Tag Archives: FoodCycle

Banana loaf experiments & my social media embargo…

This weekend I’m doing something I haven’t done for a very long time…I’m going on holiday. I’m not going anywhere tropical, just an hour or so down the road to a country cottage near to where a good friend is getting married, but I intend to fully sign out from the (cyber) world and attempt to leave my email account(s) unchecked, my Twitter account(s) abandoned and my Facebook status un-updated 🙂 This may not sound like such a big thing, unless like me you are a social media/internet addict! Last year my boss bought me Grace Dent’s book ‘How to Leave Twitter: My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop’ it had me laughing out loud, not only at her wit and her insightful ponderings on others’ Twitter behaviour but at the depths of her Twitter addiction. A year on, I wonder what my reaction would be if I read it again and whether I would cringe at the similarities to my own social media tendencies 🙂 But hey ho, as a parting shot, I thought I’d post a blog about this week’s baking adventures. 

The monthly Book and Bake club I go to had rolled around again, this month we were meant to have read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin and have baked a Mary Berry recipe. I failed in a big way on the reading front and didn’t even get as far as buying the book, so to compensate, I baked 4 Mary Berry banana cakes! This may seem a bit excessive but I saw it as a great excuse to a) use up some bananas left over from my latest stint volunteering at FoodCycle Cambridge and b) trial some new recipes.

Here’s the line up… (left to right – banana & honey tealoaf, banana & chocolate chip loaf, gluten free banana, date & walnut loaf, banana & cherry tealoaf)

and again… (clockwise from top right – gluten free banana, date & walnut loaf, banana & cherry tealoaf, banana & honey tealoaf, banana & chocolate chip loaf)

I found all of the recipes online. First up was the banana & chocolate chip loaf 

My chocolate chips gravitated to the bottom of the cake, which however annoying, wasn’t detrimental to the taste. It was amazingly moist and great for the sweet toothed among us 🙂

Next up was the banana & honey teabread, which I discovered on The Goddess Kitchen’s blog…

Now for some reason, my banana & honey teabread didn’t turn out anything like Maria’s pictures. It was the squishiest cake/pudding I’ve ever made and even though I cooked it for 1 hour 30 minutes, longer than the recipe recommended, it showed no sign of setting so I gave in and took it out of the oven, turned my back for a second and when I looked round it had sunk! I was calling this one the failure cake, however, it turned out to be the favourite for a lot of the people who tasted all four! I have a feeling I was over generous with my honey measurements…here’s to happy accidents 🙂

The next one was a bit of an experiment for me as I’ve never ventured into gluten free baking. I stocked up on gluten free flour and baking powder…

and set about making a gluten free version of this banana, date & walnut loaf, which I found on this blog ‘Gardening for Lawyers’

It wasn’t as squidgy as some banana breads I’ve made and eaten in the past but it was absolutely delicious and definitely my favourite! I’ve since made another 2 loaves…

The last experiment was Mary’s banana, date & cherry loaf, which I found posted here on an online forum (see, the internet is a magical thing:)…

It was a classicly yummy banana bread but in my opinion would have benefited from more cherries. Bright red, glace cherries are a guilty pleasure of mine! 

The Book and Bake ladies soon forgave my book reading failure when they found out that they had 4 cakes to try instead of 1!…

So, that’s it from me for at least 4 days…if you see/hear anything from me, I have failed my social media embargo experiment!

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Rhubarb & apple crumble with walnut topping…

On Friday afternoon I saw this tweet for help from FoodCycle Cambridge

We’ve 2 slots free on our cooking rota for tomorrow, no experience needed, 9.30am-12.30 at the Centre@StPauls. Get in touch if interested!

and bearing in mind what a great time I’d had last time (blogged here) I jumped at the chance to help out! After team introductions we were shown the booty of surplus food that had been collected and the menu was revealed…

Last time I had been too scared to volunteer to be on dessert duty because, although I love baking, I was nervous about scaling it up to the size needed to feed 30 odd hungry people! However, this time I decided to face my fears head on! We were in real luck with the donation of (surplus/waste) food, we had a huge pile of rhubarb…

some cooking apples and some oat and raisin cereal bars so decided to, with the aid of a few staple ingredients like butter and flour, make 2 giant trays of rhubarb and apple crumble based on this recipe on the Good Food website.

We sliced the rhubarb into approximate 4cm sections and cooked it in a saucepan on the hob with some sugar for about 15 minutes…

By which time it was really juicy…

We sliced the cooking apples and mixed them in. We didn’t pre-cook them in the hope that once the crumble had been baked in the oven they would still retain a bit of bite instead of turning to mush.

