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Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich

I have always loved sandwiches.  Put  a tasty filling between two pieces of bread and I am all over it like a rash. I am like my Aunt Freda in that respect. She also loved sandwiches and watching her enjoyment in eating one was an experience in pure and utter joy. Having been diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic several years ago, I had thought that sandwiches would be off the menu for me forever.  I recently discovered the joys of sandwich thins however and I am back enjoying what I have always loved!  Yay!

They come in several flavours . . .  white, brown, seeded, and high protein whole meal. You can also get gluten free ones. 

 This is the nutritional values of one of the High Protein Whole Meal Sandwich Thins, so as you can see, they get the green light in sugars and saturates and are very low in calories as compared to two slices of bread, with only 14.8g of carbohydrates per sandwhich thin, which is adequate for one sandwich. A slice of wholemeal bread has 16.9g of carbs and weighs in at 99 calories per slice, so double that for a sandwhich and you will see why I am now taking the sandwich thin route.  They are also great toasted so instead of my usual two pieces of toast that I was having in the evening, I am now having one of those toasted and thinly spread with sugar free peanut butter, fulfilling my desire to have peanut butter toast before bed.  I am hoping that in making small changes like this day by day I will be making a difference.

Today I used a brown one because I was all out of the protein whole wheat ones. (Actually I haven't been able to find them lately in my shops)  There is an additional 4g of carbs in a brown one, about the same as a white one.  Did you know that the only difference between white and brown bread is the colour?  Yep!  Brown bread is simply white bread with brown colouring added.  It is not any better nutritionally than white bread.  If I continue to have a hard time finding the whole wheat ones, I am going to have to figure out a way to make my own . . .  sigh . . .

This Curried Chicken Salad filling is delicious and very low in fat.  Using both low fat sour cream and a tiny bit of low fat mayonnaise, it is filled with flavour.  The Curry powder adds some lovely spice, and there is a bit of sweet from some chopped raisins and crunch from the use of celery and spring onions.

I like to add a hefty layer of salad greens to the middle of mine, which adds plenty of colour and additional nutritional value.  (Crunch too!)

Today I used superfood salad greens, which includes baby kale, spinach, rocket, peppercress, beetroot and baby chard.  Lots of colour and lots of crunch.  I love them!

You don't need to worry about the bread getting soggy if you are eating this right away, which is usually a problem with sandwiches that are going to be held for a long time prior to eating. If this is the case, and you are wanting to take this to work, I recommend bring the filling separately in a small container and spreading it onto the bread just before eating. That way you can get around the added fat and calories of adding a bread spread.

Altogether this makes for a very satisfying and delicious sandwich. with plenty of flavour, colour and crunch!  I hope you'll want to try it out. You could leave out the raisins and add the equivalent in chopped dry roasted nuts, but I like the little hint of sweetness from the raisins myself.

*Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich Filling*
Makes 2 sandwiches

This delicious filling features the crunch of celery and spring onions, along with the spice of curry and a tiny bit of sweet from some chopped raisins. 

30g reduced fat sour cream (1/4 cup)
1 TBS reduced fat mayonnaise
1/2 tsp curry powder (you can use less if you want less heat)
250g cooked chicken breast meat, cubed (2 cups)
1 stalk celery, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
1 spring onion, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
2 TBS raisins chopped coarsley
salt and black pepper to taste

Blend the sour cream, mayonnaise and curry powder together.  Stir in the chicken, celery, onion and raisins.  Taste and adjust seasoning as required with salt and pepper.  Use to fill your sandwiches. 

As a Diabetic I like to use whole wheat sandwich thins.  I put half of my serving of chicken salad on the bottom sandwich thin, and the other half on the top sandwich thin.  I add a hearty layer of salad greens and then put the two sides together, with the filling sandwiching the greens in the middle.  Yum!

