The freezer tends to be a haven for treats. When I was little it was the home of ready-meals, frozen chips, waffles, hash-browns and those smiley-faced potato cakes everyone loved in their school lunch. We horded ice lollies and strawberry, chocolate and vanilla Mini Milks, and vanilla ice creams on sticks coated in nubbly almond-sprinkled chocolate. As I got older the freezer drawers still seemed like a food nirvana, full of foil containers of bolognese, curry and casseroles meaning a night off cooking, just a quick whiz around the microwave. At university any chicken legs, mince and sausages I had splurged on (£10 for any three items) would be tucked away safely until I treated myself, but probably not for a couple of months. Just the knowledge they were there in the freezer, the safety deposit box if you will, was reassuring.
The freezer is still full of goodies, even now. It is the adult tuck box, ready to dip in and out as we please. Slices of cake wrapped in foil can be found in there, alongside an expensive tub of vanilla and white chocolate ice cream, more hash-browns, frozen Yorkshire puddings (I claim no responsibility for these) and plenty of Capri-Suns which transform into pouches of orange ice, perfect on a hot day. Scattered among this melee of treats are about fifteen frozen bananas. My freezer is a banana sanctuary, a frozen cave of neglected, pockmarked fruits. Every time I buy a bunch of bananas at least two end up in this collection, over-ripe and unwanted. Once the number reached fifteen, however, I knew an intervention was needed.
Banana bread is everyone’s favourite choice for old bananas. Like a loaf of bread it lingers in the kitchen for a couple of days as you gradually cut away slice after slice, although much more moist and indulgent than any sourdough I know. Banana cake is always top of my list – particularly the old chestnut Hummingbird cake – but for a vast cake it only requires two bananas; not helpful when you have fifteen at your disposal. Likewise banana cupcakes, especially this wonderful recipe for vegan banana and peanut butter cupcakes (the secret is egg-free mayonnaise! Sounds horrendous but oh boy they are so sweet and fluffy). I needed a recipe to tick a couple of boxes – 1) rids me of more than two bananas, and 2) scrubs up as a great dessert.
Thus, banana bread it was, but not the breakfast-loaf-eaten-with-a-cup-of-tea kind, this was Nigel Slater’s banana bread, moist and syrupy from the muscovado sugar and the huge quantity of mashed banana – at least three bananas, guys! Along with the molten chocolate chunks, the indulgence of this loaf transcends to another level – can this even be qualified as a bread? Is it a cake? Although it is admittedly rather good with a cup of tea, once it is gently warmed and bedecked with salted caramel sauce and ice cream your cup of tea knows it doesn’t stand a chance. So, I leave you with salted caramel (you’re more than welcome), best served with banana bread and maybe some expensive ice cream from the freezer.
Salted caramel sauce
Adapted from Recipe Tin Eats
I found this recipe when I ran out of butter – a main component to a salted caramel, or butterscotch, sauce. In fact I was so enamored with it I returned to this recipe for every slice of banana bread I ate (which was a lot). The sauce is glossy, smooth and gooey like liquid fudge. As it cools it sets so eat up quickly now…
Serves 4 generously
120g granulated sugar
180ml double cream
1tsp vanilla extract
½tsp sea salt
- Tip the sugar into a pan (preferably not non-stick so you can easily see the sugar turn to caramel) and top with the water. Put over medium heat to dissolve the sugar – you can stir gently to encourage it.
- Turn up the heat to high. Once the syrup is simmering stop stirring and let it do its thing. Let it come to the boil. Gradually it will turn golden. Swirl the caramel so it darkens evenly. I like my caramel quite dark so the flavour is rich and no longer simply sweet but it goes from caramel to burnt instantly so keep your eye on it!
- Once it is deep amber remove from the heat and quickly pour in the cream – stand back as it will spit. Stir to combine. The sugar will seize with the impact so just put it back on low heat to melt the caramel into the cream and stir until smooth. Take off the heat.
- Flavour the sauce with the vanilla and salt, taste until it reaches your liking. Pour all over some banana bread and indulge.