Recipe: Banana Bread

Freshly sliced Banana Bread
Freshly sliced Banana Bread

Ingredients;

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups mashed banana (approx 3 bananas)

You will need 2 bowls and a 2lb loaf tin. The older and browner the bananas, the better this recipe will turn out.

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Preheat your oven to 190 C.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a second smaller bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar (easiest done with a hand mixer). Stir in the eggs and banana to this bowl.

Finally add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well until the flour mix is incorporated fully.

Liberally grease your 2lb loaf tin with cooking spray or butter and pour in the mix.

Bake at 190 C for approx 50 mins. Test if it is done by sticking a cocktail stick into the loaf and swirling around gently. If the stick comes out clean or covered in crumbs, then the loaf is done.

Remove from loaf tin and leave to cool before cutting. Gorgeous served with a thin spread of butter or some Nutella. This loaf will improve after a few days storage, keeps for 5-7 days in an airtight container.

Kitchen Essentials: Herbs, Spices and other things in the press

One thing that I’ve found makes cooking regularly a lot easier is having a “stock” selection of certain items close to hand in the kitchen at all times. I’m going to list the ones I always have some of below.

I’m going to start off with dry herbs and spices. If you have these to hand in the kitchen you can almost always make something from the odds and ends in the fridge, what to do with them has come with experience for me but I hope I can prevent some people from having the kitchen disasters I’ve had with my experiments over the years, Citrus stir-fry anyone? that’s how I learnt that tasting as you’re cooking is essential.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, first up the essential dried herbs and spices in no particular order…

  • Table Salt
  • Rock Salt
  • Pepper
  • Black peppercorns
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Ground Cumin
  • Coriander Seeds
  • Ground Coriander
  • Chilli flakes
  • Ground Ginger
  • Sesame seeds
  • Paprika
  • 5 spice
  • 7 spice

I keep others as well but these are the ones I use the most.

Next, the bottles…

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (usually a generic brand, I gave up on buying separate Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil a long time ago, as Olive Oil seems to be only available in the supermarkets from the premier brands so why pay ā‚¬10+ for 1L Olive Oil when I’m paying a quarter for the Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • Sesame oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Dark Soy Sauce

When it comes to Vinegars I just can’t get enough, I’ve listed the essentials above but we have a broad selection of Balsamic vinegars, thick ones, thin ones, mature ones, regional ones I’m estimating about 10 different Balsamics in the press, cause I’m too afraid/embarrassed to count them all :)

So what about fresh stuff, I’ve listed the ones I try to always have below, it’s not always possible but these are rarely off the sopping list.

  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Chilli
  • Chives
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Parsnip
  • Potatoes

And yes feel free to point and laugh because I buy fresh herbs instead of growing them in a pot but truth be told I’ve never managed to keep them alive for terribly long, any gardeners out there fancy sharing some hints and tips I’m all ears.

Other Items I like to keep handy are…

  • “Ready for the oven bread rolls” (Fresh bread + selection of oils, vinegars, cheeses and dried meats = ultra quick meal)
  • Fresh Pesto
  • Italian Tomato Sauce
  • A Jar of Pickles or Cornichons
  • Eggs
  • A few different Cheeses
  • Dried meats (Salami, Chorizo, Pancetta, Parma Ham)

Now I know this is a long list but if you are cooking regularly, it won’t be long before you find that you have most of these already, so rather than rush off to the shops and buy them all in one go, build them up as you use them, but once they’re in the collection don’t let them run out :)

Recipe: Bacon Pineapple & cheese chicken roll

Bacon Pineapple & cheese chicken roll
Bacon Pineapple & cheese chicken roll

Ingredients;

2 chicken breasts, any skin, fat, tough bits trimmed off
small tin pineapple rings
vintage cheddar, 4 slices about 1/2 cm thick
packet of pancetta strips or streaky bacon

Serves 2

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Heat the oven to 180Ā° C. Line a small baking tin with foil.

Place 3-4 pancetta strips (or bacon slices) down in the tin. Lay your chicken breast across the middle of these. Top with 2 rings of pineapple and 2 of the cheese slices.

Wrap the pancetta ends over the pineapple and cheese, sealing in the chicken breast parcel. Repeat with the second breast.

Cook for 25-30 mins in the oven, until juices from the chicken run clear when a knife is pressed into it.

I’d suggest serving with mashed potato and a side of vegetables.

Who got me started cooking proper food?

Jamie Oliver
Image by Scandic Hotels via Flickr

In truth, it was largely down to a wee lad by the name of Jamie Oliver. When his first series “The Naked Chef” aired one of my friends started to rave about him. Once I’d gotten the obligatory “you watch cooking shows” slagging out of the way, I did watch the show one night and Jamie’s passion for food is what struck me first, so I kept watching the show, kept ordering the take-aways until about a year later I decided that I should give this cooking lark a try and I did and I enjoyed it.

So I invited some friends round for dinner and once they finished with the “please don’t poison us” slagging and agreed to give it a try, I cooked the same meal and they were all either genuinely impressed or unusually hesitant to hurt my feelings šŸ˜‰ Either way the success of that one meal gave me the confidence to do more, the passion to learn more and the desire to eat with friends and family more.

The feeling of satisfaction I had on that Saturday evening, is still fresh in my memory, food brings people together, you sit at a table, this starts conversations and conversation is a very powerful thing, it can spread news, ideas, ambitions, resolve conflict, help people to cope with things they might not be able to otherwise, I could go on and on, but you get the idea and it all starts with the cooking.

When Jamie’s show “Jamie’s Ministry of Food” aired, I loved the idea of “Pass it on” and I did, to a few people but I always felt that I could have and should have done more. That was part of the reason that I started this site, to help people start cooking for themselves by giving them quick and easy recipes that don’t take an age to make, or at least if they do, can be easily stored or frozen and can be quickly put together on a busy day, so I/you don’t reach for the delivery menu or the processed meal.

Jamie started me on this road a long time ago before I (or possibly he) even knew where it was going and I am eternally grateful to him for it. Which is why I was over the moon to hear that he had won this year’s TED prize.

I watched his speech from the conference and listened to his wish. It’s the most compelling speech I have heard in a long time and sums up everything I want to say about cooking and why everyone needs to learn to cook, in a way I could never manage – so coherently, briefly and passionately. Watch it and decide for yourself…

Lets all do our part to make this wish come true.

ā€œI wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.ā€

Recipe: Chicken in Creamy Pesto Sauce

Chicken in Creamy Pesto Sauce
Chicken in Creamy Pesto Sauce

Ingredients;

1 chicken breast
2 heaped teaspoons of fresh pesto
4 tablespoons of fresh cream
1 handful of freshly grated parmesan
Fresh Pasta for 2
Olive oil
Extra Virgin olive oil

Serves 2

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Take your chicken breast, remove the skin and trim off any fat. Then dice it into 1 inch cubes. Take the fresh pesto and in a small bowl mix in the cream.

Prepare your pasta and get the water in your saucepan to heat for cooking the pasta, but do not put the pasta on yet.

While waiting for your pasta pot to get up to a boil, gently fry the chicken in a little olive oil until the meat just starts to brown. Next add in the pesto and cream and stir the lot together. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible and get you pasta on to cook.

As soon as the pasta is ready, drain it and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil (or a truffle oil, for extra flavour) and stir the chicken and creamy pesto into the pasta.

Serve with some freshly grated Parmesan for a very quick and tasty meal.