Sadly, most bananas at this time of year are destined for a morning smoothie. Or if they’ve been forgotten for a few days or frozen for a few months, they might turn up as the hero ingredient in one of the most-represented dishes of the Covid-19 lockdown: banana bread.
Bananas have held a very strong position in many cultures’ cuisines. Plantains, a starchier relative of the banana, which are thought to have originated in South-East Asia, are used in cooking and are central to many traditional Caribbean dishes.
Through genetic selection, bananas have become the easy-eating little nutrient bombs we know today. Cooking with modern-genus bananas, such as lady fingers, can be walking a fine line. The mushy texture can be offputting if the application or technique is not a good fit.
These lady finger bananas came from Conscious Ground Organics, located just inland from Byron Bay. This holistic farming education facility features a section dedicated to a syntropic system, which draws on a diverse range of plants harvested at different times and for different purposes, such as for food or timber, over a short, medium and long term. Banana production can be very pesticide-heavy, so it’s a treat to see them being grown organically.
Even though the fate of these bananas was effectively the same as ending up in a smoothie, I do love the final pancakes. The subtle spice and gentle sweetness makes for a lighter version of the more commonly found pancakes with banana. I can eat my version in the morning without the inevitable food coma that occurs from the regular alternative.
If you are so inclined, do make your own kefir cream. The sourness is a big part of what balances the flavour of this dish. If you are pushed for time, a store-bought kefir cream, or even yoghurt, will work fine.
– 3 lady finger bananas (250g puree weight)
– 250ml coconut cream
– 50ml kefir cream (see note below)
– 185g rice flour
– 5 pods green cardamom (ground)
– pinch of ground nutmeg
– 10g baking soda
– 50g coconut oil (to cook)
– 100ml maple syrup
– 100g chopped cashews
– 200ml kefir cream
Peel and chop the bananas roughly before placing them in a jug blender and pulsing to liquefy. Measure 250 grams of the puree into a mixing bowl, then add the remaining pancake ingredients, except for the coconut oil. Use a whisk to gently combine.
Heat some of the coconut oil in a solid-based pan – I use a cast-iron pan – before adding the batter in batches to form a cake about 10 centimetres in diameter. Cook on a medium heat for three minutes before turning the heat down. Flip the pancake and cook for a further three minutes on a lower heat, then remove onto a plate.
Continue until all of the mix has been cooked. This should make about five pancakes.
If you are making the kefir cream yourself, you will need to start this process 24 hours prior.
Mix one teaspoon of kefir grains into one litre of full-fat cream and store in a sealed container at room temperature overnight. Stir the grains after 12 hours and reseal the container before passing the cream through a strainer after 24 hours, or monitor by seeing how sour the cream tastes. To keep the grains alive, simply submerge them in milk and refrigerate until you need them again.
Finish the pancakes with a generous drizzle of maple syrup, cashew nuts and the cream. If you like, you can substitute coconut cream for the kefir cream, which will make this recipe both gluten free and vegan.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 13, 2020 as "Playing a strong hand".
A free press is one you pay for. In the short term, the economic fallout from coronavirus has taken about a third of our revenue. We will survive this crisis, but we need the support of readers. Now is the time to subscribe.
Letters & Editorial