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Think outside the banana

  • NEW YORK TIMES

In November, British cookbook author and food personality Nigella Lawson shocked her nation when she demonstrated a recipe from her latest cookbook, Cook, Eat, Repeat, on her BBC television show of the same name. It wasn’t royal family-level scandalous. Still, based on public reaction, you’d think she’d caused a major controversy. All because she’d prepared a fragrant dish of cauliflower — and banana peels.

A few months earlier, another British culinary TV star and cookbook author, Nadiya Hussain, had appeared on a Good Morning Britain segment on cooking during lockdown.

“Everyone’s making banana bread,” she explained, offering resourceful tips on using scraps to avoid food waste. “Don’t chuck the peel away.”

After Lawson’s show aired, Hussain’s previous appearance resurfaced, and the peels became a culinary cause célèbre. Hussain, whose parents are Bangladeshi, credits her father, a former chef and restaurant owner, for introducing her to cooked peels. In Bengali cuisine, unripe skins are cooked until soft, then puréed with garlic and green chiles, and sauteed with additional seasonings.

Hussain does a whole-banana loaf, too. It’s a gooey, chocolaty “roller-coaster,” as her daughter describes it on her mother’s Instagram. She doesn’t trouble herself with tenderizing the peels; they yield during baking, resulting in a springy chewiness.

In truth, the flavor of the cooked skins isn’t too pronounced — it’s subtle, with a polite suggestion of bitterness, and a slight floral note on the finish.

For those who remain unconvinced, Lawson offered this last encouragement: “If you took a bite out of a raw potato, you’d never guess at the utter deliciousness of a french fry!”

No, they will never be fries. But they’re not scandalous, and yes, you can eat them.

Whole-Banana Bread

Recipe from Nadiya Hussain Adapted by Charlotte Druckman

Ingredients:

• 1/2 cup (unrefined) coconut oil, plus more for greasing the pan (see tip)
• 2 ripe bananas
• 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons for tossing peels
• 1/4 cup tahini (or nut butter of your choice)
• 1/3 cup oat milk, nut milk or dairy milk of your choice
• 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 1 1/3 cups coconut palm or dark brown sugar
• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
Unsalted vegan or nonvegan butter (optional), for serving

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan with coconut oil and line it with parchment.

Wash the bananas, then trim and discard the tips. Peel the bananas, then slice the peels crosswise into 1/4-inch thick strips. Place them in a small bowl and toss with 1 1/2 teaspoons flour to coat; set aside.

In a large bowl, use a fork to smush the bananas into a rough purée. Add the coconut oil, tahini, oat milk, almond and vanilla extracts and salt. Beat together with a whisk to thoroughly incorporate and create a thick batter. Add the sugar and beat with the whisk to combine.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the batter and fold it in using a rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Fold the floured banana peels into the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top into an even layer. Bake for about 55-65 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then lift it out onto a baking rack. Let it cool, then serve warm with butter on top, or let it cool completely if you want to store it for later. Total time: 1 1/2 hours, makes 1 (8-inch) loaf.

Tip:

Unrefined, virgin coconut oil is recommended because it lends coconut flavor. Refined coconut oil would also work, but since it’s a neutral-flavored oil, your banana bread won’t have as pronounced coconut flavor.

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