This is the first of a series we’ve planned that feature one versatile, inexpensive ingredient and provide short, quick and simple recipes (with stories, always stories around it) featuring it as the main ingredient, that we think will hopefully help you get more creative in the kitchen and help you beat the lockdown blues. Scroll down if you wish to skip straight to the recipes!
I remember clearly how much I hated bananas. If I took one to school I’d remind the banana how much I hated it after every bite. Friends found it amusing but it was a very serious affair. The issue was on my end so I had to let the fruit in question know respectfully that it tasted like ass.
Perhaps it was the sickly sweet smell that wafted through the air if they were kept on the table, not strong enough to demand immediate attention but there to distract you if you were just close enough. Or it could have been the colour, yellow wasn’t among my favourites, and this yellow went through far too many changes in intensity for me to be enamoured. It was an imposter, this fruit. So many other nicer fruits were always a dull or bright version of their outsides but this one was white, even as it pretended to be otherwise. Could a kid really be expected to trust a banana?
The first time someone produced intrigue about the fruit in me was the character Baby Baachan from a very cute little series with the same name. The anime featured a baby who was born with the spirit of the deceased grandma inside her and taught her teenaged granddaughter how to make bananas taste like dessert, among other useful little tricks that would help her in life.
I found these little lessons quite impressive and the banana one seemed like something I’d be able to immediately try. It was a simple task, microwaving the banana till the outside turned a very unappetising black while the inside became soft and squishy and pudding like. I think the reaction I saw on TV would be best described as: UwU
Of course, I tried it that evening, hated it and was laughed out of the kitchen. I believe it’s because the adults in my house had tried in vain to make me like this fruit and were quite possibly relieved to have not lost to a fictional old baby.
I felt betrayed.
It was gross and felt like it’d gone off completely. I spat it out. Thinking back, warm slippery banana was probably what put me off more than the taste, I don’t really remember what it tasted like. I was too engrossed and disgusted by the texture.
It was a missed opportunity.
Cut to the present where I’m a complete convert and love bananas, the riper (and I mean rotting) the better.
The soft inviting cream colour, the distinct flavour profile, subtle but very much discernible, and most importantly the texture. Bananas are firm but melt in your mouth. There’s very little give. You bite into it and it vanishes. It’s the perfect fruit for when you’re feeling a little too lazy to chew or get out of bed and toil in the kitchen but want something quick, filling… satisfying.
Even within the simple profile, it carries infinite possibilities for elevation, it’s the perfect fruit to combine with a varied range of flavours. It’s classic, like vanilla. The west’s obsession with banana splits and calling it the ultimate sundae makes a lot of sense. To think I spent so much of my childhood troubled at the thought of kids all around the world, missing out on better ice cream because they refused to see sense.
It’s a sexy little thing, a banana. They creep up and grow on you, and come puberty, you realise there’s more to them than meets the eye, and I don’t just mean the shape. (I had to bring this up. We can now smile and move beyond it to the recipes.)
So it’s safe to say I like bananas.
Their flavour is among my favourites, it’s in everything from my morning smoothies to my condoms, and most importantly in my desserts. It’s a long and irrevocable process when one goes from despising a flavour to using it in their final exam in culinary school.
Banana. Dark chocolate. Rum. Those were the primary flavours in my dessert and an exam that changed my life. A love story for the ages.
My story aside, bananas are cheap and easily available even during the lockdown which has produced a scarcity of ingredients. This is where their importance in your life lies.
Even if you don’t share my passion for bananas, buy them, eat them, and store them well.
Now is the time one must, despite natural instincts, force ourselves to live as frugally as possible and minimise wastage, and ingredients as versatile and easily available as bananas need to find pride of place in your home.
They are among the few true heroes of pandemic ingredients.
Bananas can be had raw or cooked. They are easy to work with and are brilliant fresh or frozen, ripe or rotten. When buying bananas, no matter how many you buy, go for ones that are firmer to the touch and sightly green. Unless you’re planning on having or using them the very same day you buy em, it’s best to go for raw(er) bananas which will give them a longer shelf-life. If you’re worried they’re too ripe and will go bad, peel and chop ’em up and freeze ’em and use in smoothies or make ice cream (keep reading for recipes).
If you’re tired of bananas, here’s a few recipes to get your creativity flowing.
It’s a short list to help elevate your meals and give you options when you’re out of ideas, or have too many and are scared you’ll waste them, and a basic pantry should suffice.
1. Make a Smoothie
Smoothies don’t always have to mean raw spinach and the colour green. They can be fun and (ful)filling. I love a good smoothie that balances nutrition and taste. One of my favourites for the morning is Nigella’s Go Get ‘Em Smoothie recipe that I’ve repurposed to lower calories and increase benefits.
