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The Easiest Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

The Easiest Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Easie

I’m not feeling imaginative in the cooking and baking departments these days. Maybe it’s the hungry gap, maybe I’m just sick of thinking up meals three times a day. Whatever it is, these simple banana chocolate chip muffins are quick to make and satisfying to a horde of kindergarteners despite the lack of sugar (choc chips aside, obviously). The browner the bananas, the sweeter the muffins, so leave them as long as you can.

Super easy banana chocolate chip muffins
Makes 12 muffins

  • 4 large ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan with spray oil or muffin cups.

Mix the bananas and other wet ingredients until the mixture is mostly smooth and only slightly chunky.

Add dry ingredients on top, gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Fold in chocolate chips. Fill prepared tin with the mixture.

Bake at 350º for 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

Adapted from mama papa bubba.

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Lamb balti burgers

Lamb balti burgers

balti lamb burger

Our first flat in London was in Spitalfields, a short walk from Brick Lane.

Ten years ago, Brick Lane was the land of arty hipsters, a few of the last fabric scrap merchants, endless Boxfresh sample sale pop-ups, old train bridges, smelly shops under the train bridges,  authentic bagels and salt beef, and many, many Indian restaurants.

Each restaurant would send a man or two outside to convince you the best curry in London was to be had inside this particular place (or the cheapest pint of Cobra, depending on how much of a drunkard you looked I suppose). Multiply this by 20 restaurants in a three-block stretch, and you can see why some people found this overwhelming. Personally, after spending time in Jamaica, I just found it kind of sweet. I mean, no one is locking your luggage in the trunk of their car, what’s there to complain about?

So once we settled into our flat, my husband and I decided to just say yes to the first tout who approached us and see how the food was. Lo and behold, a nice young man in a purple dress shirt came up to us about a block away from Brick Lane. Twenty seconds into his schpiel we said sure, and he looked like he wasn’t sure what to do next. I’m not sure how many people actually agreed to come along. And as he led us past Brick Lane, I admit I had a moment of doubt – did we just agree to be stripped of all our belongings in the narrow streets back here?

But no, he led us to the door of Cafe Raj, which would be our curry place of choice for the next four years, and where we headed every Friday after work. We became such regulars that the staff started inviting us to weddings, discussing immigration paperwork, and offering up sublets of various flats around East London.

So, when I made these lamb burgers a few years later, then living in West London, I had a moment of missing my bonkers Spitalfields neighbourhood. And if you happen to be in London, I wouldn’t bother checking out our old local, as it were, as it’s changed hands now – but for an incredible curry head to Tayyabs, also in East London, down in Whitechapel.

I’ve suggested here to use a curry sauce from delicious magazine, and it’s well worth having in your freezer. It will have much less sodium than any jarred version, and taste much fresher. One batch will make several meals.

Balti lamb burgers with quick cucumber raita

Makes about 5 burgers

For the burgers

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 quantity basic curry sauce, defrosted

1 tsp garam masala (a balti one if you can find it)

500g good quality lamb mince

Canola or groundnut oil

For the cucumber raita

(These quantities are approximate, taste as you go)

plain Greek yoghurt

cumin seeds

cucumber

Pita breads and halved cherry tomatoes to serve

1. Add the onions, garlic, curry sauce and garam masala balti into a bowl and mix it with your hands until it’s well combined. Form into 5 burgers and leave on a plate to settle down. Put a grill pan on high heat, or alternatively heat up the barbecue.

2. Chop the cucumber into small chunks and add to the plain yoghurt in another bowl. Dry fry the cumin seeds until they smell fragrant, tossing them often. Add cumin seeds to the yoghurt and cucumber.

3. Pour some groundnut oil into your palm and massage the burgers gently. Brush them if you’re squeamish about this kind of thing. Put them on the grill pan and leave them alone for a good 4 minutes. Flip once, leave them for another 3-4 minutes. Cooking time depends on the thickness of your burgers, so adjust as necessary.

4. Take the burgers off the heat and let them rest for a couple minutes, and use the flaming hot grill pan to heat up the pitta breads, push them down on the pan.

Serve with a pita per burger, with cherry tomatoes and the cucumber raita alongside.

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On Treehouse: Rice cooker apple oatmeal

On Treehouse: Rice cooker apple oatmeal

rice cooker apple oatmeal titled

I love oatmeal from the rice cooker. It is so easy, and doesn’t involve soaking the pot where I burnt a third of the porridge either. The other week I had the brainwave to dump apple chunks in with the oats and the water while it’s cooking. Even more brilliant!

