EVERY January I announce to Himself that I am not going to buy any food for the month and that we are going to eat from the freezer, store cupboard and veg garden.
Sadly, there isn’t much in the veg garden at the moment, but what there is tends to be dark, green and leafy and good for one’s health and immune system ... much-needed at this time of year. Goodies include spinach, cavolo nero, chard, beetroot, winter salad leaves and parsley and so on.
The freezer is stuffed full of everything imaginable and so for that matter is the store cupboard. So it’s time to get creative, which is how I happen upon most of my new recipes – thinking of something to cook from whatever is to hand.
But, before attacking the aforementioned sources of food I need to get started on the fresh supplies that are left over from the festivities. As I was laid up with the lurgy over the festive holiday quite a lot of the food I had bought, planning to turn into ‘imaginative’ offerings was overlooked and left languishing in fruit bowls and the fridge, forlornly waiting to be rescued before becoming inedible.
So today it’s all about the six bananas that are rapidly turning a spotty brown shade of yellow in the fruit bowl. Buying bananas is quite a skill; as if you get them just perfect for eating they don’t last long and go over very quickly.
The savvy shopper will buy a few green ones and a few nearly ripe in the hope that everything will dovetail together nicely. However, sometimes this plan doesn’t work, especially when someone else is doing the shopping. It seems pedantic and too confusing to write anything other than just “bananas” on the list.
So last night I used four of these bananas to make caramelised banana tarte tatin and jolly good it was too, if I say so myself!
There is something very gooey and comforting about cooked bananas. Despite requiring turning out, tatins are very easy to make ... much easier than the finished product might suggest.
They become even easier if you use ready-made, ready-rolled pastry. I have used puff here, and all-butter, which is far superior to the regular pastry, but shortcrust is fine to use instead if you prefer.
For this twist on the classic French tart you will need a 20cm (8in) ovenproof frying pan, or better still a Silverwood or other tarte tatin dish, available from most kitchenware shops.
Failing these, any shallow round ovenproof dish will do. Be very careful when turning out if using a frying pan, as the handle will be extremely hot. It is surprisingly easy to forget and grasp the handle with bare hands. So, oven gloves to the ready ... you have been warned!
The tart can be made a day or two in advance and reheated to lukewarm in a low oven 10 -15 minutes or so before serving, so is ideal for entertaining too.
Serve with cream, crème frâiche, vanilla ice-cream or even better some crème frâiche with a little vanilla paste stirred into it.
And just for the record, I blitzed together the remaining two bananas with some porridge oats, honey and natural yoghurt for a very satisfying health-boosting, store cupboard breakfast this morning.
Find lots more simple, but contemporary recipes in Jane’s book, Make it Easy, available from bookshops, Amazon and www.janelovett.com
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Caramelised banana tarte tatin
85g (3oz) butter
85g (3oz) granulated sugar
2-3 vanilla pods (optional)
1 x 320g pack all-butter puff pastry (ready rolled)
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Melt the butter and sugar together in the pan. (See article for pan details) Lay the vanilla pods on top, if using.
2. Peel the bananas, slice in half lengthways and arrange cut side down over the bottom of the pan, on top of the butter and sugar.
3. Place the pan over a high heat until the mix caramelises to a rich, dark golden brown. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little.
4. Unroll the pastry and cut out a circle about 2.5 cm (1in) larger than the pan. Place over the bananas, tucking extra pastry between the sides of the tin. Prick with a fork 3 or 4 times.
5. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until puffed up, golden brown and crisp.
6. Leave to rest for a few minutes before loosening around the edges with a palette or round-bladed knife and carefully inverting on to a flat round plate. Don’t worry if one or two bananas remain in the pan, just pop them back into their empty slot.