Todd had his on a long buttered Brioche torpedo roll, without the salad. (He is not a salad lover.)  I didn't feel hard done by with what I had, in fact, truth be told I felt I had the more delicious of the two sandwiches!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Winter Vegetable Gratin

Winter Vegetable Gratin

Oh, how I do love Gratins . . .  who wouldn't with their creamy well flavoured base . . .  spread out in shallow dishes to maximize all of the golden deliciousness of a crisp topping.  I have never met a Gratin I didn't fall in love with, but they can all too often be quite high in unhealthy fat and not needed calories!!  It doesn't have to be so however, and I am going to prove this to you today with a fabulous vegetable gratin, that is not only low in fat, but also healthy, Diabetic friendly, contains several of your five-a-day, as well as being deliciously filled with plenty of flavour to boot!

I found myself at the end of last week with some vegetables that needed using up before I went for my next grocery shop, and I wanted to do something that I could use them all up in . . .  half a bag of Brussels sprouts, half a savoy cabbage and a couple of lone leeks.  Typical vegetables that are abundant at this time of year.  Lovely and green and filled with fibre and lots of vitamins.  It is common knowledge that vegetables from the Brassica (Cruciferous) family (Sprouts and cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) are filled with anti-oxidents, and plenty of Vitamin C and Folic Acid.

Leeks on the other hand, a member of the allium family, with their unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, belong in your diet on a regular basis. There is strong research evidence for including at least one serving of an allium vegetable in your meal plan every day.  Not a problem as I love all of the members of the onion family . . . leeks, onions, shallots, garlic . . .

I think it is safe to say that this lovely gratin is a powerhouse of all things that are good for you!  Rather than using fatty cream and whole milk for a sauce . . .  I have mixed 2% (semi skimmed) milk and water, along with a stock cube and some flour. Mixing the milk, water, stock cube and flour in a blender, made for a smooth lump free mixture that only needed heating, whilst stirring to thicken up nicely.  A smidgen of cheese  is added to help create a lovely creamy sauce that is filled with plenty of flavour.

I have used only 6 TBS of cheese for the whole dish, including the topping. I used three different kinds, strong (sharp) cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss . . . all cheeses that are packed with flavour.  The more flavour a cheese has, the less of it you will have to use.  Fact.  I also made good use of some grainy Dijon mustard to impart even more flavour to the sauce along with  some black pepper.   I found that the sauce was so tasty, that I didn't need to add salt at all, bonus!

Four tablespoons of the cheese go into the sauce, and the remaining two are combined with some whole wheat bread crumbs for the topping.  Whole wheat bread crumbs give a lovely nutty crunch.  All in all this is a really fabulous dish.  I could eat a plate of this and nothing else!  I was more than pleased with the results! 

*Winter Vegetable Gratin*
Serves 6
This is a fabulous side dish, filled with lovely vegetables and a low fat, diabetic friendly, delicious cream sauce.

250g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (1/4 pound)
1/2 of a Savoy cabbage, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 - 3 fresh leeks, trimmed, well washed and cut into thick slices
3 TBS flour (use white whole wheat if you can get it)
240ml semi skimmed Milk (1 cup)
(You can use skimmed and decrease the fat even further)
240ml water (1 cup)
1 vegetable stock pot or cube
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBS whole grain mustard
2 TBS each grated Parmesan Cheese, Strong cheddar cheese and Emmenthaler cheese (swiss cheese), divided
4 TBS soft whole wheat bread crumbs

Prepare your vegetables and then bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.  Add the vegetables and then blanche for 4 to 5 minutes.  Drain well and then refresh in cold water.  Drain well again.  Set aside to finish draining.

Put the flour, milk, water, stock pot, nutmeg, and pepper into a food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Pour into the saucepan you used to cook the vegetables in.  Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat  until the mixture bubbles and begins to thicken.  Cook, stirring, for several minutes.  Mix together the cheeses. Remove 2 TBS and mix into the bread crumbs. Set aside.  Stir the remainining cheese into the sauce, whisking until it melts.  Whisk in the mustard.  Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Spray a gratin dish lightly with low fat cooking spray.  Layer in half of the drained vegetables, half the sauce (making sure you drizzle it evenly over all) the remaining vegetables and then finally the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb cheese mixture evenly over top.

