I begin my doctorate here at Durham with more than just a love of literature, but a joy in cooking as well. As I have travelled and studied, I’ve found that it is no mere platitude that good food brings people together. Mealtimes are social hours, and cooking together is an intimate act; there’s no better time to learn to make food for yourself and others than as a student. As we settle together into Michaelmas term I hope that you take the opportunity to cook, whether you’re a fresh-faced fresher who can only boil water or a little more well-seasoned in your culinary skills. I hope that you’ll come to find cooking as fun, relaxing, and social as I’ve always known it to be.
While stocking your new kitchen in your new flat I know that you probably had some very high ambitions. I know that you made a noble effort to be healthy over the first few weeks of the new academic year. Truly, you did. I understand. But now, neglected, your breakfast bananas have become an unappealing shade of brown and you’re thinking of binning the bunch. Don’t! Those once-tasty five-a-days have now become the perfect ingredient for banana bread. So peel those pungent fruits and let’s get started.
8in x 5in loaf tin (£1 at Poundland)
Bowls and wooden spoons for mixing
Baking tray, for toasting walnuts (optional)
285g white flour (80p, Tesco’s)
1 tsp baking soda (60p, Market spice shop)
1 handful of walnuts (£1.60, Market spice shop, optional)
½ tsp salt
225g granulated/caster sugar
3–4 overripe bananas, mashed
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat your oven to 180oC, or Gas Mark 4.
2. Arrange walnuts (if using) over a baking tray, breaking up the larger halves into pieces, and bake until dark and fragrant, about 4–5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Brush off any papery skins.
3. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Sift together until evenly distributed.
4. With a fork, stir together together the butter and sugar in a separate bowl until light and crumbly.
5. Combine the milk and lemon juice in a cup, then add this mixture, the eggs, mashed bananas, and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar bowl and mix it all up with your whisk. Add the walnuts at this stage.
6. Slowly, continuously stirring the flour mixture, add the wet ingredients to the large mixing bowl. Combine until you have a smooth batter dotted evenly with your walnut chunks.
7. Grease your baking tin with a small amount of butter or vegetable oil. Pour the batter into the tin, and briskly tap the sides to settle the mixture and remove any trapped air bubbles.
8. Bake for 1 ½ – 2 hours, or until a crisp golden brown and fluffy. It is completely finished when you can insert a butter knife into the loaf and it comes out clean.
9. Let cool in the tin for twenty minutes at least, then turn over, remove with a tea towel, and let sit on a wire rack until completely cool. Don’t shake the loaf out of the tin or else it could break! If well-greased, it should come out with just a little help.
This recipe makes about 10–12 slices, which are best enjoyed with butter. This is an extremely versatile recipe and you may add any fruits or nuts you like, or tone down the sugar for a more savory snack. Especially good with sultanas, sliced apples, chocolate chips, dried fruits, or hazelnuts. Enliven your dull dinners with a banana-flavored dessert, poured over with double cream. Be the first in your flat to utilize the oven in a microwaveable world. Solidify your new friendships by sharing your delicious loaf of banana bread with your course-mates, flat-mates, sports team, or society. Or eat the entire thing by yourself in your room. Whatever you want to do.