Viva Nigel, Viva Me, Viva Chocolate Banana Bread, Gluten Free


In case, over the past few years, you have not noticed that I have a crush on Nigel Slater then let me say this….I do! I have even shared this with Wouter who just takes it in stride. It is not just Nigel looks (I know that is shallow of me), but his approach to gardening & cooking is very seductive. I mean who would not have a crush on a  man who has an entire mini orchard in his small backyard? A man who can give you at least two dozen ways to cook beets and you will like them all…who can whip up a loaf of chocolate banana bread without breaking a sweat?

(You can find another of my blog posts based on  a pumpkin recipe in “Tender volume I” here)

Nigel Slater Cookbook

My daughter, Whitney, gave me “Notes From The Larder” for a gift perhaps aware of my penchant for all things “Nigel”.

Discovering his recipe for “Chocolate Banana Bread” coincided with my return from a recent trip to Quintana Roo, Mexico. While on my trip I purchased some pure         Mexican Vanilla extract, a couple of bags of Muscovado Sugar which is a cane sugar that is very moist with a strong molasses flavor, as well as a few interesting bars of “Ki’ XOCOLATL” brand chocolate that is delicious for baking and nibbling on. For the chocolate banana bread I used a bar of their very dark chocolate with chipotle chile, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg & all-spice.

Chocolate, Bananas, Vanilla

When I travel one of the most important “tourist” stops for me is a local grocery store. I love perusing the aisles hunting for unusual, but useful, ingredients for cooking. Most of my gifts upon returning home come from these forays. Spices, chocolates, extracts that are typical of the region of the world I just visited.

This box of Ancient Harvest Quinoa gluten-free flour was languishing in the back of my pantry. Why not make Nigel’s recipe gluten-free? Quinoa, a grain originating in South America fit right in with the ingredients bought in Mexico.

Quinoa Flourbatter

A thick chunky chocolate & ripe banana batter (the sticker on my bananas told me they were also a producto de Mexico)……perfecto.

Chocolate banana bread batterDSC_6324

This loaf has a crusty outer layer with a very moist cake texture inside.  Delicious eaten warm as is, or toasted. A recipe inspiration from an English cook using ingredients from my recent trip to Mexico….Viva Chocolate Banana Bread!



Chocolate Banana Nut Bread



  • 2 cups Quinoa Flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup Muscovado Sugar
  • 1 lb very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp pure (Mexican) vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 4 ounces Dark Chocolate, chopped



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9″ loaf pan with non stick vegetable spray. Line the pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper cut to overhang the edges of the pans.
  2. Sift together the Quinoa flour & baking powder.
  3. Using an electric mixer cream together the butter & muscovado sugar until light & fluffy.
  4. In another bowl using a fork mash the bananas leaving them somewhat lumpy. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Add eggs to the butter-sugar mixture and beat well.
  6. Into the eggs-butter-sugar mixture fold in the mashed bananas & the chopped chocolate until well blended.
  7. Gently fold in the flour mixture. When blended scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the center of the banana bread is set and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out moist, but clean.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Loosen sides of bread with a spatula and lift out with the parchment paper. Cool on a rack. Best served warm or toasted.

Recipe inspired by “Chocolate Banana Bread” from “Notes from the Larder” by Nigel Slater, Ten Speed Press

A Smashing Pumpkin & Pear Pangrattato

I adore the taste of pumpkin in all it’s transformations into pies, breads, roasted, toasted & baked. Pumpkins conjure up images of bonfires & baking, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” & a lifetime of Jack O’Lanterns.

Sunday morning at the Nashville Downtown Farmer’s Market I found myself in the midst of thousands of pumpkins, winter squash & gourds of every color tone, size & shape…from perfectly perfect to the fantastically gnarly…spread out & piled high, all beautiful. I purchased what is marketed as a “pie pumpkin”, about 2 lbs, for $1.00.

 I went to my current favorite cookbook , “Tender/Vol 1” by Nigel Slater (4th Estate London, publisher), which is full of some of the best, most accessible recipes & cozy meanderings throughout his garden life. The photos are so yummy and real. I found a very simple, intriguing recipe entitled “A pumpkin pangrattato with rosemary and orange”.

Pangrattato is Italian for breadcrumbs

My version of this recipe comes with a few changes due to using what I had on hand which did not include parsley and did include a couple of fresh pears picked from my neighbors tree which is still heavy with fruit. Pumpkin, crispy pears, breadcrumbs..a very nice trio.

