



BANANA CHOCOLATE BREAD (has egg)
Makes 12 thick slices

Ingredients
1.5 cups ripe banana puree OR 6 small bananas)
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup whisked yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp drinking chocolate or Nesquick or chocolate malted drink mix
1 tsp vinegar
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Equipment
Loaf tin
Blender

Instructions

  1. Grease and line the loaf tin.
  2. Preheat the oven at 180°C.
  3. In a blender or mixer, blend the bananas, oil, milk, egg, yogurt, vanilla extract and sugar to a fine puree.
  4. Scrape it out into a large bowl.
  5. Sieve all the dry ingredients into this bowl (all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, drinking chocolate).
  6. Gently mix in the vinegar and chocolate chips until well incorporated and scrape this batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Unmold the loaf and cool for further 15 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.
To make this egg-free, you can try replacing the egg with one flax egg - 1 tbsp flaxseed meal with 3 tbsp hot water, whisk till frothy and incorporate into batter, instead of egg. 

To serve, warm each slice for 15 seconds in the microwave, it will make the chocochips a little melty and more fun to eat!



Some other Banana Recipes on Saffron Trail:
On growing bananas at home
David Lebovitz inspired Banana Cake
Honey Banana Muffins
Wacky Banana Cake
Banana Raita



Vegetarian Weekly Menu Plan - 24th August 2015


Weekly Menu Plan is back for the coming week. I shall be traveling and hardly cooking this week, so this plan is made just for my readers. Hopefully, you pick a few ideas from this. In terms of prep, you can do the following on the Sunday.

BUY
Bread
Dosa batter
Coconut milk
Curry paste
Eggs
----
Red rice poha
Lapsi
Pasta
Almonds
Green Moong
----
Bhindi / Okra
Onion
Tomatoes
Spinach
Eggplant
Carrot
Potato
Cabbage (Poricha Kootu)
Big brinjal
Bottle Gourd
Pineapple
Cucumber
Bell peppers
Zucchini
Mushrooms


PREP ON SUNDAY



Recipe Links

BREAKFAST
Red Rice Poha
Spinach Pesarattu
Carrot Herb Muffins

LUNCH
Bhindi Masala
Lasooni Dal Palak
Poricha Kootu (Tambrahm mixed veg dish with dal)
Kadhi Pakodi
Vendhaya (methi) Kozhambu
Usili
Baingan Bharta
Alu Paratha
Dudhi Raita
Pineapple Gojju
Cucumber Sasive
Mysore Rasam

DINNER
Adai
Italian eggplant and tomatoes
Taheri
Misal Masala Dosa 
Pesto Trapanese
Healthy Veggie Burger
Vegan Curry Bowl


The 6 Course Press Club Lunch in Bangalore with George Calombaris - What We Ate

The menu autographed by GC

If you read Part 1 of my George Calombaris story, you'd know how I nearly missed this invite of a lifetime.

It was a privilege to be one of the invitees for this 6 Course Press Club Lunch put forth by George Calombaris and his team. 15th August, 2015, will be a day to remember as far as culinary memories go. 

We were asked to be there by 11.30am so that we could hob nob with the other invitees and be there in time for the sit down lunch that would start at 12.30pm. I feel this was a cunning ploy to ensure that people don't walk in as per usual IST standards, well after the service has begun. 

The lunch started off at 1.15pm. The organization of the event was spot on. There were 15 tables, 8 people to a table, with pre-assigned seating and our meal choice had been noted down a few days before the event. 

COURSE 1



The first course was common for the vegetarians and non vegetarians. It was Beetroot, Feta, Poppadum and Yogurt. 

If you're a follower of Masterchef Australia, you'll realise what a hot favourite beets were in the last season. While no further details were revealed about this dish, I could taste beets done a few different ways. There were roasted beets, pickled beets and a beet puree for sure, each with some difference in intensity of the beetroot flavour. The pickled beet complemented the sweet, somewhat bland flavour of the roasted beets and the puree. 

There was a poppadum (pappadam) or a fried South Indian papad sitting on top of the beet melange, something that George explained was a local touch to the dish. Small dollops of yogurt plus feta, beet puree and grated Parmesan topped the Poppadum. There was also a delicate fennel shoots garnish. If someone had told me, here, eat this beetroot with papad, I'd totally say no. But here, a handful of ingredients were presented in a completely sophisticated and minimalistic way, that made you want to dig in and clean up the dish. 

