Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Maca, Blueberry & Banana Pancakes with Clean Salted Caramel Sauce

   Bananas. I have always hated them and so I've always avoided them and anything banana-flavoured. They are foul.
   Of course, whenever I meet my bestie for lunch at the local coffee shop - a blue moon activity - I will admit to having a slice of the banana chocolate cake (and I will also admit that, the last time I went, the words 'make it a big piece' did pass my lips). It is divine. I would never have touched it usually, but there was little other cake there, I rarely eat cake anyway, and Lucy assured me that it was worth it. She was right. And while I did taste the banana, it was subtle enough. It has now become my coffee shop staple.
   It also led me to brave a few other banana-flavoured things, but, for the most part, I prefer it in flapjack form. Both Graze's banana protein bite and Trek's Banana protein flapjacks are devoured really rather quickly.
   But even so, it's taken me a very long while to dare brave an actual banana.

   I've been trying to eat more carbs - or more in general, really - and figured that my post-workout BEAR yoyo wasn't really cutting it, and as everyone seems to have bananas, I thought I'd suck it up and trust that I'd develop a taste for it. I'm not a believer at all in acquired tastes for pointless things. I don't drink alcohol because I hate the smell, the taste and the feeling. I benefit nothing, so there's no point in drinking to acquire the taste just for the purpose of being able to drink more of it. No thanks. The same goes with coffee. Matcha, so far, has been my only exception and I flipping love the stuff now and have drank at least one generous cup a day for the past three years. How do I know it's been that long? Because Seeg has bought me increasingly expensive matcha for the past few Christmasses.
   But it looks like bananas have joined it. And thanks to the cake and flapjacks, I can stomach the taste. But I'd forgotten about the texture. That's where the challenge lies. That, and storing them.

   But it turns out, there's a dead simple way for storing bananas so that they keep longer and don't turn to mush after a few days. And that doesn't involve buying green bananas.
   First of all, I always store fruit and vegetables in the fridge. It keeps so much longer that way, and also means I can buy the short-dated fruit that others would turn their noses up at (and can often be cheaper because of it). But when it comes to bananas, there is another trick. Storing them in the fridge increased their shelf life by about two days, but, bought on Monday afternoon, they'd be pretty unpleasant by Friday. Still edible, certainly, but not enjoyable, so by that point in the week I'd blend them into my post-workout shake. A good solution, but a little more trouble than I'd like on a weekend when I'm a little more pressed for time in my mornings. So I needed a way to ensure they would keep until Monday morning.
   They say that if you keep bananas in a fruit bowl alongside other fruit, that the other fruit ripens faster. This is true, and due to a gas released by the top of the banana that begins and encourages the ripening process. Not an issue when it's still hanging on the tree, but as the stalk of the banana is actually part of the fruit's casing, unlike an apple or a berry, when it's broken at harvest, the creation of the gas begins.
   So the answer is simple. Cover the stalk.


   A small piece of clingfilm wrapped tightly around the top of the banana inhibits the escape of the gas and subsequently slows the ripening process of bananas and prevents their effect on surrounding fruit. This prevents wasted bananas without resorting to banana bread (and consuming needless calories when you eat it), and if you wrap the tops neatly, you can salvage the cling film for wrapping around the next bunch of bananas you buy, cutting down on clingfilm waste, too. It's true that the skins will still turn brown and spotty, even in the fridge, but I assure you, the insides are just as good as the day you bought them. I've been at this for a few weeks now with ready-to-eat, fully-ripened bananas, and it's not steered me wrong. Bought Monday afternoon, with the last one eaten the following Monday morning after my workout.

   But here's another use for over-ripe bananas - though I actually used one of my wrapped and refrigerated bananas that I didn't eat last week due to a migraine preventing my workout from happening. I  didn't want to push my luck by leaving it for the Wednesday, 1.5 weeks from purchase, and when the idea came to me, I was too eager to wait and let it over-ripen.

   You've heard, of course, of banana pancakes made with just banana and eggs. They're all right. But they're not fluffy enough - too moist, as you would expect. So I combined the banana with my favourite protein pancake mix - though any dry pancake mix or basic pancake recipe would work in its place - to increase the yield, get one of my five a day, and have an outright delicious breakfast.
   I was not disappointed. Especially because I added a tablespoon of maca powder, a handful of blueberries and some salted caramel sauce (spoiler alert: it's just dates). And a naughty squirt of cream. Give me a break.



Ingredients
For the pancakes:
Serves 1
1/2 cup dry pancake mix or 1/3 cup oat flour or 1/4 cup flour 1/4 cup protein powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
10g maca powder
1/2 cup water
1 banana, peeled & chopped
50g (two handfuls) blueberries

For the salted caramel sauce:
Serves 3-4
30g pitted dates (about 6)
2 tbsp (approx 40ml) skimmed milk
water (for thinner consistency if desired)
pinch Himalayan pink sea salt


Method:
Salted Caramel Sauce:
1. Put the dates, milk and salt into a food processor/blender and puree. It may take some time.

2. Add water one teaspoon at a time, blending in between, to reach desired consistency. The more fluid added, the runnier it will be and the greater the yield. Add additional salt if desired, but use sparingly.

3. Set aside for drizzling over your pancakes (or toast, or healthy freak shake, or desserts, etc). Alternatively, store in a jar in the fridge and it will keep for 1-2 weeks.

Pancakes:
1. Gather two bowls. In the first, mash the banana - use the whole thing, or 2/3 and reserve the rest for slicing.

2. In the second bowl, combine your chosen pancake mix, baking powder and maca (if using). Add the water and mix until fully incorporated.

3. Combine the mashed banana into the wet pancake mix, mashing and mixing.

4. Heat a frying pan or griddle and spray/brush lightly with coconut oil or preferred. Turn to low heat.

5. Spoon 1/5 of the mixture onto the pan and spread into a circle about 4 inches wide.

6. Add blueberries and sliced banana, if desired, and leave to cook for 2-3 minutes, until the edges are dry. Then flip and cook for another few minutes.

7. Repeat with the rest of the batch.


Notes:
• This recipe can be used with any pancake mix, or even just a combination of flour and protein powder - or just flour alone. The banana adds all the sweetness and binds it all together. I used Flapjacked buttermilk protein pancake mix because it's my preferred pancake mix as it contains no artificial ingredients, no added sugar, and a single serving is just 200 calories and 20g protein.
• I used Natruya organic maca powder
• You can mash up the entire banana, or just mash up 2/3 and slice the remainder.
• You can add the blueberries into the mix when you spread it into the pan, or save them for garnish. Adding them into the mix guarantees a blueberry in every bite.
• The salted caramel sauce contains about 3 servings, perhaps 4 if it's made thinner. I liked it quite thick, but just add more milk or water and another blitz if you'd like it thinner.
• Store the remaining sauce in a jar and put it in the fridge. It will keep for 1-2 weeks and is brilliant for adding to desserts or over porridge.


Nutrition:
For the pancakes (minus pancake mix):
162 cals, 40g carbs, 6.5g fibre, 2.5g protein, 1 of 5 a day
For 1/3 the salted caramel sauce:
34 cals, 9g carbs, 1g fibre, 0.5g protein




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