Bake in the preheated oven fore 30 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.  Serve hot.

I am enjoying this challenge of healthier eating.  It doesn't have to be boring if you use a bit of ingenuity.  We had this with some steamed salmon, and Todd had some baby potatoes with his. It all went down a real treat!  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Tuna, Cheese & Corn Dinner Pie

Tuna, Cheese & Corn Dinner Pie

This is an old, old, OLD recipe that I cut out of a Reader's Digest magazine a bazillion years ago.  Its from Pillsbury flour.  There are a whole variety of different kinds you can make. This tuna version is one of our favourites.  You make a kind of a paste and spread it into a pan, fill it with your filling ingredients and then pour a mixture over top and bake. It is very similar to a quiche, but a lot easier as there is no making of pastry!  The paste bakes up to create a crust all on it's own!

As you know, each month I an the lucky recipient of a Degustabox. When I saw the contents of the January Box I immediately knew the recipe I wanted to make, highlighting one of the products of the box.  There were several reasons for this.  First we love Tuna, and secondly I thought it was the product in the box that would lend itself best to use in a recipe. Oh, I know I could have made Tuna Sandwiches, but why settle for a sandwich when you can have a dinner pie!

I love these boxes. Opening each one is tiny a bit like opening a Christmas box. Always a surprise and always filled with things I want to try. Degustabox is a monthly foodie subscription service that sends out a range of specially selected foodie products. There's always a great mix of new products that I haven't tried before, as well as plenty of treats from more established brands. Quite often you will have the opportunity to try new products before they arrive in the shops, so it can be a bit of a sneak peak! Each Degustabox costs only £12.99, delivery costs are included in the price, and there is no fixed contract involved - you can cancel at any time. I love getting these boxes!!  This box actually arrived several weeks ago, but it has taken me a few weeks to get stuck in and try the articles which arrived in the box! Here is what I received.

PULSIN Vanilla Whey Protein Powder 1 X £1.99

The NEW Vanilla Whey Protein powder is rich in essential amino acids and high in calcium which is vital for muscles and bones. With 22g of protein per 25g serving, the natural powder is vegetarian, low fat, made using hormone-free milk from UK grass-fed cows and has no added sugar. The powder can be added to a milk of choice or water to create a handy and healthy protein shake. It can also be added to other recipes such as smoothies and breakfast bowls to provide a protein boost. It is available in 25g single-serve sachets and 250g pouches. 

PULSIN Vanilla Chocolate Chip Protein Booster 1 X £1.59
Looking for a scrumptious bar with a boost of protein? Then snack a Pulsin Vanilla Choc Chip Protein Booster! With a cookie dough taste and texture, plenty of dairy free choc chips and packing 13g of plant based protein it's a healthy and filling snack.  

These Pulsin products are really great for anyone who is recovering from radio therapy or cancer treatments or an illness of any kind that needs to build up their system. Protein powder got Todd through his treatments.  I like that the powder is high protein and sugar free! Great for Diabetics I would think, such as myself.

EXPLORE CUISINE Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettucine 1 X £3.00
Explore Cuisine original range of pastas were developed by our founder who was searching for a protein rich alternative to traditional spaghetti. The result was a BEAN powered pasta that is great in taste and texture and provides our highest amount of plant-based protein and fibre per serving with the lowest level of carbohydrates. Our Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine contains 22 g of protein per 50 g serving, almost 3 x more than regular pasta. 

I havaen't actually used this yet, but I am keen to try it out. As a Diabetic I think it might be very friendly as it is low in carbs and sugars and high in protein!  Bonus!
HERSHEY'S Cookies'n'Cream 5 Pack Snack Pack 1 X £1.00
 HERSHEY'S Cookies 'n' Creme Candy bars are a unique twist on a classic flavor combination. Enjoy crunchy chocolate cookies and smooth white creme in each delicious bite.  

