'A fist full of everything makes a nice cake' is a saying I primarily associate with my Ma. It comes from a story we read together as children, 'Little Grey Rabbit's Birthday', which I am glad to see is still in publication. My Ma always used to say it when she was cooking up a boiled fruit cake. I was reminded of this phrase recently when, in half term, I went home for a few days with the chief intention of cooking the Christmas puddings. With my Da sitting at the table as guide and supervisor I began the process of weighing and measuring a range of ingredients, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, cherries, grated carrots, grated apples, bread crumbs, brandy, etc. The list went on forever, but there was no definitive recipe, or none that I could share with you. Our family Christmas pudding recipe is a combination of recipes from my Nana in Ireland, Delia, an old Irish cookbook and what my Da remembers goes in. So far as I can work out, you read / remember all the recipes, add everything and take out nothing. A fist full of everything makes a good Christmas.
Alongside my Ma's other best sayings: 'A little bit of what you fancy does you good' (food and health); 'never date a man you don't fancy' (romance); 'never make a promise you can't keep' (teaching); 'praise the Lord and pass the contribution' (ecclesiology); 'God helps those who help themselves' (theology), the saying 'a fist full of everything makes a nice cake' contains an awful lot of truth. I am the youngest of six children, all of whom used to come home from school ravenous, pass through the back door into the kitchen and miraculously arrive in the front room with a fairy cake in each pocket and one in each hand. My Ma could make a bag of flour feed us for an age.
This evening I came home to my flat to discover a few things. Firstly, Abel and Cole had delivered the organic fruit and vegetables. Secondly, I hand a glut of extremely ripe bananas, including ones I had stored in the freezer and defrosted* especially for today's recipe adventure. And, thirdly I had loads of eating apples. Wasted food is a crime in my book, so something had to be done. Only one thing for it, banana and apple cake bread.
* a little known fact: if you have bananas that are going over, put them in the freezer skin and all. They will blacken, but the insides stay fresh. When you are ready you can defrost them and put them in smoothies or cakes.
200g self raising flour
150g Demerara sugar
4 over ripe bananas
a handful of raisins (optional)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven at 180C and butter a bread loaf tin. Cream together the butter, sugar and eggs. Peel and slice the apples, and add them to a saucepan with a little water from the tap. Heat until softened. Leave aside to cool. Add the mashed, ripened bananas to the cake mix and whisk well. Then add the apples, using the whisk to break them up further. Carefully sieve in the self raising flour. Add the vanilla essence, cinnamon, salt and grated nutmeg. If you have them, throw in a handful of raisins or sultanas. Spoon the mixture into your loaf tin. Place in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes. Take out and cool for the same period of time. Serve in thin slices once completely cool.
So you see, it is true, a fist full of everything does make a nice cake.