Time flies when you’re having fun. Well, actually time just flies. And so we celebrated our youngest child’s fifth birthday. Amid the smell of candle smoke and buttercream it was easy to loose sight of the importance of such an occasion. Now both our children had celebrated birthdays with us. With adopted children events like this can go either way- a wonderful day with a complete smorgasbord of family memories for later years, or a complete and utter trainwreck with tears, tantrums and throwing things (and that’s just the parents!) Thankfully for us it passed without negativity. Somehow I think the visit to the crocodile park helped with that one! Moral of the story? Never underestimate the attraction of a scaly, biteybitey creature to a small boy!
Don’t me wrong “Thinking time” was served that day, both to him and his elder sister. It was, however, more in the name of consistency than any great wrong-doing. We have our established boundaries and rules and no matter what the situation we try to stick to them. Although both DD and DS had celebrated birthdays with us (and let’s not forget last Christmas!) they have still only been part of our lives for less than a year. It feels longer in hindsight- a lot longer. Is that how you know that things are working? When something is so much a part of your life that you can’t remember what filled that space and time before? Like some strange magpie sponge it arrives, soaks habits and ways, and bloated on your idiosyncrasies it becomes a constant. You turn one day to see that it’s expanded to fill every nook and cranny of your world and become as habitual as breathing and sleeping.
Anyway, enough navel gazing! Speaking of biteybitey creatures, Halloween is fast drawing upon us. I do have to say you’d be hard pressed to recognise this what with the ever-growing Christmas merchandise on shop shelves. I’m all for celebrating the festive season (in our house we have already discussed strategic garland placements and color-schemes) but come on retail giants! Give us a chance to draw breath and take stock before you start ramming Heston’s freakishly addictive, pine-coney fresh mincepies down our open throats.
Paying homage to the Witching season I decided to come up with some cupcake flavour varieties drawing inspiration from different aspects of the season. I wanted to do something a little more than just a vanilla cupcake with some red frosting and sugarpaste fangs on it. “Come look at our fabulous Halloween cupcakes, they’re so spooky”. No, they’re not. They’re vanilla cupcakes with some red frosting and sugarpaste fangs. Just no. Pardon the ennui but I like to fool around with flavours. Hence the “Wicked Chocolate”. Wasabi isn’t something you often see in sweet things but it does offer a pleasing kick to the sweetness of chocolate. What otherwise might be a cloying trip to Chocy-ville takes a turn into Quirky Peaks. It’s also a plus to see the look on people’s face when you tell them- it is Halloween after all! I’ve taken a more traditional route with my “Spiced Pumpkin”. What wouldn’t the Spook Season be without partaking of those wonderful amber munchkins. “Toffee Apple” draws it’s flavours from fun. Pure and simple. Yes there are ghouls, ghosts and all sorts of ghastly goings on, but let’s not forget that Halloween is also about fun. That giddy rush you get from an unexpected fright, the hilarity of squeezing into an otherwise ungainly costume, or the squeal of delight from a child who only moments ago stood petrified, eyes wide in adrenaline fueled wonder.
I’ve been wracking my brain for a while as to what recipes to put up here. I’ve eventually settled on my Banana Loaf. It’s become somewhat of a staple in our house at this stage. After knocking up a batch of Banoffee Pie cupcakes there’s always a few straggler fruit left behind which this loaf provides a wonderful use for. Also if you’ve got some fragrant but visually maledictive bananas lying about this is the perfectly tasty way to use them up. Since becoming a dad I’ve found myself remembering and revisiting a lot of recipes I first learned at my mothers hip. In the pursuit of twenty-something trendiness and fervour, they not so much got lost as put on my mental shelf in some effort of unconscious archiving. Now as a parent I find myself dusting them off and some kind of culinary muscle-memory they come into play again. This is one of them- perfect with a cup of tea or coffee or a quick kids pudding. For something a little more special try toasting it, adding a dollop of mascarpone and finishing with drizzle of honey.
350g (over)ripe bananas
180g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
160g sof, light brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons melted butter
50g walnuts (optional)
1) Preheat your oven to 170 degrees (fan).
2) Spray a 1lb loaf tin with release spray, or give it a coating with oil.
3) Put the bananas into a bowl and mash until smooth (a great thing to occupy the children!).
4) Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl.
5) Put the sugar, beaten eggs and melted butter into a large mixing bowl and whisk until pale and increased in volume.
6) Gently fold in the bananas and dry ingredients until you can see no flour. If your adding the walnuts add then in at this folding stage.
7) Spoon into the loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.
8) Leave to cool in it’s tin for about 10 mins, turn out onto a wire rack, and dust with icing sugar.
* In place of the walnuts you may also substitute the same quantities of pecans, chocolate chips or dried cherries.