Roasted Cobnut Banana Bread

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Banana bread has been one of my go-to things for years when I’m feeling like a bit of squidgy, gooey comfort food. I usually used a recipe which was literally just bananas, flour, eggs and a bit of spice if you wanted it – so great because it’s totally sugar free, with the only sweetness coming from the bananas themselves. But I thought it was time I experimented and made banana bread with a bit of panache and a unique flavour, and so came up with this roasted cobnut banana cake. And it really tastes divine, if I’m allowed to say so myself! What’s even better is that it’s vegan, gluten free and uses a seasonal, local, very English ingredient – cobnuts.

Cobnuts are very similar to hazelnuts and you can find cobnut trees over much of the countryside in Britain. Lots of cobnuts are grown and cultivated in Kent, so you might have heard the term Kentish cobnuts, which some greengrocers and supermarkets offer at this time of year. But you can pick cobnuts straight off the tree (if you beat the squirrels to them) and the best thing about picking them yourself is that they’re free. Wild food is something which seems to have been completely forgotten about in the modern western world – it’s as if people are afraid that if it doesn’t come from a supermarket it can’t be safe or edible. But that’s just not true at all. There’s an abundance of wild food out there for us to gorge on and enjoy, from berries and nuts to mushrooms, herbs and flowers.

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You can eat raw cobnuts but roasting them really brings out a delicious, toasted flavour. And by combining them with hazelnut oil, it turns this banana bread into something else. Both hazelnuts and cobnuts are packed with protein, and they’re very high in energy so they’re great for providing an energy boost either in the morning at breakfast or as a snack in the mid afternoon lull which many people suffer from. They’re also a rich source of vitamin E and a load of minerals such as manganese, potassium, iron and zinc. The last thing I’ll say about this banana bread is that it’s super easy to make, so there’s no reason not to like it.

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Makes one loaf:

  • 6 medium to large bananas (overly ripe is best)
  • 1 cup (150g) of brown rice flour
  • ½ cup (50g) of ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of hazelnut oil (if you don’t have any sunflower oil works too)
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • ½ cup of almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons of yacon syrup/date syrup (optional – I don’t feel the bread needs it but most people seem to have a sweeter tooth than me!)
  • A large handful of cracked and shelled cobnuts (if you can’t lay your hands on any use hazelnuts)

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Start by preheating your oven to 150°C. Then, crack and shell the cobnuts until you have enough to make a large handful. Simply lay these on a baking tray and roast for about 45 minutes, turning half way through to make sure they roast evenly.

While they’re roasting, mash the bananas and set aside. Then place the flour, ground almonds, hazelnut oil, coconut oil, almond milk, baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix this all together before adding half the squashed banana. Stir this in then add the other half and stir again to make a batter.

When the cobnuts are roasted, remove them from the oven and turn it up to 170°C. Place all the nuts in a pestle and mortar except about 3 for use later. Bash them up into small chunks and then add to the bread batter and stir in until everything’s combined.

Grease a loaf tin with coconut oil and then line the bottom with greaseproof paper before greasing that as well. Then pour in the mixture. At this point crush the 3 remaining cobnuts in the pestle and mortar and then scatter the pieces over the top of the mix.

Bake the bread in the oven for an hour or until a knife comes out clean. You may want to lay a piece of foil over the top about 45 minutes in to stop the top from burning. Finally, remove it from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before slicing and enjoying!

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Blackberry, Walnut & Apple Crumble

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It’s been rainy and grey in England for the last couple of days, and so I thought it was time for some warming pud. Crumble is one of the best, and one we Brits can actually claim is ours – a bowl of crispy, crumbly topping over fruit with thick homemade custard is hard to beat. Blackberry and apple crumble is an autumn classic, and I can’t think of a more delicious thing to make with the abundance of brambles and apples which are both now in season. However, giving it a bit of a tweak, I’ve added walnuts, mixed spice and hazelnut oil to create a rich, piquant flavour.

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Brambles’ dark, inky colour means they have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruit. They’re also rich in fibre and contain a healthy dose of vitamin K, which benefits your bones by activating proteins needed to deposit new bone mineral tissue. This crumble tastes so great and you really won’t miss the butter and sugar content of the standard mix – trust me! Even better: it’s pretty good for you, from the anti-inflammatory benefits of coconut oil, to the ability of walnuts to help lower LDL cholesterol (‘bad’) and increase HDL cholesterol (‘good’) levels in the blood.

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Our apple tree is still being its nutty self, producing loads of apples, whilst also inexplicably deciding to sprout a blossom flower, at the end of August. Over the past week I’ve been out walking, picking basketfuls of blackberries from hedgerows and overgrown wild patches at the edge of fields, getting pricked and scratched in the process, but it’s so worth it. Blackberries are the easiest thing to forage, and they’re probably the most familiar to everyone’s eyes, so there’s no excuse not to get out there and harvest. If you start looking close enough they’re everywhere, always a treat to pop into your mouth as you pass by a bush. There’s something so calming, so satisfying about growing, gathering and picking your own food, and best of all you know exactly what it is and where it’s come from. There’s nothing better than that!

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Serves 4-6

For the crumble topping:

  • ⅔ cup of brown rice flour
  • ½ cup of porridge oats
  • ½ cup of jumbo oats
  • ½ cup of walnuts
  • ¼ cup of ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1½ tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons of hazelnut oil
  • 4 tablespoons of date syrup (or raw honey, maple syrup or agave nectar)

For the fruit:

  • 8 small apples (or 4 large cooking apples)
  • 1½ cups of blackberries
  • (Optional: 1 tablespoon of honey)

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Pre-heat your oven to 180°C. To make the crumble layer first crush the walnuts into little pieces in a pestle and mortar (or give them a whizz in a blender), then place them in a mixing bowl along with all of the dry ingredients and stir well. Next put the coconut oil, hazelnut oil and date syrup into a saucepan and gently heat until the coconut oil has melted and they have all combined. Mix this liquid into the dry ingredients, stirring to make little clumps of the oaty, crumbly mixture.

Peel and core the apples, chopping into 1 inch sized pieces. If using honey, mix the apple together with the blackberries and honey in a separate bowl before pouring into an ovenproof dish and spreading evenly. Sprinkle the crumble layer on top and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the top goes golden brown. Stick a knife in to make sure the apple has softened (if not cook for a further 5-10 minutes), then serve and munch.

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