To make the topping we rubbed the butter into plain flour until our hands ached but it had the texture of breadcrumbs! Then we added the sugar (dark brown and granulated), some ground almonds, chopped walnuts for added crunch and the broken up donated cereal bars…

We poured this over the trays of fruits and popped them into the oven to bake…

The kitchen was a hive of activity as the team created the rest of the meal…

We used the rest of our time to get on with our side dessert of raspberry and orange fruit salad, which was made purely from donated food…

It was simply the segmented sections and juice from 5 oranges, a few punnets of ripe raspberries and some chopped fresh mint. The result was deliciously refreshing and the perfect, juicy accompaniment to the crumble. 

The frittata looked and smelled amazing especially once it was topped with gorgeous, bubbling melted cheese…

and was served up with new potatoes, roasted red peppers and tomatoes and green beans sautéed with garlic…

I watched the crumbles like a hawk but despite the slight unpredictability of the ovens, they turned out beautifully golden brown and bubbling around the edges…

They were slightly top heavy, which suited me perfectly as a complete crumble topping fiend 🙂

But without further ado, here’s the finished article, my rhubarb and apple crumble with walnut topping served with raspberry, orange and mint salad…

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My first stint at FoodCycle Cambridge…

I recently discovered FoodCycle, an amazing nationwide organisation dedicated to tackling the issues of food waste and food poverty. They collect donations of surplus food from supermarkets and local businesses, which would otherwise be thrown away and, in their own words, ‘empower local communities to set up groups of volunteers’ to prepare healthy, nutritious meals on a regular basis for those in need in the community. However, FoodCycle isn’t exclusive, the food is offered to anyone and everyone, a £2 donation is welcome from those who can afford it. I had a look at the website for Cambridge’s FoodCycle hub, saw a call for volunteers on twitter and decided to offer my services!

So, yesterday morning I defrosted my bike saddle and headed to the kitchens of St Pauls Church in Cambridge to meet Jen, the lady leading the cooking team for the day. I was the first to arrive and found Jen unpacking that days donated food. The food is collected the night before, then the coordinator devises a menu using the available ingredients. In this case, when life gives you a huge pile of leeks, an insane amounts of bananas and a selection of root vegetables, you make…

After a cup of tea and a chat with the rest of the food prep team, amongst whom, were fellow Cambridge food bloggers Miss Igs and Sue Flay of The Secluded Tea Party, we set to work…

The soup was made up of carrots and broccoli…

with a dash of cream and a sprinkle of paprika…

I was in charge of the main course along with Miss Igs. We were using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for roasted pale roots crumble as a starting point but throwing in a bit of artistic licence on ingredients. We chopped everything into similar size pieces and put them into large baking trays…

Then made up a dressing of honey, mustard, oil, rosemary, salt and pepper and got our hands dirty to make sure everything was well coated…

We then popped them in the oven for 45 minutes, gave them a good old mix up and popped them back in for another 20 minutes…

At which point they were looking and smelling delicious…

Miss Igs toasted and chopped some walnuts, which we sprinkled over the roasted veg along with a drizzle of single cream…

We then covered the whole tray in a crumble topping made of oats, grated cheese, breadcrumbs and thyme…

After 20 more minutes in the oven it looked like this…

We served it up with cheesy leeks…

Apparently bananas feature quite regularly on the FoodCycle menu due to the fact that they can become overripe quite quickly making them unsalable. Jen encouraged us to come up with an idea for pudding as banana based inspiration was running a little dry. I’d stashed a recipe for caramelised banana upside down cake in my memory banks but for the life of me couldn’t remember where I’d seen it. But with a little help from Uncle Google I found this recipe. Emily, who was in charge of pudding chopped the bananas, laid them in the bottom of a baking tray and drizzled them with a mixture of melted butter and dark brown sugar…

She made up a banana sponge batter, which she poured over the top…

It then went into the oven and we waited nervously for 40 minutes to see whether our experiment had worked. Making something like this wouldn’t usually be so nervewracking but scaling a normal recipe up to this huge size is a bit of a new experience for me. We needn’t have worried though, it came out of the oven smelling delicious with gorgeous puddles of caramel seeping up the edges of the tin…

The bananas were gorgeously sticky and sweet and the delicately spiced sponge was light and moist…

I think we can say that it was a great success…

When all the cooking was done and dusted it was serving time. A second team of volunteers had the dishing up and serving covered and we were given the chance to sit down with the FoodCycle beneficiaries and enjoy the fruits of our labour…

I thoroughly enjoyed my FoodCycle experience, not only did I get a chance to meet like minded foodies, but I got to spend a morning doing what I love best and all for a good cause! I’ll definitely be signing up for another session soon. If you’re interested in volunteering there’s more information on their Facebook page here.

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