The situation at the Italian shoe box has become increasingly strange. The dog that once used to greet me by firmly nudging his nose into my leg, slobbering on me and then eventually settling into a neck-lock in one of my arms, now gets about in a stylish new cone. He ain’t nothing but a cone dog … sooking all the time plays in my head as dog mopes about, banging his newly-acquired plastic headpiece into walls, doors, the couch, my leg.
A few weeks ago there was no hot water in the shoe box for several days. A severe storm had hit Melbourne. The rains came down with all the force they could muster; the skies ominous with ghoulish grey clouds, spitting out flashes of lightning. And as the storm passed, so too did every last drop of hot water from the apartment. There was confusion. Pipes were checked, the water tank glanced over, questions asked … ‘did you leave a tap running?’, ‘how much hot water did you use last?’ and so on. Neither I nor the Italian could claim to have washed dishes for an hour straight. We looked at each other. We looked at dog. There was no explanation for the endless freezing water coming from the hot water tap. The next day was bitterly cold (OK, not bitterly, but the temperature was a fresh 16 after an evening of 30 degrees) and washing myself at 7 a.m. required courage and a forza that was beyond what I was capable of at that hour. ‘The landlord will call at 5’, I was told. But no, landlord never called, and so another night of cold water misery was upon us.
The severe weather change, an almost daily occurrence in the lovely city of Melbourne, had rendered the three bananas in the fruit bowl a deep brown in colour. How sad they had looked. Between cone dog and the water situation, I needed to do something nice in order to feel a little better about my abode. It was time to bake, and the sad bananas were to be the victims. A not-quite-cake, not-quite-bread type of doughy banana sponge resulted.
While banana cake bread was enjoyed that evening, the next day and the day after that, nothing brought as much pleasure as discovering that behind the coffee machine was a sneaky little switch on the wall; a clear label above it with the words that will haunt me forever: ‘HOT WATER’.
¾ cup plain flour
¾ cup wholemeal flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 level teaspoon salt
3 very ripe bananas
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup caster sugar
125 g unsalted butter
100 ml milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Mascarpone cheese, to serve
Honey, to serve
Preheat your oven to 180°C and line a greased cake tin with baking paper. Brush the paper with a little butter to prevent the cake from sticking.
Whisk the flours, baking powder, bicarb and salt together in a bowl until combined. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas until they form a smooth puree. Add the sugars and stir, then add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Next add the butter and stir or beat until the batter is creamy. Pour in the milk and vanilla, gently mixing until just combined.
Tip the flour mixture into the batter and again, gently mix until just combined. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean.
When the cake bread is still warm, particularly in the event of a hot-water shortage, slice and serve with a spoonful of mascarpone and a drizzle of honey on top. I promise that the first bite will be a moment of pure joy!