Top Bananas! Mumsnet’s family recipe book review

You can imagine my delight at being asked by Mumsnet to review their cookbook, Top Bananas! Here goes…

The recipes in Top Bananas! are reassuringly based on the most popular tried and tested recipes loaded on to Mumsnet by parents themselves, so it is full of humour and understanding about what it is to be a time-strapped parent. I like the balance of healthy, quickish and easy to follow veggie, meat and fish recipes and appealing, novel ideas for snacks, baking and party food. It is handily divided in to chapters, with lots of tips and encouragement with getting kids to EAT (and cook) plus attractive photos (very important!). There are several recipes that can be used as a base and experimented with, which excites me a lot.

We have had a busy week trying out some of the recipes. I made the delicious cranberry granola and felt very snazzy slapping a homemade sticker on the jar.

Mumsnet granola

The naturally sweet butternut and red onion soup was another hit with my normally anti-soup kids. My partner and I loved the (one-pan!) sophisticated sea bass – it’s so simple and we will be cooking it for guests.

Mumsnet sophisticated sea bass

Me and the boys made the beautifully moist chocolate bribe biscuits together and devoured them in an afternoon. They loved having banana pancakes for breakfast. We liked the tuna melt parcels (super easy) and I am hoping my kids will try the great balls of broccoli second time round (they were tasty and I had never thought of grating broccoli). It’s so nice to have new ideas.

Mumsnet banana pancakes

So far my absolute favourite recipe has to be the malt loaf. It was so simple to make (each ingredient is a teacup’s worth) and is now a household staple.

Mumsnet malt loaf

Other stand-out recipes I will be trying are kedgeree (a clever way to introduce the kids to spices), golden wonder (a sort of courgette tortilla oven-baked for ease), kid-friendly potato and chickpea curry, salmon espanol, Yorkshire towers, 60-second cheesecake (genius!), lazy days couscous, marmite swirls, ice-cream-cone cakes (excellent idea), chocolate, almond and chestnut cake (yum) and last but not least the no-knead soda bread (I have an aversion to kneading). Were I a meat eater we would definitely be trying some of the one-pot meat dishes and array of chicken recipes.

Thank you Mumsnet parents – your cookbook is packed with interesting, family-friendly recipes, wittily written by those who understand what it is to cook dinner while your kids are hungry and running riot. We will come back to you time and time again.

Here is the Top Bananas! link http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1408850494/ref%3Das_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=1408850494&linkCode=as2&tag=mumsnet

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5 minute chocolate cake in a cup

5 minute chocolate cake cup microwave

Yes, you can make chocolate cake in 5 minutes in a cup! I tried it three times in a row and came up with this recipe. Simply put the ingredients in a cup, stir, top with a big dollop of nutella and pop in the microwave for around 90 seconds. Out comes an ACTUAL cake which you can eat straight from the cup or spoon in to a bowl with cream.

5 minute chocolate cake cup microwave

As long as you always have a few basic ingredients in the cupboard you can whip this up whenever you like! Awesome.

5 minute chocolate cake in a cup

35g plain flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp veg/sunflower oil

3 tbsp milk

1/3 tsp baking powder

Big dollop of nutella

Put everything apart from the nutella in a cup and stir it really well. Top with a big dollop of nutella and put in the microwave on full power for 90 seconds (you may want to experiment with your microwave and try 60 seconds and then 10 seconds until it is moist but set like a cake). Eat!

Sicilian sardine pasta – bursting with flavour

Sicily is a place that gets me all excited because, as an island, there are many cultural influences on the food. Not least North African. This means interesting little dishes like this one have evolved, that combine typical Italian food such as pasta with North African staples such as raisins and flaked almonds.

easy quick sicilian sardine pasta

This seriously tasty dish contains a wealth of flavours and textures, only takes 25 mins to make and uses tinned sardines. In my head I imagine every Sicilian grandma has a version of this dish and it is the cause of many an argument. Anyway it will be interesting to see what my Italian friend Gio (and son of a Sicilian woman) makes of it! Recipe courtesy of Jane Baxter in Guardian Cook.

One final note – the recipe contains anchovies, which are one of my *exciting ingredients*. They are brilliant used as seasoning for many pasta dishes and tomato/cream sauces – they just melt in to the heat and add a salty richness. They definitely should not just be considered hairy little fish.

Sicilian sardine pasta – serves 4

2 tbsp raisins/sultanas
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes/crushed chillies
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 anchovy fillets (from a tin)
2 x 120g tins of sardines in olive oil
3 tbsp water
400g spaghetti
2 tbsp toasted almonds/pinenuts (you can buy them toasted or do this in a hot, dry pan for a couple of mins – just keep turning so they don’t burn)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl cover the sultanas/raisins with boiling water and set aside.

In a large pan, cook the red onion, chilli and fennel seeds in the olive oil over a medium heat for approx 10 mins. Add the garlic and cook gently for another 5 mins. Tip in the anchovy fillets and stir well until they have ‘melted’.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per the pack instructions.

Drain the tinned sardines, roughly chop and add to the onion mixture with 3 tbsp water. Put back on the heat for a few mins and stir until all warmed through. Add the (drained) sultanas/raisins, almonds/pinenuts and the parsley. Add the pasta, mix well and season. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a fresh sprig of parsley.

Recipe by Jane Baxter in Guardian Cook