Nuts over bananas and happy birthday to my Dad

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

December is the most festive month in our family. Yes, obviously, because of the holiday season (at least three holidays for our mixed family)... but also - three birthdays. The celebration starts with my sister's birthday on Christmas Eve, continues with mine, and ends with my father's on New Year's day.

My sister and I would usually make special cards for Dad on his birthday. During the war when times were harder, I once re-gifted him with one of the remaining books from our home library. In those times we would often celebrate our birthdays together on either my sister's or my birthday, or on a day equidistant from our respective birthdays: one cake with two names on it. Nobody was ever particularly happy about the situation, but in the end it would all somehow work out. Dad was a grownup so there was never really a celebration for him - just us and Mom, singing happy birthday and joking with Dad about his age. It is funny how when we are children, our parents seem quite old to us. The other day I said to Layla that Dad is turning 59 on his next birthday. She frowned, looked down at her fingers (as if counting) and exclaimed: 'A few more days before he's one hundred!'. Um, yeah, not really.

Naturally, after many loving family celebrations, December has become sort of a default happy time for me - even now that my Dad, my sister and I live in three different countries and have not celebrated our birthdays together for quite some time.

I am a cook and photographer-in-making, and I have my father to thank for my zeal. I believe it all comes from his side of family - him and all of his brothers (save for one, but even he tries really hard and is very good) are exceptionally talented cooks. They never hesitate to help out in the kitchen and always bring something new to the table. In our patriarchal culture, one does not come across something like that very frequently. I think that witnessing that inspired me in a very special way early on. When I started to learn how to cook, it was him who had the most patience with me and who always ate everything I made.

In one of the upcoming posts, I plan to share with you the first meal I ever truly mastered, following my father's recipe and instructions.

As usual, in order to deal with being far from my family at the time when I especially want them close, I escaped to the kitchen to cook my way through my mixed feelings. I made banana bread (Layla loves it), and tried some adorable rice flour and banana mini cupcakes (we loved them - rice flour adds special texture while bananas make them very moist - and don't get me started on those melted chocolate bits!). Simple recipes perfect for that special family time. Hope you enjoy them with your loved ones.

Banana bread


3 ripe bananas (454 grams), mashed well
115 grams coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans 
230 grams all-purpose flour
130 grams granulated white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
113 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Lightly butter medium size rectangular pan. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes (be careful not to burn them). Rub briefly between palms to discard some of the loose skins. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In a bowl mix the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon). Add the nuts.

In a separate bowl mix the mashed bananas, eggs and melted butter. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, carefully fold the wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix briefly until combined but do not over mix. The batter should be runny, thick and chunky. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour (until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and then remove from the pan and serve.

Banana and rice flour mini cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 24 mini cupcakes)

2 medium size eggs
150 grams ripe bananas, mashed
80 grams olive oil
100 grams muscovado sugar
50 grams rice flour
25 grams hazelnut meal
25 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 grams dark cocoa powder
50 grams chopped chocolate

Whisk together the wet ingredients (banana, eggs, oil and vanilla). Add sugar and mix until combined.

Combine the dry ingredients (rice, all-purpose, and hazelnut flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder). Slowly add the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate pieces.

Fill the mini cupcake holders about three-quarters full. Bake on 170 C temperature for about 20 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack and decorate with dark chocolate chantilly.

Dark chocolate chantilly


80 grams dark chocolate, chopped
250 grams heavy cream

Boil the cream on medium heat. Place the chocolate pieces in a heat resistant bowl and pour the boiling cream over them. Mix until chocolate is melted. Refrigerate for 24 hours and then whip it as standard cream. Pipe over cupcakes and decorate with chopped chocolate bits.

Happiest birthday, Dad. Miss you and love you.

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