You will need:
• 1 large or 2 small bananas (fresh or frozen)
• 150 ml milk (any milk)
• 1-1.5 tsps instant coffee (if using ground coffee, make a shot of espresso)
• A scoop of protein powder (or 3 tbsps drinking chocolate or malt powder)
• A sliver of ginger (optional)
• 1 tsp honey (or to taste)
Break the banana(s) into smaller pieces so it mixes in quicker. Blitz all the ingredients together in a blender and enjoy.
This list makes 1 portion.
It’s a simple, basic and quick breakfast option that includes a caffeine hit, not needing to bother with an oven or hob and tastes great. This is ONE of innumerable banana smoothie options, go crazy and experiment till you find your favourite mix!
2. Make Pancakes
I have been making two ingredient pancakes a lot lately. Didn’t trust the idea till I saw Casey from @blogilates make em. They’re great and so very easy to make.
You will need:
• 1 large banana
• 2 eggs
• Splash of oil (to grease your pan)
• Jam, Maple Syrup, Chocolate Sauce, etc (any topping(s) of your choice)
Mash the banana with the back of your fork in a bowl to get a smooth paste. Add two eggs and whisk with the fork to combine into a homogeneous mixture. Once combined, set aside and put a non-stick (ideally, but any flat option will do) pan on medium-low flame. Grease it with oil and let it heat up. Once hot, ladle small amounts of the ‘batter’ and pour into the pan. Wait till bubbles form on top of the pancake and flip. Once done, remove from the pan and make the rest. This makes about 7-8 tiny pancakes, enough for one person.
This is a great breakfast option, perfect for the lockdown season when getting a meal with very few ingredients is the best way to go. We’re all looking to make our grocery run last longer. Do yourself a favour though, don’t compare with a buttermilk pancake, that’s just setting yourself up for disappointment.
If you have more time and ingredients to spare, try a banana pancake or crepe recipe, there’s tonnes available online and unlikely to disappoint.
3. Bake ’em.
This is a riff on the failed microwave experiment from years ago. There’s no way I was losing to a baby and I found the best combination. It’s one of those truly #uglydelicious recipes and will surprise you.
You will need:
• 1 large ripe banana
• 30 g or some chocolate (anything goes, just chop it up into tiny pieces)
• A scoop of ice cream (totally optional and for serving)
Heat the oven to about 200C/180C fan. Make a slit through the skin of the banana along one side – making sure you don’t cut all the way through to the other side. Poke in the chocolate pieces along the cut. Put each banana onto a sheet of foil and crimp the edges together to seal into a parcel. Transfer to a baking sheet and cook for 25 mins, or until the bananas have turned black. Serve with a scoop of ice cream and any remaining chocolate.
This can be made in an oven, a microwave or a pressure cooker. I usually make it in the microwave, and depending on the ripeness of the banana it takes about 3 to 5 mins, and is a quick and delicious treat. If in doubt about conversions and timings, google!
4. Make a Tartine
Tartines are open-faced sandwiches and look so very fancy, but are very simple to put together and instagrammable. Back when I was living alone and had early morning classes, I’d make a banana tartine for breakfast all the time. One portion is filling and makes you feel like you’re doing good by your body.
You will need:
• 1 slice of toasted bread (anything will do, but something crusty will be better)
• Half a large or 2 small banana(s) (thin slices)
• 1 tbsp nut butter (I prefer peanut, but anything goes) or ricotta (chhena)
• Pinch of Cinnamon
• 1 tsp honey
On your toast, smooth on the nut butter. Top with the sliced banana. Drizzle the honey on top and sprinkle with cinnamon.
BONUS: A more decadent version of this would be to microwave or pan fry the banana slices with some sugar and butter till it becomes sticky and sweet, and use that on the toast, following the rest as is. Add some ice cream and it becomes dessert.
Psst! If you’re feeling too lazy after making the banana topping, skip the toast.
5. Make a Sandwich I
A weird one, but what’s life without a little bit of cray, right? It’s a savoury option with bananas and extremely simple to make.
You will need:
• 2 slices of white bread
• 5 slices of cheese (go for something salty)
• 2 slices of ham
• 1 small or half a large banana
• Knob of butter
Top a slice of bread with 2 slices of cheese, followed by the slices of ham, and then 1 slice of cheese on top. Chop the banana into thin slices and arrange on top of the assembled sandwich. Finish with the remaining slices of cheese. Close the sandwich with the second slice of bread.
