Last banana standing

(Flourless banana cake : banana custard, coconut ice-cream, white chocolate snow)

The singular ripe banana (Bananais Deliciousness) is a welcomed species in this household. I peek at it through a crack in the cupboard door; David Attenborough in an apron, minus his good intentions. Rather than observe undisturbed, this soft, spotty and fragrant beast, I want to eat it. It’s intense ripeness conveys a sense of urgency. Quick, how shall we use it, before the flies muzzle down on it. Before the singular hungry male of this household descends on it like the mid-morning snack that it appears to be.

I had what was possibly my last shift at my current place of work, last night. Thinking back now, about the crazy people I will miss working with, I also realise that it’s my time to go. This banana has to go. She is feeling happy, but frayed. She gave it her all, and she still remembers the times she cried on her way home because of how unfamiliar and impossible everything seemed. How the weariness set like eggwhites into grey under her eyes. But those were only tiny moments. A mere iritation in the oyster that grew into a pearl of an experience.

What will I miss? The head chef saying, “I’ve got a f*n sick idea” which can mean anything from garlic flavoured paper and the most beautiful ode to tomatoes on a plate, to “blue swimmer crab consomme” fashioned from Gatorade and a single raw scallop (to keep the waiters on their toes). I will miss the French manager with his impenetrable accent. The Italian waiter who tells us to “Chill-ax, man, just chillax!”

I could go on about what I will miss about everyone inbetween, but they probably won’t mean anything to most people reading this. Instead, I dedicate this joyfully messy impromptu piece of sunshine on a plate to all the good times I’ve had at my old job. Looking at it makes me smile, with arms wide open.

Oh, and the pastry chef. God yes, I will miss the pastry chef. Thank you, Katrina.

Flourless Banana Cake :
(serves 6; from Wild Weed Pie by Janni Kyritsis)

250g whole almonds, blanched and skinned
2 eggs
125g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons bitter almonds (optional)
250g bananas, peeled
2 teaspoons strained lemon juice
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1 tablespoon icing sugar, to serve
1 cup 45%-fat cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 150’C. Toast skinned almonds on a baking tray in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden and leave aside to cool. Leave the oven on at 150’C.

Butter a 22cm fluted flan tin (with removable base) and line with baking paper; wetting the baking paper and squeezing it well to remove the moisture will make it more pliable, so that it fits the fluted tin better. Grease the paper with more butter.

Beat the eggs with the sugar for about 10 minutes, or until mixture falling from the beaters forms a ribbon-like pattern on top of the mixture for a few seconds. Meanwhile, grind the almonds, baking powder and bitter almonds (if using) to a fine meal in a food processor (do not over-grind or they will become moist and sticky). Dust the tin with about 2 tablespoons of the almond meal then fold the remaining almond meal into the egg mixture. Puree the bananas with the lemon juice and fold immediately into the cake mixture – bananas must be pureed at the last minute to prevent them going black. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and scatter the surface with flaked almonds. Bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven and leave to cool in tin.

When cool, sift over icing sugar, cut into slices and serve immediately with a dollop of thick cream on the side.

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