Dear Covid-19. Well, hello! Being an anxious sort, I had always imagined that a global pandemic would happen at some point soon, given how shockingly we treat the planet. But until something like this hits the fan in earnest, it’s hard to process the full reality of it. I fully believe that the author Emily St John Mandel, who wrote the brilliant ‘Station 11’ (a fictitious novel about a global pandemic) is some kind of future-predicting Magus. Do NOT read this book if you haven’t already, it won’t help your state of mind right now – just stick to re-reading old copies of magazines that speak of cushions, loft conversions, cake and shallow capitalist frenzy!
These days, when I’m not mainlining the Guardian news app into my jugular vein (v unhealthy, not recommended) and ageing 25 years with every news report, I am actively trying to taking refuge in running, recipes and writing. Caveat: this can only occur wherever I can actually hide from my children, who have taken up permanent residence in the house (school’s out FOREVER, it seems) and who eat everything in sight like locusts, while fighting and being incredibly noisy.
Given that there are shortages of eggs, butter and dairy in the supermarkets at the moment, I’ve adapted my usual banana cake to a vegan version, so you won’t need anything from a hen or a cow. You’ll can use flaxseeds instead of the eggs, and a neutral veg oil to replace the butter. It also seems that flour is a right bugger to get hold of at the moment – I rooted around in my cupboard and used up some out-of-date odds and ends, a blend of brown rice flour and wholemeal wheat, and you’d never know the difference. (If you do find yourself with a Covid-cupboard stash of eggs, flour and butter, then you can try my non-vegan recipe).
I managed to bake this with my kids, and nobody got hurt. A few tips for survival (seeing as cooking with my kids is one of the most stressful activities known to man): when they’re distracted in another room, weigh out all of the ingredients in advance into separate bowls, so that they can just tip each one in turn into the mixing bowl with minimum drama, then let them take turns to mix it all together. It’s anal, but if you have young kids, you get it, right?
Makes 1 large banana loaf (or you could divide mix into muffin cases).
You will need:
400g overripe bananas, mashed
2 tbsp ground flaxseed, mixed with 5 tbsp water (this is your egg replacement). If you don’t have flaxseed, but have eggs, use 2
125 ml neutral vegetable oil (I used sunflower, you could use rapeseed etc)
200g sugar (dark sugar is nice if you have it, any sugar will do)
1 tsp vanilla extract (not essential, but nice if it’s there)
1-2 tsp ground spice (cinnamon, mixed spice, cardamom etc)
250g flour – I used half brown rice flour and wholemeal wheat flour, anything you can find, basically
2 tsps baking powder
1 generous pinch sea salt (I use Maldon)
Optional: 150g frozen berries (I used blueberries)
If you have whole flaxseeds, grind them in a coffee grinder/processer until you get a powder. Then add the water to them and leave them for 15 mins to absorb it – they’ll swell up and create a lovely brown gel. Mmm – see below!
Preheat your oven to 180C. Prepare a loaf tin by lining with greaseproof paper.
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder, set aside. Using a hand whisk, mix the sugar together with the oil until pale and clumped together. Mash the bananas in a separate bowl with the vanilla and spice. Tip the flaxseed gel into the sugar/oil mix and whisk, then add the bananas. After mixing together, add the dry ingredients and mix well. If you’re going to add berries, gently fold them in but don’t mix around too much, they will disintegrate.
Tip the mix into a prepared loaf tin and bake for 45mins – 1hour. If you’ve added frozen berries to your cake, this will slow down the cooking time, so check the cake with a skewer to see if it comes out clean, and if it’s still got mixture stuck to it, bake for another 10-15 minutes (prevent the top of the cake from going too dark by covering with some greaseproof paper).
When the cake is down, cool it down first on a rack before attempting to slice, otherwise it’ll fall apart. Or eat it, as I did, with a spoon, hot from the oven, burning the roof of my mouth on the blueberries. It’s amazing spread with a thick wedge of contraband butter.