Heat the butter in a skillet or non-stick pan. Fry the sandwiches until golden on the outside and the cheese slices start to melt.
It sounds very weird, but tastes very good. It’s high on the calories, yes, but is anyone really counting anymore? Besides, you can reduce quantities to make it a ‘skinnier’ version but I’d recommend going big since you’re already home.
6. Fry ’em
Banana fritters or Pazham Pori is a snack from Kerala that I tried a few years ago thanks to one of my friends. I was an immediate convert. They’re so easy to make, and so good!
You will need:
• 65 gm ap flour
• Pinch of baking soda
• Pinch of turmeric
• 1 tbsp sugar (optional)
• 1 tbsp rice flour (also optional, makes the fritters crispier)
• 75 ml water (you may require more, or less, to make a smooth batter)
• Oil to deep fry (this oil can be used to fry other things and to cook, ie. reused)
• 2 large bananas (firm bananas are better for frying)
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl with a fork or whisk. Add the water in parts and mix into the dry ingredients to make a smooth paste that isn’t too runny. Make sure there aren’t any lumps. The consistency should resemble thick buttermilk, and coat the back of a spoon very well.
Cut the banana lengthwise, through the middle to get two long slices. Cut each long slice through the centre to get four to six pieces from each banana.
Heat the oil in a kadai or deep pan till it starts to smoke. Once the oil is ready, coat the banana in the batter till it’s covered well and slide into the oil being careful not to drop it in and risk the oil splashing. Fry in small batches till golden brown.
Remove from the pan and drain the excess oil on kitchen paper. Serve hot, it’s best enjoyed in the evening with some chai.
The recipe I have provided is as basic as it gets, if you have friends or family and a recipe you can find that is yours and unique, go right ahead and use that. These are times when we’re alone and shared recipes are a connection made, like no other.
7. Make a Sandwich II
Another banana sandwich I often make involves chocolate and is college student approved. It’s any meal you want it to be, and is and all time favourite in my household.
You will need:
• 1 banana (sliced)
• 1-2 tbsp nutella (or any chocolate spread)
• 2 slices of white bread (or any bread)
• Knob of butter
• Crushed roasted peanuts (ideally hazelnuts, but peanuts are great too. Optional, ofc)
Assemble the sandwich by spreading Nutella on one side of both slices of bread. place the banana slices on top, add the crushed nuts (if using) and close the sandwich. Heat some butter in a pan and fry the sandwich till golden on both sides. Enjoy hot or at room temp. You’re welcome.
8. Make Ice Cream!
This is the one I’m most excited about. Ice cream is quite possibly the best banana recipe in existence. And you need next to nothing to get the most creamy satisfying scoop when there’s no other option. And it’s very healthy when you think about it.
You will need:
• 4 – 5 bananas (overripe)
• Any flavour of your choice ie. 1 tsp vanilla essence to Nutella to peanut butter to anything you have lying around and would want to have in your ice cream (optional)
Chop the bananas into slices. Place in a single layer, into an airtight container and freeze till solid, usually for about 2 hours. Once frozen, put the banana pieces in a food processor (or powerful blender, but a processor yields better, smoother results) and pulse.
The texture will change from crumbly to oatmeal-like to smooth overtime but it’s so calming to watch it happen. Once smooth and gooey, empty into the airtight container and freeze for a few hours. You can add your flavouring options once it’s smooth and pulse to combine to the entire batch or add the flavours when you make yourself a scoop to enjoy.
Yes, it’s basically one ingredient and magical in a way.
There are, of course, the usual suspects when working with old, rotting bananas. Banana bread tops my list but there’s muffins, pies, cakes, tarts, even Mangalore buns…the options are endless when you combine bananas with flour, and each one yields better than satisfactory results. If you have an oven, baking equipment and some time, go right ahead and get on the internet or phone a friend for recipes they swear by.
My banana bread recipe might feature on this blog someday too, and it’s worth the wait, but today’s post is more for everyone and #quarantinecooking friendly, using as few ingredients as possible and as little time as possible, while still managing to make something interesting out of it.
If you’ve made it till here, thanks. We hope you’ll find some of what you read useful and enough to get some creativity flowing.
As a little bonus, you should know that banana peels are very useful as well. If adding them to your fruit smoothies or candying them feels a little too extreme (although totally safe to do if you wash ’em well) try using them in your skincare or as fertiliser for your houseplants (Google is your BFF here) and get more out of one product.
In case you have an ingredient you’d like featured in this series, let us know and we’ll try and see how to use it in many different and fun ways!
Happy cooking! Stay safe!
*the images used in this post are representative in nature