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Saturday, 7 December 2013

Post-natal banana bread muffins

Well. Obviously much has changed since I last extracted my finger from some unmentionable place and , following extensive disinfection, put said finger to keyboard. I now have parental responsibility for a nine-month old. (Insert completely unrepresentative photograph suggesting beatific maternal joy and totally contented infant here:)

One would have thought that a period of extended maternity leave would provide ample opportunity for regular blogging.  One would be completely wrong.

Here is how I would describe the first six months of new motherhood (please note that riding this particular emotional rollercoaster leaves very little time for anything else once feeding and bottom-wiping duties have been factored in):

First month: A general feeling that you have taken a massive crap on your life, interspersed with moments of blind panic.
Second month: Mounting anxiety as it transpires that your child is the only one who doesn't sleep in a cot/won't nap during the day/feeds every two hours etc. etc.
Third month: Overwhelming fatigue.
Fourth month: A brief instance of satisfaction when your child coos or laughs or does something else to indicate that it is not just a insensible lump.
Fifth month: Slight sense that you might be getting the hang of it.
Sixth month: Rug pulled out from under you courtesy of the total dickery that is attempting to feed solid food to an individual with the co-ordination of a drunk person attempting a vigorous workout on a Power Plate.

Factor into this delightful mix the permanent sense that you are somehow fucking up your child and that everyone else is doing a far superior job on their kids than you on yours, and you pretty much have new motherhood in a nutshell.

Somehow though it gets better.  I personally have Gina Ford's words of wisdom and a brilliant maternity nurse who helped us to sleep train our baby to thank for the fact that I feel as though I am rebuilding some semblance of a life.  And I give thanks for them, every day, with all of my heart.

Right.  OK, where were we?

Oh yes.  This is ostensibly a food blog apparently, so here's a recipe.

It is for banana bread muffins.  There are millions of recipes for shit like this on the internet so we all need this one like a hole in the head.  The only thing that it has going for it is the fact that it does not contain any added sugar.  I have been feeding pieces of these muffins to my baby at breakfast (Is it too sweet for me to do this?  Is it allowed?  Christ, I don't know....) and they have been going down alright.  Better than bread or toast, which are delicately picked up between tiny thumb and forefinger and deposited on to the floor.  And we adults have been enjoying them too, with butter and jam, obviously.

Makes 12 muffins (or one loaf of banana bread if you prefer).

You will need:

Three large v ripe bananas
About six or seven dried dates, soaked for 15 minutes in boiling water to soften and plump them up a bit
150g plain wholemeal flour
150g plain plain flour
150g unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp of baking powder
Half tsp of bicarb
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground ginger
Pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180 and put twelve muffin cases in a muffin tray (or grease a loaf tin and line it with parchment paper).

Blitz the bananas and dates in the blender until smooth-ish.  Weigh the resulting mixture.  You want to have 300g of fruit.  Add more banana and/or dates until you do.

Mix the fruit with the eggs and vanilla extract, then pour in the melted butter. Add the salt and stir it about a bit to ensure it's dissolved.  Sift in the dry ingredients and stir into the fruit/eggs/butter until just combined.  Dollop the batter into the muffin cases/pour it into the loaf tin.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes.  Bake the loaf for about an hour.  Do the usual skewer check after those times and bake for a bit longer if still gungey.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Eat warm, with butter and jam, whilst trying not to shudder at the recollection of the total hysterics that overcame your child when you attempted to feed it a homemade fish pie.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Citrus Jellies

It transpires that things really do happen in threes, like the arrival of those proverbial buses.  Shortly after the supper mentioned in my last post (which saw the announcement of one friend's pregnancy), the other friend revealed that she was also in the family way, and a couple of weeks after that, I too had fallen.  We are actual living proof that there's a baby boom on.

Pregnancy has, thankfully, not been anywhere near as scary/debilitating/uncomfortable as I had feared.  There was, admittedly, a period that started around the six-week mark in which I began permanently to feel as though I was on a listing boat.  This lasted for approximately eight weeks and corresponded with a three-week stint in Canada to celebrate my brother-in-law's wedding.  The timing wasn't ideal on a number of levels, not least being the fact that it confirmed to me that the enjoyability of weddings is proportionate to the extent to which one can get royally stuck into the fizz.  The upside was that I looked quite thin in my wedding outfits, and that my better half gave me a pass to return to our hotel room at any point during the proceedings, meaning that I was allowed to watch as many back-to-back episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress"* as I wanted. 

During those eight weeks I could just about stomach the following: fruit (especially nectarines), sesame seed bagels with cream cheese, pasta with butter and parmesan or very plain tomato sauce, margherita pizza, those little Kinder chocolate bars, and cereal (though not muesli or granola).  A whiff of a cooked vegetable or piece of meat was liable to result in a violent attack of retching, actual sicking up being a frustratingly rare occurrence.  

I reckon that I would have been able to stomach these citrus jellies during the morning sickness period if only I had been able to rouse myself from the sofa.  They are a good way of using up a glut of citrus fruit which, if you are the recipient of a weekly veg box as I am, is one of the perils of the season, the others being slipping on ice, central-heating hair, and Winterwatch on BBC 2.

Makes four jellies

425ml of citrus juice, strained (I used a mixture of ruby grapefruit, blood orange, lemon and clementine, but anything goes)
2 tspns caster sugar (or more to taste - and much will depend on the citrus fruits that you're using)
3 leaves of gelatine (I used Dr Oetker)

Begin by sweetening the juice to taste and stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  It's easier if you do this in a jug.

Cut the gelatine leaves into little pieces and leave to soak for ten minutes in about 50ml of the juice.  Do the soaking in a heatproof bowl.  After ten minutes, put the bowl on top of an appropriately-sized pan of simmering water. Heat the gelatine and juice, stirring gently, until the gelatine dissolves completely.

Add the melted gelatine to the rest of the juice and whisk it well to incorporate.  Leave the mixture to settle for a couple of minutes (so that the bubbles on top burst) before pouring into ramekins or sundae dishes.  

The jellies take about four hours to set completely.  Serve with a dollop of greek yoghurt or creme fraiche.

*Google it and YOU WILL SEE.


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