Never Mind The Hyperbole, Eat The Banana Bread

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ah, combining the Sex Pistols and baking - it should surely only happen on a Monday. And yet.

The latest expedition into baking was banana bread, which I tried out on the weekend. When I went looking for a recipe (after so many years of eating it in cafés, I wanted to try out making it myself), I wasn't at all consciously looking for a healthy version (for once). But one of the recipes I came across, which immediately appealed because of its use of golden syrup, which might be one of my favourite ingredients / illicit sneaky snacks ever. And then, I noticed that it didn't actually use any butter or oil. Bonus! Despite my lurking suspicions that this might turn out to be regrettable*, it came out well. Even being cooked in our temperamental Smeg oven (Smeg is a four letter word with good reason...). So well, in fact, that I made a second, double-quantity loaf, to use up the aging bananas that had been accumulating in the kitchen.

The recipe for the "best ever" banana bread (and don't let the name put you off) is:

2 ripe bananas
2 tablespoons golden syrup (plus extra if the cook needs some to eat...)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg white
1 cup self raising flour
pinch of salt (which I left out, as I always do)

Preheat oven to 180C (160C if fan forced).
Grease and line the base of a loaf pan (I lined mine with baking paper, no greasing, and it worked fine).
In a medium bowl, mash bananas then add golden syrup. Add sugar and stir in.
Add egg, sifted flour and salt, and lightly mix until combined.
Pour into loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes or until skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool in tin for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack to cool.

* While on a health kick, I decided I'd try the cooking-with-apple-sauce-instead-of-butter idea. Discovery: it doesn't matter how much cocoa it contains, a chocolate brownie made with apple sauce comes out (well, it did for me) as a rubbery, squashy, pallid excuse for a baked item. Much like sugar-free chocolate, it is a useful reminder that some things, if they deserve to be eaten, deserve to be eaten properly.


Questionable Taste Never Goes Out of Style

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Picture: Emily Burtner on Flickr

On Wednesday, I came across something I'd completely forgotten about - novelty ties. A man stepped into a lift I was in, and the tie he was wearing had a pattern of little whales all over it. It's funny, I'm all in favour of being quirky, obscure and / or subversive, but the novelty tie just doesn't tick any of those boxes for me. Kind of ends up producing the opposite effect...


Everything Old is New Again

Monday, March 29, 2010

Picture: The Muppet Mindset

There are exceptions to the don't-go-making-the-things-I-like-popular (or is that populist?) waffle from earlier on...


Wellingtons are the new Cupcakes

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Kitchn recently blogged about whether doughnuts are the new cupcake? It is starting to look like a distinct possibility. And if it is, I am definitely in the queue for these beautiful ones...


Everything old and obscure eventually comes back into fashion. Something goes from being unknown, underground, unfashionable or unremembered to being EVERYWHERE. This is great if it's something that you didn't know about before (for me, the sushi trend some - eeep! - 10 years ago was one of those), and less than great if it's something you already liked. Now, I don't think I'm so bolshie as to like lots of things just because they aren't mass market*, but ubiquity takes away the enjoyment. 
This is because:
  • There's enjoyment in tracking something down from somewhere specific, and planning a special expedition to go and get it. If there's one on every corner, it just ain't the same.
  • The originals really were the best. And then it's a case of whether one good cupcake is preferable to a towering array of middling, average and mediocre cupcakes (all the more so if a sudden proliferation of cupcake places drives the one I actually liked out of business).
  • There are other associations, and some of them are dodgy! So, cupcakes go from being simply tasty, attractive, easy to make and delicate, to a giant muffin of a thing with a soft serve swirl of buttercream (what on earth happened to glace icing?), printed on tee shirts and becoming part of a the vocabulary of pink-girlie-Disney-princess-ish-ness that grows like algae on a pond (harrumph).
I suspect there may be a few ramblings coming on things that used to be lovely and obscure, and suddenly have become Part Of The Zeigeist**

* Lots of things, that is. Liking some things to be different and for the hell of it is another matter. It's all about keeping the bolshie cow down to a dull moo... Unless it's wedding related. Then it's a whole other bag of ferrets...
** Which makes me think that the same thing happens with words, and that is definitely a whole other episode for a later date. Paradigm, anybody?


