Banana, walnut and fig cake
PUBLISHED: 08:56 16 May 2013 | UPDATED: 10:04 17 May 2013
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2013
Whenever we host a cookery class, the students arrive full of apprehension, nervously looking at the floor, clutching their pristine apron. But cooking is all about confidence. One of my favourite chefs, Fergus Henderson, says that “the ingredients will know if you’re nervous, they will misbehave, you need to show them who’s boss” which is a maxim I always repeat.
I can understand why it might seem a bit daunting. I never cooked a cake until my 30s, there was not too much time or inclination when my main job was to peel three sacks of spuds a day, produce 130 breakfasts and run the bar snack table in a busy seaside hotel!
In the early 1980s I somehow talked myself into a part-time job teaching at the Hotel School. I turned up, as nervous as my very own prospective Saturday morning cooks, expecting to show the class how to make a prawn cocktail, a chicken chasseur or maybe a veal Holstein, only to be directed into the pastry kitchen and introduced to my first class, a group of school meal cooks who looked on me as one of the snotty kids who queued for an ice cream scoop of mash and jelly in a Duralex glass.
The first class was to bake a Victoria sponge. My credibility lasted all of three minutes, when it soon became apparent that these good women knew far more than I did. The class swiftly descended with the pupil teaching the teacher, a ploy I’ve perfected and I often still use today!
One of my favourite and most touching stories comes from years back, when I would share a column with David Adlard, submitting fortnightly recipes to the EDP Saturday magazine. I was always sceptical if anyone ever cooked them until a received a call from a man asking if he could omit the figs and replace them with sultanas for this very recipe. Of course says I, currants, dates, prunes, raisin, figs, apricots, whatever takes your fancy. He then went on to explain that, at the age of 88, he had decided to bake a cake, and wanted reassurance he could amend the recipe.
I attempted to instil the aforementioned confidence factor and finished with a cheery “Let me know how it turns out” as I headed back to the stove, my thoughts on the busy service ahead.
It’s 8.30pm and the chaos of the kitchen is in full flow, I’m knee deep in pots and pans, new arrivals to be seated, the early birds paying the bill, when I am distracted by a knock on the kitchen window. Through the steam I spy a grinning, slightly grizzly face, and when I approach I am presented with a slice of banana, walnut and raisin cake on the Sunday’s best china plate.
“Have a try, what do you think?” says Mr Gee, the very same gentleman I’d taken the call from earlier that afternoon. The cake, I will say, was absolutely delicious, as I’m sure yours will be if you follow this recipe, and eat it all, straight away!
Richard Hughes is chef proprietor of the Lavender House at Brundall and the Richard Hughes Cookery School. He is also director of the Pigs Pub at Edgefield and The Assembly House, Norwich.
Banana, walnut and fig cake
8 ripe bananas
250g caster sugar
350g plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
100ml dark rum
120g dried figs
1 Warm the chopped figs in the rum.
2 Peel the bananas, place them into a bowl.
3 Mash them roughly.
4 Beat the eggs, the sugar and the softened butter.
5 Add two tablespoons of the flour.
6 Add the mashed banana.
7 Add the remaining sifted flour and baking powder.
8 Mix thoroughly.
9 Add the walnuts.
10 Add the figs and the rum.
11 Place into a nonstick 10in cake tin, or two lined 1lb loaf tins. (You can, of course, half the quantities in the recipe.)
Bake at Gas 4/180c for approx 50 minutes until golden.
Test the cake by inserting a skewer into the centre; when withdrawn the skewer should be clean.