“A Smashing Pumpkin Pangrattato”

(very much based on Nigel Slater’s version with a few changes & additions)

For this version you will need the following:

2 lb pumpkin

3 cloves garlic

1/4 to 1/3 cup good olive oil

a finger size mild red chili

1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves

the zest of half an orange

1  cup roughly chopped arugula leaves

3 cups fresh white breadcrumbs (I used a gluten-free sandwich bread)

Kerrygold butter (or any very good butter)


1. Using a sharp knife cut pumpkin in half, clean out seeds & membrane. Cut pumpkin into bite size chunks and cut away the peel.

2. Place chunks of pumpkin in a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam for about 10 minutes or just until pumpkin is slightly softened. Meanwhile…..

3. Prep other ingredients..mince garlic, thinly slice red chili, finely chop rosemary….

……peel & chop 2 hard crispy pears into bite-size chunks, roughly chop arugula, zest half an orange & toss bread into the food processor to make fresh breadcrumbs.

4. Pour half of the olive oil into a large heavy skillet & turn heat to medium. Add garlic & chili to skillet & cook for a few minutes until garlic just begins to turn golden.

5. Check steaming pumpkin with a knife. When it is barely softened remove from heat. Set aside.

6. Into skillet with garlic & chili add the chopped rosemary, orange zest, chopped arugula & bread crumbs.

7. The goal here to create the perfect “pangrattato/breadcrumbs” is to turn the soft breadcrumbs into beautiful golden brown crispy breadcrumbs without burning them. So leave on medium heat stirring often until ingredients are browned & crispy throughout. This might take about 10 minutes.Remove from heat

8.  To assemble & bake turn the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a casserole dish & add in steamed pumpkin. Scatter chopped pear over the pumpkin.

9. Lastly scatter top of pumpkin-pears with a few pieces of Kerrygold butter. Sprinkle pangrattato/breadcrumbs over top evenly. Drizzle with a bit more of the olive oil & bake for about 30-40 minutes. Top will be very golden brown & the pumpkin & pears will be softened but still holding their shape.

10. This dish can be eaten as a main course or side dish, but for our dinner I cooked up some Quinoa pasta & tossed it with a few tablespoons of olive oil &  black pepper & salt. The serving of pasta was then topped with Pumpkin Pangrattato, a few shreds of freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano along side a glass of slightly chilled Pinot Noir which was one perfect Sunday dinner for a warm October evening in Nashville.

Some Music for October evenings:

“October” (Song & Album, U2) Universal Island Records 2008

“Red Hot Chili Peppers Snow ((Hey OH))”  Warner Bros 2006

“Farm Fresh Onions” (song & album, Robert Earl Keen) 2003 Koch Records

“October Song” (Song/Album”Frank”, Amy Winehouse)

“1979” (Smashing Pumpkins, Smashing Pumpkins Greatest Hits) 2001

“Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme” (Album Simon & Garfunkel)1966

A Little Gallery




Snow Storm Sweets, Sweden & Slater

Inspiration can come from many places, both expected & unexpected. Much of my inspiration this winter in regards to food has come from  the unusually large number of snow storms we have had, the book “NOMA – Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine”, and the cooking books “Tender” by Britain’s food writer, Nigel Slater & February 14th!

” Snow Storm Desserts for Friends and Lovers”

“blackberry snow-granita”

…a very beautiful color, texture & taste

Recipe: In food processor mix together 1 pint of blackberries &  1 cup caster or powdered sugar. Pulse until well blended.  Scoop up one large bowl of freshly fallen snow. Pour blackberry-sugar mixture over snow and mix together until well blended. Mixture will be grainy looking. Eat immediately or store in freezer in air-tight container until ready to eat.

“very, very vanilla snow cream”

…a lovely creamy & softly grainy vanilla cream.

To Make: Whisk together in a large bowl 2 tbsp vanilla paste, 3/4 to 1 cup caster or powdered sugar &  1/2 cup cold whipping cream. Add bowl of fresh snow and quickly, but thoroughly,  mix together with a whisk or wooden spoon. Mixture should be a bit creamy. Taste & adjust flavorings. Eat immediately or pack mixture into a container with a tight lid and freeze until ready to eat.

To Serve: Plain or with a  chewy chocolate brownie & berries

The common thread between our Tennessee snow storms, the book on Nordic cuisine & Nigel Slater’s books “Tender” is that each one has given me some beautifully inspiring images & ideas about winter foods & cold beauty.

Image: “Snowman” from “NOMA – Time & Place in Nordic Cuisine”, Author Rene Redzpl, Phaidon Press

Image: “Parsnips” from “Tender/Volume 1”, Author Nigel Slater, Fourth Estate Press

Image: “Bowl Impression in Snow”, 2/10/11 Nashville, TN

Image: “Blueberries in Snow Bowl”, 2/10/11 Nashville, TN

Image: Stack of Candies, 2/4/11

… keep it simple, be sweet & stay cozy….