We Go Together Like...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Picture: Jenna Ardell on Etsy

One of the hypothetical-questions-leading-to-silliness that I particularly love is "if you had your own pub (or bar), what would it be called?". Having had quite a few versions of this conversation over the years, bars tend to produce bad puns (and no, I don't count that as tautology - there
are such things as good puns to be had...), while pubs produce "pairs of things"... Case in point:

In investigating interestingly-named pubs, the absolute best one was The Cat & Custard Pot. For what it's worth, my favourite of the invented pubs has been The Goat & Compasses. The trick seems to be in finding things that sound like they could have some sort of historical reference or link to rhyming slang. But that they don't, and just sound entertaining. Not that there's anything that comes to mind as rhyming with compasses...

When pootling through blogs, I've found it interesting how it can feel a bit like being in a bookshop. And the title can be something that gets you curious and makes you want to look, especially when it's in a long list of site links. (There is also the occasional disappointment of a fabulously named blog which, once you get there, is just not at all your sort of thing, and nowhere near as whimsical as you might have been led to believe...). It started to become apparent that there are lots of blogs that are named for pairs of things as well. Sometimes pairs of similar things; sometimes contrasting ones, but probably mostly for a combination that sums up the blogger. Some of them paint the most lovely images before you even get there (and then carry it on once you start to read)... 
And, continuing the blog love, The Sartorialist (which sounds so definitive, even before he was), {Frolic}  (because it is so simple but so brilliantly evocative), and Tartelette (because it sounds so sweet but also really works, and isn't just a made up -ette or -licious. Although anything French seems to wear an -ette better than most. Perhaps the same idea as fur on the original owner...). 

Then, there was thinking of names. And for a perfectionist, that means getting blogged bogged before even starting out. Too many things that just feel like funny and appealing combinations of words stuck together, and not enough things that were succinct and memorable and meaningful and me and, and, and... 
  • Gallumphing in Galoshes (but wellingtons are becoming the new cupcakes. Also, if you just make it Gallumphing Galoshes, it sounds a bit like something a superhero might use as a catch-phrase) 
  • Galettes and Galoshes (sigh! gobble!) 
  • The Penguin Epiphany (I think this is more of a concept than a title, though...) 
  • Squirrelling Away 
  • {Harrumph} (maybe the indignant, grumpy and cynical relative of {Frolic}...) 
  • Talking in Capital Letters - Waltzes with Weasels (but then it's a short step to Dances with Wolves)
Ah, too many decisions. Time for a cup of tea and a good snooze. Well actually time for another dance class, having dinner and crashing in a heap. 


Préoccupante à l'avance

Friday, March 26, 2010

How far is too far in advance to be thinking about what to wear on holiday? Is it in any way less ludicrous to be contemplating what to wear in six months' time when it's (a) in Paris and (b) on my honeymoon? Didn't think it was, but not too bothered!

On the weekend, I found a cute little black t-shirt dress and, in the same place, a pale grey zip front dress which I think would be a fabulous layered light coat over the top. I tried it on and felt terribly Isabel Marant (at least, as much as it is possible to be on a sticky Saturday afternoon in Sydney)...


Je Voudrais Rester Ici ! Je Voudrais Aller Là-Bas!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When I was small, my family lived in Paris (the very definition of torture might be to live in Paris before you're old enough to be able to appreciate it and experience it properly. No, the definition of torture would have to be not getting to live in Paris at all). There are all sorts of odd little vignettes that I remember from those couple of years - I guess partly from being so young, and what memory does after some time, and partly from there always being so much interesting that happened.

One of the books that I remember borrowing from school was this one:

Picture: Amazon via Leo Leonni

It popped into my head this morning, and I thought how much the idea reflects relationships. One of you wants to go to one place, the other one wants to go somewhere else. But as long as you're both on the same dog, going in the same direction, you're ok*.
* Choosing which dog to be on in the first place? A whole other matter...


Blue Penguin. Blue Mixer.

As of last weekend, there is a new addition to the penguin kitchen. I was very excited to collect our new mixer (a wonderful engagement present), and looking forward to christening it - probably over the Easter weekend, when I can figure out how to re-shuffle the kitchen. I really want to re-shuffle now, but I know if I even think of going down that path, there will be piles of stuff that came out of cupboards and can for mysterious reasons no longer be fitted back in, and it will lurk accusingly on benchtops until Easter anyway. Call it admitting defeat before starting, or maybe just being practical (for once!).

Now, I just have to decide what to make first... This one is particularly appealing...