Unfortunately I was not able to enjoy these myself, but Todd really enjoyed.

Columbian Crunchy Chicken Bites Seasoned Corn Coating

A mild blend for light, oven-baked, crunchy bites. Use our simple blend to make delicious Colombian-inspired crunchy chicken bites in your oven. We use corn, instead of wheat, to get that extra crispiness which is loved by adults and kids alike, making it perfect for a family night in.

I haven't used this coating mix yet, but I am not unfamiliar with Latin American Kitchen.  They are my go to product when considering Mexican food. I use their tortillas all the time, as well as their sauces, etc.

CLIPPER Everyday Organic Tea   gift sample

A beautifully rich, full-bodied black tea blend from some of the world's finest organic tea gardens. All our organic products are grown in a way that preserves the natural balance of the environment and we were the first tea company to use unbleached tea bags! Clipper products are made with pure, natural ingredients and a clear conscience.

*A sample size product was included in the Degustabox. The full-sized version can be purchased at £3.69 for a box of 100 teabags. 

We don't drink black tea, (for religious reasons) so I am unable to give an opinion on this product.

A coconut marshmallow bar that is 100% melt in your mouth gooey deliciousness. These Mallow & Marsh bars are handmade in England using only natural ingredients and they are under 100 calories each. 

Okay, I confess, this was just too tempting and I did enjoy a bite of it.  YUM!

LIGHTERLIFE FAST Ready to Drink Shakes 2 X £2.49

The diet that works around you! 2 days each week replace all of your meals with 4 LighterLife Fast products (available exclusively from Superdrug and These delicious ready to drink shakes can be enjoyed as part of the Fast plan, as a quick protein hit or meal replacement.

For more information and to register for the free LighterLife Fast plan go to

I haven't used these yet either.  

 Miso Tasty Ramen Noodle Kits are perfect for tasty and easy mealtimes. A true cupboard lifesaver! Our noodles are accompanied by our signature miso soup base plus a seaweed garnish for an authentic experience. This spicy flavour provides a warming, zesty base for a quick noodle meal that famously hails from Sapporo, Japan. Simply add your own toppings! 
Made from dried, not fried noodles
100% natural - free from MSG and additives

Suitable for Vegetarians

Easy meal in 10 minutes

Serves 1-2 

I love Miso Soup and Ramen Noodles.  So this was a no-brainer love, love product!

ROBINSONS Fruit Cordial 1 X £2.49
 Robinsons most sophisticated squash yet. New, Robinsons Fruit Cordials is a sophisticated twist to squash with combinations of real fruit and botanical flavours. Contained in a glass bottle, Fruit Cordial is a new more concentrated way to bring a burst of Robinsons' flavour to the dinner table.
*One of three flavours was included in each Degustabox.

I actually think this was my favourite thing in the box. I haven't been able to find it in the shops yet, but as soon as I can, I am buying it. I got the Raspberry, Rhubarb and Orange Blossom one and it is fabulously tasty!

chipotle mayo topping  1 X £1.80

Creamy, hot & smoky. The Chipotle Mayo Topping makes a great addition to any of our Latin American Kitchen range. 

Once again, no stranger to their delicious line of products.


Jordans Juicy Red Berries Frusli Bar: handfuls of zingy cranberries and raisins, all mixed up with British wholegrain oaty awesomeness. 

These were too high in carbs and sugars for me, but Todd enjoyed them very much.

MAHTAY YERBA MATE Sparkling Tea 1 X £1.49

Mahtay is a lightly sparkling drink that was designed with today's busy, health-conscious lifestyle in mind. It blends the ancient energy-giving properties of South American yerba mate with coconut water and açaí berries to deliver refreshing taste, natural energy and supportive health benefits in every drop. Just 45 calories per 300ml bottle. 

I haven't used this yet, but it sounds very tasty and I love that it is low in calories.