The full instructions are over on Treehouse Parents.

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Pan-fried tofu noodle bowls

Pan-fried tofu noodle bowls

pan-fried tofu noodle bowl

I made this tofu noodle bowl for lunch in about 20 minutes, and then the day after that. And then again. It was one of those times you throw together three half-remembered recipes for things, none of which you look up and check, and it actually turns out well. The crispness of the tofu is a pleasant contrast to the pile of noodles lurking under those spinach leaves. I used those baby spinach leaves that come in a mammoth plastic container – they wilt nicely if you sandwich them between hot noodles and hot tofu. Enjoy!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:1] 

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How to make really good bread

How to make really good bread

bread

Master a good loaf of bread, and you will never have to bring anything complicated to a pot luck again. I have people over for stew lovingly simmered for hours, a gorgeous roast chicken, homemade ice cream – it’s the bread they reach for, groaning with pleasure, again and again. Arrive at someone’s house, unwrapping a fresh loaf from a tea towel and they will be a puddle at your feet.

It’s seems crazy, once you get the hang of it, because it’s so easy. How can something so simple give people such base pleasure? I swear, learn to make a good loaf and make some homemade butter and your friends will do anything for you. As an added benefit, I find homemade bread much easier to digest compared to a grocery store loaf. I won’t suggest you read the ingredients on one of those loaves, it will make you sad.

I would love to tell you exactly how to make a good loaf, but I can’t. It takes practice. Tasty practice, thankfully. I’ve been working on my technique for years. These days, I bake two loaves every 10 days or so, freezing one loaf straight away. I bake our everyday loaves in loaf tins, but for dinner parties and potlucks I make round loaves on baking sheets. Looks much more picturesque, but requires absolutely no extra work on my part.

Finally, I know the imprecise nature of bread making instructions make beginners crazy, but there are so many variables that giving specific rising times just isn’t practical. However, I will say this: slightly underproofing is better than overproofing. Speaking from experience. Keep your yeast in the fridge, even if it’s dried, and buy local flour if you can.

If you live in Vancouver, I highly recommend taking Florin Moldovan’s breadmaking class (you can read about my experience here). If you’re in the UK, I hear great things about the Bertinet Cookery School’s breadmaking courses.

Here is my two loaf recipe, let me know how you get on.

Basic 60% white 40% wheat bread with chia seeds
makes two loaves

725ml lukewarm water

11g dry active yeast

2 tbsp honey

3 tbsp chia seeds

22g fine sea salt

900g white all-purpose flour (if in UK, use bread flour)

200g whole wheat flour

1. In a stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, combine water, yeast and honey, and leave to sit for 10 minutes.

2. Add flours on top of water, followed by the salt.
– If using a stand mixer: mix with dough hook until mixture comes together as dough ball, this will take about 2-3 minutes.

– If mixing by hand: using the in-bowl kneading technique until dough comes together, and stops sticking to your hands, this will take about 4-6 minutes. Don’t give up!

3. Cover bowl with cling film and leave until dough doubles in bulk. For me, that’s about 1 hour in the summer, up to 2 hours in the winter when it’s cold.

4. Sprinkle flour on a clean counter, and turn out the dough, scraping out the bits with your fingers. Start oven preheating to 400º.

5. Spread out the dough gently with your hands to distribute the air bubbles. Shape it into a rough rectangle, with the long side facing you. You’re going to fold it in three as if you were folding a letter to fit in an envelope. Fold in one short side and press down the edges to meld it into the dough, you may have to pinch it a bit to make sure it attaches to the dough you’re folding it over. Repeat. Spread out the dough again gently, and repeat. Leave to rest covered by a towel for about half an hour.

6. Split the dough in half, and then shape into loaves. Tuck into oiled loaf pans.

This Kitchn video demonstrates both the letter fold and the loaf shaping. Personally I pinch the edges after my letter folds as well as the shaping, but up to you.

7. Cover loaf pans with tea towel and leave for about half an hour.

8. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tops are brown and sound hollow when tapped. Let cool 5 minutes in their tins, then turn out onto cooling rack.

Note: to shape dough into more artisan round domes, follow the recipe until step 6. Instead of shaping into loaves after the letter fold, you’re going to make a round and place it on an oiled cookie sheet. This Kitchn video demonstrates the shaping step. Continue as above.

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