Last Sunday was my husband’s birthday. I think he enjoyed it, but I left at 530AM that day for a quick work trip to Harare, Zimbabwe. So I missed most of it. Today I am making an impromptu delayed birthday cake: banana bread with butterscotch chips. The oven was on for a fish pie, for potluck Sunday lunch with our Canadian neighbours, and we had some very brown bananas, so hey presto! Bonus cake! Electricity is expensive here, so if the oven is on, we try to double up: granola while making pizza, focaccia while making cake, or here, banana bread while making fish pie.
Street corner, Harare. I was watching the US elections from Zimbabwe, since there was CNN and Sky News in the hotel room. In Accra we don’t have the TV connected to the aerials, and just get news online – hardly ever video, as bandwidth is slow and too expensive, so live TV in the evenings was a bit of a luxury, though the news was surprising. Of course, one must be politically correct when asked what one thinks. Well, I said, at least they have democratic elections in the US. That is not the case in some countries.
Driving to the airport Thursday, the taxi driver said “Mugabe is 92, but he is already endorsed to run for president [of Zimbabwe] in 2018. He will die in power.” Zimbabwe is also in an ongoing currency crisis: government employees I met has been paid two weeks ago, but could not get the actual money paid out. The USD is used as the official currency in Zimbabwe, along with rand and euros, but the banks and ATMs do not have much cash. What cash they have is rationed. See BBC article from this week: Why Zimbabweans are spending the night outside banks. My driver said “No, only 50 USD withdrawal a day, if you are lucky. We cannot get bigger bills than 50 USD, the bigger bills have all vanished. People are hoarding them. How are we supposed to pay for fuel, schools, food?”
The people I met were so nice, though. Very friendly and talkative, and forgiving of my attempts to use Shona phrases and pronounce their names correctly. Nditenda! (thank you). We would laugh over lunch, especially when they saw me not having meat. I explained that while I enjoy meat, I generally do not eat it every day, and since I had delicious Zimbabwean beef and sadza (maize porridge) the day before, I’d skip meat for a few days after that, but would look for lentils, cowpeas, sugar beans. “No, no!” my tablemates said, indicating that a meal without meat would not be complete. Indeed, even the hotel breakfast buffet had several meat options.
Coming to Harare, I brought 4 kilos of wedding invitations over for a friend — might as well take advantage of two checked bags, even in economy! The groom to be has paid 15,000 USD in bride price, still used in many countries here. Anyway, I still laugh about the time a colleague asked me to bring a small package from Windhoek, and it was actually 4.5 kilos of Namibian dates…. So now I budget some extra space when travelling. No time for shopping in Harare, but while in transit in Johannesburg I found coffee, roiboos tea, rooibos compote, cooking sauces, chocolate ($17 USD for a bag of Reese’s Pieces….!), Pimm’s, biltong and relish, so I was happy.)
Now, back to the butterscotch banana bread…..
Butterscotch banana bread
This is based on http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/10/butterscotch-banana-bread-recipe.html which looks wonderful, but with less sugar, and some tweaks as we have small eggs and smaller but very sweet bananas here. As you see, they fit in the palm of my hand.
3 medium bananas, ripe and mashed (about 230 grammes peeled)
2 small eggs (108 grammes with shells)
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
150 grammes all purpose white wheat flour
50 grammes all purpose white wheat flour
3/4 cups butterscotch chips
Heat oven to 200C. Mash your bananas. I weigh the eggs as they vary in size here, a medium egg would be 60-70 grammes. Mix mashed bananas, eggs, oil, sugar and butterscotch chips. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, baking powder and flour. Stir. Pour batter into parchment lined loaf tin, and bake for 50 minutes or so, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
Notes: Probably better to bake this at 180C, but this was co-baked with a fish pie that needed 200C. We had four power cuts while this was in the oven, so I am estimating the time. It’s still quite sweet so next time I’d reduce sugar or butterscotch chips further.
The butterscotch chips are from a quick trip to New York this summer – hand luggage only, 8 kilos. When JFK security went through my bag, it was a jumble of laundry, computer gear and cables, and exotic food: Old Bay seasoning, celery salt, hazelnut flavoured coffee, harissa, taco seasoning, chow mein mix, ranch dressing powder, scone mix and butterscotch baking chips….. the latter now finally being used.
Now back from lunch with the Canadians and lengthy post-election discussions. There are loud shouts from the neighbours, Egypt are playing Ghana in a World Cup qualifier and Egypt are winning.