WILD PLANET Albacore Wild Tuna Steaks 1 X £3.49
Ranked #1 in the US by Greenpeace for sustainability, pole and line caught Wild Planet Albacore Wild Tuna - No Salt Added is firm in texture with a rich, clean taste. Remarkably delicious any way you enjoy tuna – in a classic sandwich, atop a salad, mixed into your favourite recipe. Our tuna is hand cut and hand packed -- there is NO added water, broth, oil or fillers. Cooked just once to retain all of the natural juices, Wild Planet tuna is rich in Omega 3 -- simply mix the juices back into the tuna for added flavour and nutrition. A Wild Planet tuna sandwich just may be the best you've ever tasted!  

The Tuna was the product I chose to highlight with a recipe. No surprise there because as a rule I only use albacore tuna in this house!

I may have told you this before but I was shopping in the grocery store one day when I was a very young bride and I was buying canned tuna, and an old Italian Woman stopped me and told me to never buy anything but Albacore tuna, that it was the best.  She actually insinuated that other tunas were garbage in comparison (her words, not mine.)  In any case, I have only ever bought Albacore tuna when I can get it since then. Albacore tuna is a larger fish with a lighter colored flesh, a firmer texture, and a milder flavor than the solid or chunk light fish varieties.  Simply put. I like it best. 

It IS the best.  Oh, I know it is a bit expensive, but what good fish isn't?  A tin of this at £3.49 will feed a family of six when mixed into a casserole, and that is a lot less than steak or chicken.  So as far as I am concerned, its good value for money. 

Aside from making very delicious sandwiches, tuna is a wonderful main meal ingredient, especially when baked into a tasty quiche/pie such as this one! 

It goes together quickly and its really delicious.  I suppose you could have it with chips on the side, but we had it with a delicious salad, made from mixed baby greens and chunks of steamed beetroot! It makes a perfect mid-week supper dish! 

*Tuna, Cheese & Corn Dinner Pie*
Serves 6
A delicious dinner pie that makes its own crust! Quick and easy to make.  All you need is a salad on the side. 

For the crust:
70g plain flour (1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
55g of white vegetable fat (1/4 cup)
60g sour cream (1/4 cup)
1 medium free range egg, lightly beaten
For the filling:
1 (142g) tin of solid albacore tuna, drained and flaked (6 1/2 ounces)
75g frozen sweetcorn, thawed (1/2 cuup
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
120g grated strong cheddar cheese (1 cup, sharp)
1 medium free range egg, beaten
1 TBS flour
180ml milk (3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
salt and black pepper to taste  

Preheat the oven to 225*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. Butter and lightly flour the bottom and sides of a 9 inch metal or a 10 inch glass pie dish.  Set aside. 

Put all of the ingredients for the crust into a small blender, food processor and blitz to combine well. Spread this batter thinly on the bottom of the dish and thickly up the sides to within 1/4 inch of the rim. In the following order layer, tuna, sweetcorn,onion,  and cheese into the crust.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over top. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and the filling is set.  Serve cut into wedges. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley flakes to serve if desired.  

Every box does include an information card, along with some other bits, recipes, etc. from the brands included.  I find it really handy to have, to know about the products a bit more and to also know how much the products would cost if I went on to buy them, and also for ideas on how to use some of them.

So, that was the January  Degustabox - a nice selection of products as always. We loved it. The price of each Degustabox is £12.99 (including delivery). To order your box, visit  Many thanks to Degustabox UK for sending me this box. I have to say I really look forward to getting my box each month. There are always lots of things in it to enjoy and new products to try out. I highly recommend. You can also tailor the boxes to your own likes and dislikes by filling in your own Taste Profile.  Do you like the sound of the Degustabox October 2017 box? Why not sign up now! I find them to be really good value for money spent and I really enjoy trying out new products that I have not tried before.  