The Naming Of Blogs Is A Difficult Matter

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Picture: thefabricofmylife on Flickr

I don't like making decisions when they can only be made once. Hang on, what I (think I) mean is that I don't like decisions that are unable to be varied, put aside or un-decided (as opposed to indecisive, although that's very closely related).

If you're buying black trousers, say, and you find, like, and buy a pair, then later on you see another that you like as well, then you can have two pairs of black trousers. Unless the trousers are unbelievably exorbitant, it's a pretty easy decision, partly because there will be numerous other pairs of trousers to come. For a couch, it's a bit trickier. Unless you have a large apartment (or a very squashed living room), there is likely to only be one couch at a time. So the decision to buy just one becomes harder*. And then for really big things, where there can only be one ever (or, if not quite ever, at least not without a fair bit of undoing), the decision is even harder. Especially when, as with naming blogs, it's a fairly capricious decision at the best of times, and there are so many appealing possibilities.

There were lots of other things that came up as possible names (not that the naming process was anything scientific). And probably a lot more weird and wonderful ideas to come. A lot of my favourite blogs are named in pairs of things (this seems to be a pattern with pubs as well - more to come on that later on).

* There are probably much better analogies that don't refer to buying things. Those are probably easier to think of if you're not a dreadful spendthrift like me...


Flat But Tasty - A Monday Experiment

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So, Monday. Not normally all that crash hot, and today really wasn't an exception. The productive things that got done felt like they were cancelled out by niggly things that collectively were an utter pain. Which prompted spontaneous baking efforts this evening.

I tried out a recipe for cornbread which I found while avoiding readings... it came out pretty tasty, but very flat... think this was partly due to the slightly over-large tin it was baked in (so much clutter in the cupboard, but never ever a tin the proper size). And possibly also contributed to by my oven, which is a temperamental so-and-so (Smeg is definitely a four letter word and, rather satisfyingly, sounds like it is as well). The flatness was also notwithstanding my high-handed substitution of the plain flour in the recipe for self raising. Still.

The recipe for flat-but-tasty cornbread is:

1 cup plain flour
1 cup cornmeal (for which I used polenta, believing - and I still do - that they are the same thing)
1/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted

In a mixing bowl, add all of the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients, then beat for one minute, using an electric beater. Pour into a 22 cm square greased baking pan (lined with baking paper worked just as well, and didn't stick at all). Bake at 220C for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown, then allow to cool on a wire rack.

Very quick. Very easy. Good served as an accompaniment to dinner. I will definitely make cornbread again, but might be keen to try one that's a little fluffier. The picture at the top is how it looked (although it is apparent that my photography skills are about on par with my baking skills...).

Thoughts for next time...


From: The Cooks We Are

From: Culinary Arts

All I can say is, trust me to go and make the only locatable cornbread recipe which doesn't include baking powder. And on a Monday, too...


Wisdom After The Event

Monday, March 22, 2010

Picture: Graustark on Flickr

When I looked back at the last post (or should that be the first post?), it occurred to me (with further apologies to Douglas Adams) that it really should have been called Time Is An Illusion. Breakfast Doubly So. Anyway...


Time Is An Illusion. Lunchtime Doubly So...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It started out some time around 2001 or 2002, with too much spare time, some of which was spent reading Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul

"She passed the time quietly in a world of her own in which she was surrounded as far as the eye could see with old cabin trunks full of past memories in which she rummaged with great curiosity, and sometimes bewilderment. Or, at least, about a tenth of the cabin trunks were full of vivid, and often painful or uncomfortable memories of her past life; the other nine-tenths were full of penguins, which surprised her. Insofar as she recognised at all that she was dreaming, she realised that she must be exploring her own subconscious mind. She had heard it said that humans are only supposed to use about a tenth of their brains, and that no one was very clear what the other nine-tenths were for, but she had certainly never heard it suggested that they were used for storing penguins."

This idea strung a loud and reverberating chord. It was (and I'm sure there are about to be badly mixed metaphors at any moment) built on during a long and hypothetical breakfast* with a friend, as to what happened to the percentages of penguins in your brain if you were to starting thinking of penguins. Would you then have 91% of your mind occupied by penguins? His unequivocal answer to this was that no, it meant that the penguins were escaping, which must be a sign of impending madness.

Oddly enough, I've misremembered the quote over time, so that I was utterly certain (until I dug the quote out again just now) that the penguins were actually in the packing cases themselves. Hmmm...

* at the Globe Cafe in Coogee, for the sake of historical accurancy and / or pedantry. Either way, yum...


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