Almost instant banana bread

Banana bread

I have a real problem with throwing bananas away. I like them when they are already quite spotted, so for me, the line between perfectly ripe and brown and shrivelled is not that big. Added to that are the bananas that travel around in a bag in case of toddler snacking needs and emerge a bit bruised from the experience, but otherwise edible, and there are often bananas that are a bit past it in our house.

When this happens, I like to make them useful, and make banana bread, or banana muffins. Not everyone enjoys the smell of banana cake. It is certainly distinctive. I’ve read that bananas that ripen on the tree smell quite different, and that there are many varieties of banana, with different scents.

I like to think that baking with a very ripe banana recaptures some of those tropical aromas and complexities. For me, it’s a buttery, fruity smell, reminiscent of toast and apricots and flowers.

Banana bread is a quick bread, meaning that it’s not structured the same way as a cake, and is risen with baking powder or bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) rather than eggs or yeast.

Bananas add a lot to a muffin or quick bread mixture. They bring sweetness, allowing you to cut back on the sugar. They help bind things together, removing some of the role that eggs would usually play. They provide a flavour in their own right, and some added liquid for moisture.

As banana bread is a solution to a fruit problem, I like the recipes to be as quick and easy as possible. I have posted on here before about my go-to banana muffin recipe. I have also tried a banana cake recipe, made in muffin cases, which uses dates as the sweetener, and seems to work well for my toddler.

More recently, I’ve been looking at ways to make banana bread in my Thermomix (or food processor), without getting any other dishes dirty, and having some success.

Behind the recipe

This is a cake made much like a muffin, with oil, not too much sugar, and leavened with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). The usual direction for this sort of recipe is to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately, and then combine them together very gently, even leaving in a few lumps so as not to mix too much.

While this will probably give the optimum texture, a great virtue of these recipes is speed and convenience, so if you can apply a little power with a blender or food processor (I use my Thermomix), it makes these even more feasible on a weeknight (or during naptime).

As a quick bread only needs the ingredients mixing briefly together, it’s important to not overmix using the motor. If needs be, stir the last bit together by hand. It also helps to layer the ingredients in. Start with the liquid ingredients on the bottom, including the bananas, and put the dry ingredients on top, finishing with the flour. This way, the flour is the last to be mixed in. You can also leave the flour not quite combined, or with some flour still remaining around the edges, and fold the last bits in while scraping down with a spatula.

There is no need to mash the bananas, as they will just be pureed with the other liquid ingredients at the bottom of the bowl. Pulse the blades of the blender or food processor so that you don’t mix more than you have to. Then scrape down and combine the last bits with a spatula.

Scrape and pour into a lined loaf tin (I use these Lakeland tin liners for extra speed) and bake for anything from 45 minutes to an hour – it should be risen with no wet mixture remaining.

Almost instant banana bread

Banana bread. Hastily made in the Thermomix, not too sweet. Adapted from @smittenkitchen

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s jacked-up banana bread.


  • 3 to 4 ripe bananas (230g peeled weight)
  • 75g sunflower oil
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 200g plain flour

Add the peeled bananas, broken into pieces to the bottom of the processor bowl. On top, add the sugar, oil, egg, vanilla essense and bourbon/rum. Mix the flour, the bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt in a small bowl and add on top of the other ingredients. This helps to make sure the bicarbonate (baking) soda is evenly distributed, and to make sure there are no lumps in it. There may not be time for these to be thoroughly mixed in otherwise, and lumps of bicarbonate of soda taste revolting.

Pulse or mix on a medium speed until just mixed together. Scrape down the sides and mix any remaining flour in by hand. Pour into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour at 180C/160C fan. I often use two 1lb loaf tins (as above) and bake for 40-45 minutes.

This will keep, wrapped up, for several days, and freezes really well.

Friday food links – 25 March 2016

Product of toddler baking session: Idiot biscuits. Actually, she mainly poured sprinkles around, but kept her occupied.  Recipe:

I knew at the start that this could be a tough week. Lots of travel, a few end-of-year things at work, combined with lots of people on leave meant I already knew time would be at a premium. Add to that a bit of a sniffle for me, full on vomiting from E on Wednesday evening, and a bit of a grey and damp week, and it hasn’t been a brilliant time.

There have definitely be rays of sunshine breaking through, though. Last Sunday the sun came out, and it was actually warm, at least with the sun on you. I got into the garden and planted a few things, and generally felt better about the state of things. The first of my tulips have started showing their heads. And in between being a bit tired and under-the-weather, E has been very funny. In the Disney store, she spotted a clip of ‘Snow White’ playing on the monitors, and started dancing along with the dwarfs. I bought her a pack of farm animal stickers, and she sang ‘Old Macdonald had a Farm’ to them.