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Note - Although I was sent a box free of charge any and all opinions are my own.
Bon appetit! 
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Marie Rayner
Tomato & Rice Soup

Tomato & Rice Soup

I think if I were to have to pick a favourite kind of soup for myself out of all the soups, tomato soup would be right up there near the top.  I adore soup, and I especially like homemade soups.  As I have told you in the past my mother made really good soups from scratch, but one kind she never did make from scratch was Tomato Soup.  We always had tinned tomato soup, and I was always very happy with that.  I still am, having a particular liking for the Heinz brand of tomato soup.  I don't think it ever disappoints.  I am trying harder though, these days, to cook everything that I can from scratch and that included Tomato Soup.   This Tomato & Rice Soup is a particularly nice one!

It is simple, using nothing at all out of the ordinary, in fact I am guessing that you would have everything in the house right now to make it.  Good tinned plum tomatoes.  I like Cirio myself.  In a soup where the tomato is the star, you want really good ones and I have never made any secret for my love of Cirio Tinned tomatoes.  They are . . .  simply put . . .  the BEST.  You can almost taste the Italian sunshine on them . . .

So . . .  good tinned plum tomatoes in tomato juice  . . .  along with some vegetables.  Carrots, onions, celery  . . .  nothing too fancy . . .  a clove of garlic . . . 

These are sauteed in a bit of butter and olive oil until golden.  I then stir in a bit of whole wheat flour and leftover cooked brown rice  . . . I cook that until the rice just begins to brown and then I add the tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon, into nice chunks. 

A bit of chicken stock and some dried herbs . . .  basil and oregano . . .  salt and black pepper, and my secret ingredient, a splash of hot sauce. Not a lot just a splash.  It then gets simmered, covered  . . . for about half an hour.

You could add a handful or two of baby spinach leaves.  Its very good with those as well, but today I did not have any to add.  Frozen spinach would also work.

At the end of that time you simply stir in a bit of light cream. I tend to use skimmed evaporated milk because it is lower in calories and fat and to be honest you can't really tell the difference.  All in all this is a lovely soup. Toothsome, wholesome, and quite quite delicious!

*Tomato & Rice Soup*
Serves 4 - 6
(depending on appetites)

Wholesome, delicious and very simple to make! 

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, plus leaves, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
2 TBS whole wheat flour
245g cooked brown rice (1 1/2 cups)
2 (400g) tins whole plum tomatoes in tomato juice, undrained (28 ounces)
1 TBS soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp each oregano and basil flakes
480ml chicken stock (2 cups)
240ml light cream (1 cup)
(I use low fat evaporated milk)
salt and black pepper to taste
a splash hot sauce if desired

Heat the butter and the oil in a large saucepan until the butter begins to foam.  Add the celery, onion, carrot and garlic.  Saute, stirring occasionally over medium low heat until the onion is golden.  Stir in the flour and rice, breaking up the rice.  Continue to saute until the rice begins to brown a bit.  Add the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of a spoon, the chicken stock, brown sugar, oregano and basil and a splash of hot sauce if using.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a very slow simmer.  Cover and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with some salt and black pepper.  Stir in the cream and heat through without boiling.  Serve immediately.

I of course enjoy mine with crackers.  Todd favours a roll.  I tried to tempt him with some hot buttered toast instead today, but he wasn't having it.  It was a roll all the way.  I had some nice big whole wheat rolls and he thoroughly enjoyed. I think you will too!  This is very diabetic friendly with the use of the brown rice and whole wheat flour, and the extra protein they provide.  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Banana, Rum, Date and Walnut Tea Loaf

Banana, Rum, Date and Walnut Tea Loaf

What would we do without over-ripe bananas to use?  I don't know.  I have a hard time keeping them in the house long enough for them to get ripe enough to bake with. I always have to tuck a few aside and hide them from Todd so he doesn't eat them up!  He is also likely to throw them away if he thinks they are too ripe.  I keep telling him that is when they are the best for baking, but if I am not quick enough, he tosses them without thinking.  He does enjoy the fruits of my labours however, so maybe with time, he will be coming to me with them saying what will you bake for me!  Hope springs eternal! 