COURSE 2

The non-vegetarian option of this course, was the same as served in the tasting menu of the previous day - Sea bass with miso eggplant and celery. The vegetarian version of this course was bell pepper stuffed with a kind of herby pilaf, placed on top of an eggplant and miso puree, garnished with celery and some microgreens. The miso in the eggplant puree gave it a hit of umami, and the celery bits adding a crispness to the dish. I could not figure if the rice was more Greek or Indian in origin though.


COURSE 3
If you followed Season 7 of Masterchef Australia, this was Greek Salad - Monokrome, served in the Press Club Challenge, which Georgia had to prepare. While the menu listed this as course 4, George announced that he was serving this as course 3. I'm assuming it was to break the monotony between two fish-seafood courses back to back. 



 It was all things green and green has never looked this stunning or tasted this good. The non-vegetarians got a similar looking salad. I presume that there were crispy bacon bits as the garnish while the vegetarians had some seed-grain based crumble on the top. There was broccoli, asparagus, crispy fried basil leaf, all sitting on top of a verdant green puree. The flavours were complex, and there was nothing bitter in the green puree, which the greens tend to acquire if prepared in advance and sitting around for a while. Everything was liberally doused in extra virgin olive oil, which is GC's favourite ingredient after all. 

That's how you clean up your plate of greens when it is as delicious as this.



COURSE 4


While the menu read Prawn Saganaki, Tomato and Mustard, the dish was more of a giant tortellini. Saganaki is a Greek / Turkish appetizer of fried cheese, and it was more relevant in the vegetarian version where it was a large tortellini stuffed to its gills with feta. Cherry tomatoes bursting with juices, swimming in mustard flecked extra virgin olive oil made the simple sauce for this tortellini. While I'm a big lover of feta, there was way too much feta stuffed into this, even for my liking. This may come across as a nobody picking a fault in an epic chef's menu, but 75% ricotta and 25% feta would have been a much better option. My fellow diner loved the prawn filling and did comment that the portion was quite large, given that it was part of a 6 course meal. 

COURSE 5

The vegetarian version of this course was a filo pastry pie with spiced potato filling, an onion-leek puree, fondant potato and a grilled eggplant. The South Indian touches to this were fried curry leaf garnish and onion rings done onion-bhajji style. 



The meat version was Lamb, Onion and Fondant Potato. The lamb cutlet was beautifully Frenched (not visible from this angle) and it was accompanied by a Filo pastry cigar stuffed with lamb mince. Instead of the leek onion puree, the meat dish came with a lamb jus.


COURSE 6

Rice pudding, salted caramel and rice cream - if I had not already tasted this the previous day at the tasting session, it would have completely blown me away. Rizogalo is a traditional Greek rice pudding, which George said they had prepared with Japanese sticky rice. Paired with a deadly salted caramel sauce, a 'rice cream' which I'm assuming was an ice cream made using rice milk and a crunchy crumble of pistachios and crushed shortcrust pastry, it was an absolutely smashing finale to what was one of the most memorable meals of my lifetime.


The entire meal had George on the microphone, explaining each course, taking questions from the audience, going to every single table, taking photos, signing autographs for each of the 140+ people. While I was already a big fan, I came back home a bigger fan of his patience, and his love for people in general, and his affable, down-to-earth personality. He shared some gems in responses to people's questions and I hope to do a post on that sometime soon!



The cherry on top of this afternoon was a signed copy of George's book, George Calombaris (Lantern Cookery Classics) and a photo with the man himself.

Many thanks to Zomato, Gold Rush Entertainment, George Calombaris & his team, JW Marriot Bangalore and the entire team of chefs who worked hard to get out these beautiful plates of food.



Penne with Pesto Trapanese - A Sicilian Recipe

pesto recipe, pesto trapanese, tomato almond pesto


While basil pesto is the most well known pesto, every region in Italy makes pesto with freshly available local produce. According to Lidia Bastianich, the Italian cuisine expert, the word pesto comes from the verb 'pestare', which means 'to mash'. This means you can pretty much mash up any fresh ingredients to make a pesto, and toss it along with pasta, vegetables or chicken and you have a dish ready right there. 



pesto recipe, pesto trapanese, tomato almond pesto


I've experimented with rocket-walnut pesto, spinach-peanut pesto and even one with sun-dried tomatoes. But this recipe is as authentic as it gets. Pesto Trapanese hails from Trapani in Sicily, which is known for its tomatoes and almonds. 

