It feels wonderful to be blogging again. We welcomed our precious baby boy Ali a little over three months ago. This tiny human being has changed our lives forever. Ever since he's arrived, time is being defined by him. His first smile, his first laugh, grabbing our fingers for the first time. His arrival has also brought new relationships - two doting sets of grandparents who are going to spoil him silly, no doubt; an ecstatic father; a plethora of aunts and uncles and cousins and then there's me. Ali has made me a mother. It's made me appreciate my own Umma ten fold. All her sleepless nights, satisfying our endless requests, cooking and feeding us with nourishing meals with no fanfare. The emotions and responsibilities that stem from the word mother cannot be accounted for. This post is for my Umma, for everything she has and continues to do for me and for all the mothers who devote their lives raising children. I'm sharing a recipe my Umma enjoys every time I bake it. A simple banana bread.
Aren't these tiny loaves insanely cute? I made this bread a few weeks ago with my niece and sous-chef, Nazneen. Watching her otherwise smiling face still with concentration and intent makes me smile. She measures out flour, caramelises the banana and whisks the eggs with ease. Every now and then she looks up with wide eyes for instructions and dutifully follows through with those given. Her little hands butter up the loaf tin and in no time, the bread is ready for the oven. Once it is in, I watch Ali sleeping sweetly in his swing and cannot wait till he grows up enough to cook and bake with him. But that's going to be a while.
The new academic year at school starts the next day and I watch Nazneen's mother wrapping what seems like a never ending pile of books at the dining table. Nazneen's two sisters are running around the table and after every round they stop and ask when the 'cake' will be ready. 45 minutes later, it's brought out warm from the oven and my nieces are impatient and don't want to wait to eat it anymore. I let it cool slightly and cut them into slices. They finally sit still and all of us tuck in, racing to grab slices that are fast dissappearing. Their little hands keep coming back and their grins are smeared with melted chocolate chips. In no time, the bread is over and they're back to running around the table. The books aren't finished yet. Ali is still sleeping and I cannot wait till he is old enough to play with them. But that's going to be a while.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, Umma and Vappa would visit me more often in Abu Dhabi. They would bring along goodies I would be craving and I looked forward to their visits. This one time they were visiting I had planned on making banana bread but wanted to spruce things up a bit. You'd have noticed that the the bread itself looks plain and I was in a mood to dress it up. It was lavishly drizzled with Maple syrup glaze and dotted with crushed pecans. I remember setting out my canvas background, setting up my shot, bending over and finding it difficult with my 7 month and counting tummy to photograph in the fading light close to sunset that winter. Photography is a hobby that both of Ali's parents enjoy and I cannot wait to buy him his first camera. But that's going to be a while.
What I love about this recipe is how easily it's ready for the oven. There's very little butter and not too much sugar. I have baked this bread countless times substituting the white flour entirely with wholewheat flour to make it healthier. I make sure the bananas I would be using are extremely ripe to yield moist and super-soft bread. I prefer breaking down the bananas over a medium flame on a pan till they become slightly dark and watery. You can add your choice of nuts for an extra bite. I wonder whether Ali would like this banana bread and what mix-ins he would prefer. I'm waiting for the day to be able to feed him solids and share his daddy's and his favourites with him. But that's going to be a while.
This post is for you Umma. For your boundless love. For the endless laughter. For the sound advice. For protecting me fiercely. For your Chemmeen Vada. For all the times I could not say thank you. I love you Umma.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Recipe adapted from The Malabar Tea Room. Original recipe from America's Test Kitchen
- 3 ripe bananas
- 2 cups whole-wheat flour
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 6 tbsp melted salted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- ¼ cup buttermilk or plain full fat yogurt
- Handful of chocolate chips or chopped nuts
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 350ºF.
Butter a nonstick loaf pan and flour well.
Combine wholewheat flour, sugar and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.
On a low flame, gently heat peeled bananas on a frying pan.
Coarsely mash the bananas with a spatula and cook till the bananas turn mushy and liquid seeps from them. Take off flame.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs and to this add the bananas, including the liquid. Add melted butter, vanilla essence and yoghurt and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the combined dry ingredients and gently fold until the flour is fully incorporated.
Fold in chocolate chips or nuts if you are adding it to the batter.
Transfer into the prepared baking pan and spread evenly.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until it is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Have a good food day!