The more freckled the banana the better, but I would say not much less than this, and I have been known to use bananas that are almost black. If you can't find a use for them right away, then peel and pop into a freezer container and freeze.  Then you will have them to hand when you CAN use them at a later date! YUM!

This is a lovely Tea Loaf, perfect for using up a few overripe bananas, but that's not all it has going for it.  It is moist and rich and very interestingly tasty with a few other bits that add a great deal of interest, flavour and texture to it.  I have adapted the recipe from the Carnation Recipe page with a few changes from the original as you will note.

I blitz the bananas in my small food processor attachment for my stick blender, along with a TBS of dark rum. You don't need to buy a big bottle of rum for this. I always keep small sample bottles of alcohol in the cupboard just for things like this.  Also you could use a tsp of rum flavouring added with water to make up a TBS if you wanted to. It would work perfectly.

Aside from that it is filled with lovely pieces of sticky dates, which go very well with the banana and the rum for that matter  . . . you add some lemon zest and juice to the dates, along with some bicarbonate of soda and boiling water. It foams.  Soda counters out any tannic acidity from the dates and also evens out their colour.  I looked it up because I have an inquiring mind and wanted to know why we always seem to be adding soda to dates  . . . with boiling water. Perhaps it even helps soften them a bit so they mix in better.

In any case the loaf is nicely studded with them, and the toasted walnut pieces. You don't have to toast the walnuts first, but I always do.  They just taste nuttier and nicer if they are toasted first!

I always let it sit and ripen overnight before I cut it. Sure you can eat it right away, but it cuts nicer if it has been allowed to get really cold and set overnight. I am not sure why this happens, but it does.  When you try to cut tea loaves not too long after baking they always seem to crumble.  Letting them age is best.

The Canadian in me loves them sliced thinly and spread with softened butter.  I can't seem to help myself.  Sure it is great without it, but it is even better with butter!  Say that really fast three times, better with butter, better with butter, better with butter!  Most things like this are. Mmmm . . .

*Banana, Rum, Date & Walnut Tea Loaf*
Makes 1 large loaf
(9 by 5-inch loaf tin)

Moist and delicious and filled to the brim with sticky dates, crunchy walnuts and rummy bananas! Beautiful cut into thin slices and spread with softened butter. 

150g stoned dates, chopped (1 cup)
2 TBS boiling water
the finely grated zest and juice of one lemon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 medium very ripe bananas
1 TBS dark rum
85g baking spread (6 1/2 TBS, something like country crock will do)
55g dark soft brown sugar (1/4 cup packed)
170g Condensed milk (1 cup plus 1 1/2 TBS) 
(also known as Sweetened Condensed)
2 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
225g self raising flour (1 1/2 cups plus 2 1/2 TBS)
1 tsp baking powder
115g toasted walnut pieces (1 cup)

Preheat the oven to 170*C/325*F/gas mark 3. Butter a 9 by 5 inch baking tin and line with baking paper. 

Place the dates into a bowl along with the boiling water, lemon zest, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda.  Stir and then set aside to cool completely.

Peel the bananas and put into a mini processor with the rum.  Blitz until smooth.  Stir this mixture into the date mixture.

Cream together the baking spread, brown sugar and condensed milk until smoothly combined.  Gradually mix in the eggs and then the date mixture.  Sift together the flour and baking powder. Stir into the creamed mixture until well combined and there are no dry streaks of flour.  Stir in the walnuts.  Pour into the prepared baking tin. Smoothing over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, until risen, set and golden brown.  A toothpick inserted in the centre should come out clean.  Let sit in the tin for 15 minutes before lifting out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Cut into slices to serve with some softened butter.  Store any leftovers tightly wrapped.

This was a really great way to use up the remainder of my condensed milk from yesterday.  I enjoyed  a thin slice with some lemon and rose tea. Oh boy but it was a pleasant way to spend some of my Saturday afternoon!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner

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