It's definitely the time of the year for reflecting back on the world, and life in general. I've been lucky enough that the lovely +Lisa Watson of awesome recipe blog Italian Kiwi, living in France with her little boys and fat cats, book club fellow and brilliant cook, has agreed to share a few of her thoughts and memories, and best of all her delicious Banana Cake recipe.
Perfect for baking on New Years day - Banana Cake is definitely the best way to use those bananas lurking in the back of the cupboard. The riper and darker the bananas, the better your cake will taste.
Musings of an Italian Kiwi, and Banana Cake
Before I start waffling, I just want to say a huge thanks to Emma for inviting me to guest-post on her lovely blog!
Where I grew up in New Zealand, it was normal to have a pet lamb every spring. Every year we would train the lambs to stay, to come to us when called, and to walk on a leash. The school event of the year was just before Summer arrived. Kids from all over would bring their lambs (or calves) to school and put them through their paces in order to win a prize. I was always very upset for whichever lamb I had that year, as they used to bleat in the trailer being pulled behind my Dad’s car from when we left the farm gate to when we got to school, as they didn’t much like the half hour spent bumping over windy gravel roads.
When the lambs grew into sheep, they would retire to the field next-door to the house, where they would live out their days munching grass. If you stood at the top of the hill with a piece of bread in your hand and called out, 10 sheep, two horses and a few random cows (who had been pets) would come galloping up towards you. It was a great place to be a kid. However, I always had a hankering to discover. I would look at the winding gravel road that ended at our house and imagine leaving home and following it to see where the other end went.
I did just that when I grew up, and after years of wandering and discovering, I now live in the South of France. My kids have seen sheep just once, when we took them down to New Zealand to visit the farm. The closest they come to animals in their daily life is contact with our two fat cats. I’m happy that they’re growing up in Europe with all its culture and languages, different foods and incredible history-filled towns and villages. They are becoming citizens of the world: speaking three languages and having two nationalities. However, as they are having such an opposite up-bringing to mine, I sometimes have difficulty understanding their wants and needs. I have the niggling Kiwi side of me who remembers my wild childhood of climbing trees, fishing for eels and generally getting muddy just for the fun of it; one with few toys, but with the outdoors as my playground, stretching in every direction further than I could run. I always worry a little. Are they missing out on something? Can all the museums and villages in the world compare with making a playhouse in head-high grass, or just lying there watching the puffy, white clouds float by?
At any rate, whether the kids grow up in Europe, or in New Zealand, in the end things will be fine. Their world view will be shaped in different ways depending on the environment around them and their experiences as they’re growing up, but either way, it’s all good: in one place they may be talking about the latest possum they shot. In the other, the latest Picasso museum they went to, but both experiences are valid and life-enriching. We do all need to run barefoot through the long grass every now and then though (unless you live in Australia!)
I want to leave you with a New Zealand recipe for banana cake: one of my favourite cakes when I was growing up! It was the one I asked for for my birthday each year.
Lisa's Banana Cake
- 125g (1stick; 1/2 cup; 4oz) Butter at room temperature
- 160g (2/3 cup; 5.6 oz) Granulated white sugar
- 2 Eggs
- 2 large or 3 small Bananas
- 3 Tbsp Milk
- 1 tsp Sodium Bicarbonate (aka Baking Soda)
- 250g (2 cups; 8 oz) All-purpose flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- Cream the butter and sugar in a standing mixture (or by hand) until white and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well.
- Mash the bananas, then add them. Mix in.
- Heat the milk to nearly boiling. Add the sodium bicarbonate to it. It should become a foam when you stir it.
- Add this foam to the cake batter and mix.
- Add the flour and baking powder and mix gently until it becomes incorporated.
- Scoop the batter into a 25cm (10 inch) diameter greased cake tin.
- Bake at 180ºC ( 350ºF) for 35 - 40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Start testing at about 30 minutes, as it gets dry if cooked too long.
You can decorate it with icing sugar, or chocolate or white icing, or just leave it plain. It's good every way! (Edit: My vote is chocolate icing, every time.)
Thank you so much for sharing Lisa, it's been a joy to have you guest post! I strongly recommend you check out Italian Kiwi or say hey on Twitter @ItalianKiwiBlog - she shares her favourite recipes, and unbridled enthusiasm for experimenting with new recipes and cuisines. There is often an international (and Kiwi!) flavour due to the unexpected path her life has taken over the years, leading her all over the world.