Banana bread

When I was at school, there was such a thing as "tea", which happened at 4.10pm every day. This wasn't my grammar school, mind. At my grammar school you got booted out at 3.30pm and bought a Crunchie bar on the way home if you were lucky. But at the ludicrously expensive private school I insisted on going to from 16 to 18, (because there were BOYS), there was "tea".

Tea consisted of three things: toast, cake and cups of tea, served in thimble-sized catering cups with weeny handles so that if you spilt the whole lot all over the floor (this happened quite often) it didn't matter. The toast was made from white bread and eaten with peanut butter and jam. And the cake... well I don't remember anything about any of the other cakes they made except the banana bread.

O God! That banana bread. I was always starving at school. Starving. And it wasn't because I was a teenager, it was because there was hardly any time to eat food, only time for reading books and writing things down and worrying about your spots leaking through the concealer-and-powder you applied at first break.

By teatime I had probably consumed about 700 calories but probably expended 1,000+ all over my books and in the direction of whichever poor sucker I'd got a crush on that week. I had just about enough beans to drag myself on my belly, reaching hand over hand, whimpering along the pavement - being stepped over by better-looking and better-dressed boys and girls with no spots - to College Hall, a ramshackle and wonky building that looks like it was built by witches, down a small cobbled passageway off the main drag to Westminster Abbey.

You could hear the noise from 200 feet away as starving pupils clambered like huge, clumsy wasps over the trestle tables piled with Warburtons medium-sliced, Asda own-brand strawberry jam and Skippy peanut butter. And, some days, on the serving hatch, sat huge steel catering trays filled with row upon row of sliced-up banana bread.

Paydirt. I never ate fewer than three slices. And I simply didn't understand why no-one else was as wowed by it as I was. But that's being a teenager for you, I suppose.

This is a recipe I found on the Waitrose website, which is generally reliable. It also has the saving grace of having no dicking about with rubbing in or creaming together the butter and sugar - my most hated thing.

I have also added, for fun, some bashed up chunks of chocolate and walnuts, but if you prefer your banana bread as God intended, leave them - and/or the walnuts out too. I doubt it'll make any difference to anything.

But do NOT, please, be tempted to add cocoa powder for a hint of chocolatiness because it will dry the whole thing out and make it gross. No reason why you should, but I did this once because I'm an idiot and it was a disaster and someone might as well benefit from my mistake because my husband certainly didn't.

Banana, chocolate and walnut loaf

Makes 1 1kg loaf

350g self-raising flour
3 large or 4 small overripe bananas (yes, they must be overripe - any point up until actually mouldy is fine).
120g sugar
50g melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
125ml milk
some veg oil for greasing your loaf tin
handful of walnuts, chopped - if using
6 squares cooking chocolate, chopped - if using

1 Sieve the sugar, flour and salt into a bowl.

2 Add the egg, milk and melted butter and stir. At this point the mixture will look way too dry - don't panic and add more milk, thinking "Oh God Esther's such a spazmo". When you add the bananas it will all make sense.

3 Mash and add the bananas. Now is the moment to also nuts, chocolate, a dash of cinnamon, vanilla essence, or anything else you fancy.

4 Give it all a good stir and turn out into your greased tin. Bake at 180C for 1 hour.

If you try to slice it when it's still warm it will all fall apart, best to wait until it's cooled down and then it will slice up really well.

The rubbery texture you get is a classic banana bread side-effect.

Eat spread with butter and worry faintly about your mocks.

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