To quote from Wikipedia:


It (Pesto Trapanese) is an ancient dish: the port of Trapani stopped the Genoese ships, from the East, that brought the tradition of garlic sauce from Liguria, based on garlic and walnuts, which was developed by sailors in Trapani with products their land, tomato and almonds.

I love this bit of history behind this sauce, combining the best of two regions in one dish. It also works in my favour as I am fast trying to rescue the tomatoes ripening on the vine in my kitchen garden, from squirrels and other sundry pests. What better way to put them to use than in a beautiful and unusual pesto!


pesto recipe, pesto trapanese, tomato almond pesto


This is pretty much a kitchen garden pesto for me, except for the almonds of course.

In this recipe, the pasta is tossed in Pesto Trapanese (tomato-almond-basil pesto) and is garnished with a poor man's Parmesan cheese. 

And guess what that is...

...Toasted bread crumbs, which not only look like cheese but have this extra crunch to the pasta dish.

Delmonte pasta, DelmonteItalianescapades

A few tips to cook pasta right:

  • Cook in plenty of water so the pasta has enough space to swim around and not stick to each other.
  • The water should be adequately salted, it should taste like the sea water, is what the Italians say.
  • Do not add any oil to the water to cook pasta or the sauce will not stick to it.
  • Do not overcook the pasta, it should have a bite to it - i.e. al dente

pesto recipe, pesto trapanese, tomato almond pesto



RECIPE FOR Penne Con Il Pesto Trapaenese | Penne in Pesto Trapanese 
Serves 2

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Equipment required:
Large pot to boil pasta
Medium pot to blanche tomatoes
Food processor or large mortar pestle
Convection oven or Skillet or Microwave oven

Ingredients
200 grams Del Monte Penne Rigate pasta
Water and salt to cook pasta

For Pesto Trapanese
4 large ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
8-10 large Genovese Basil leaves (Sweet Italian Basil)
1/4 cup almonds, soaked in boiling hot water for 5-10 minutes
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp toasted bread crumbs*
3-4 cherry tomatoes (optional)


Instructions

  1. Peel off the skins from the blanched almonds. In a preheated oven (180C) or on a skillet on low flame, allow them to toast for 5-10 minutes until lightly golden. You can also toast them in a microwave oven for 3-4 minutes until golden.
  2. Cook the Del Monte Penne Rigate pasta for the time mentioned on the packet, in this case 9-11 minutes. Drain and keep aside, reserving some of the pasta water.
  3. Bring a pan of water to boil. Make cross cuts on the base of the tomatoes and gently put them into boiling water for 2 minutes. Blanch them in cold water for a minute and peel off skins. Quarter the tomatoes, scoop out seeds, chop roughly and keep aside.
  4. To make the pesto, in a large mortar and pestle or a food processor, mash/process the basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and salt until smooth and creamy. To this add the almonds and mash / process until you get a smooth paste. Add the chopped tomatoes at this stage and mash / process until you get a chunky sauce. Add any leftover extra virgin olive oil and process until it forms a creamy sauce.
  5. Toss the cooked pasta in this sauce. (thin down with some pasta water if you like it that way)
  6. Garnish with some fresh basil, halved cherry tomatoes and toasted breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
Pesto Trapanese can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge (pour a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil on the top) for a week or so. You can also use this sauce to coat grilled vegetables and grains to make a salad.


*To make toasted breadcrumbs, tear 2 slices of bread roughly, add to food processor with a spoonful of olive oil and herbs, until you get crumbs. Transfer to a lined baking tray, spread out and bake for 3-4 minutes until golden in a 180C preheated oven. You can do this while toasting the almonds but make sure you keep an eye on them as they burn very quickly.


pesto recipe, pesto trapanese, tomato almond pesto


Sneaking in almonds into this pesto is a perfect way to add a boost of health to a pasta dish for my kid, who otherwise dislikes most nuts. It's also the best pesto to make when you have just a few sprigs of basil growing in your kitchen garden, and you want to put them to use.

The pasta in Pesto Trapenese is full of the flavour of basil and tomatoes, with background flavours of the toasted almonds. Use the best tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil you can find, and try out this utterly simple, fully authentic yet unusual pasta recipe and wow your family and friends.

This recipe is on its way to the Del Monte: Blog your way to Italy contest.
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