Knowing it wasn’t going to be an easy week, I planned some easy meals to get us through. A bought lasagne for midweek. A big batch of curry at the weekend that saw us through three meals. A fridge-tidying soup that covered a couple of lunches and a dinner too.


Without a recipe:

  • Charlie Bigham lasagne with a grated carrot salad and some radishes and cucumbers
  • Egg fried rice
  • Fish and chips from the freezer
  • A green minestrone, using up lots of leftover veg from the fridge, with a parmesan rind, a can of cannellini beans and lots of parmesan grated on the top.
  • Leftover coconut curry – reappeared twice


Friday food links – 27 Nov 2015

#latergram of the chocolate pavlova from Sunday lunch 😋

A week of holiday, away at Center Parcs means not much cooking. I brought a stack of ready meals (Charlie Bigham), and supplemented by my mother-in-law, we’ve brought enough food to last the week in our little lodge.
The amusements here are relatively basic if you’re 18 months old, but fortunately, at this age, you don’t need much to amuse you. Some time in the swimming pool, a few walks and the novelty of riding in a cycle trailer are all very diverting. And a mere three DVDs, plus a stack of books and a teddy bear are enough to occupy the dark and rainy hours.

Before we went away, we had our final all-comers Sunday lunch of the year. As we were catering for a gluten-free guest, I made two small modifications – using rice and potato flour to thicken a slow-cooker beef shin stew, and making a pavlova rather than a tart or cake for dessert – pretty undetectable modifications. The pavlova in particular was a great choice – a Nigella recipe for a dark chocolate, chewy meringue, topped only with whipped cream and raspberries. My daughter just wanted to pick the raspberries off the top, and demanded that someone else remove the cream from them. Sometimes I’m not sure that we are related.


  • Slow-cooker beef shin stew – I flitted between recipes for this, but eventually based it on the beef shin recipe in Slow Cooked, with some Boeuf Bourguignon twists: I substituted the beer with a mixture of red wine and beef stock. And after it had cooked overnight, I strained out the meat and vegetables, and reduced the sauce with a bit of potato flour to thicken it further. I added this back to the meat, along with some sautéed mushrooms, some browned pancetta, and a few sautéed shallots. This then had another hour in the oven just before it was served.
  • Hasselback potato gratin from Serious Eats – I couldn’t quite bring myself to make the full cheese-and-cream version, so mixed cream and milk to coat the potatoes, then added the remains of the beef stock to the bottom of the dish before baking. It probably could have used some extra butter on top to make the tops properly crispy, but was pretty good nonetheless, and much easier than the traditional version of layering.
  • Chocolate raspberry pavlova – from Nigella’s ‘Forever Summer
  • Dark Banana ginger bread – using up the browning bananas before we left on holiday. This is an old Dan Lepard recipe, super-simple to make, but with a good flavour. I added the zest of a clementine and a teaspoon of mixed spice as well.

Without a recipe:

  • Pasta with tomatoes, with bolognese
  • Various ready meals: Charlie Bigham fish pie, chicken and mushroom pies, lasagne. Donated sausage casserole and cottage pie (thanks, Chris!)
  • Cheese and ham quesadillas


Devouring this book on holiday this week. Ruth Reichl (and @nigellalawson) write my favourite food prose.

I’ve spent much of the week engrossed in Ruth Reichl’s new book, ‘My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life’. Ruth is one of my favourite food writers, but she’s not very well known in the UK. She was a restaurant critic for the LA Times and New York Times, then editor of iconic American food magazine ‘Gourmet’ until it was shut down by Conde Nast in 20xx. This book is about the year after she lost her job, and the healing power of getting into the kitchen. Much like Nigel Slater’s recent books, it’s organised into seasons, and has a story with each recipe of what she was doing at the time. I’ve already bookmarked a stack of recipes to make, including Venetian pork (little pieces of sticky pork ribs), her basic chilli, diva grilled cheese, gingered applesauce cake with caramel glaze and Big New York cheesecake.

Other reading:

And if none of that is your thing, Sali Hughes has her beauty gift guide out too.

Friday food links – 23 Oct 2015

Autumn walk - hawthorn leaves

A week of travelling, so I haven’t had much of a hand in weeknight dinners this week. It was strange to get out of the daily commute, the nursery routine. I went to bed very late (for me) a few times, slept for eight hours without waking one night (I think that’s the first time in 2 years!) and found space to be myself. Rewarding, but also tiring when that was my work-self most of the time. Without the forced change of role at nursery pickup time, my work thoughts can keep spiralling around all the way to bedtime.

This weekend has several guests woven through it, so time for some big pieces of meat, some oven time and perhaps some apple puddings, using up the vast tray of apples my mum and dad brought with them. These feel like the last few sane weeks of autumn, before we hit Halloween, then fireworks night, and before you know it we’re on the downhill slope to Christmas. Happy weekend.