#BAKEFORSYRIA: CHICKPEA BANANA BREAD WITH CINNAMON, DATES AND ALEPPO PEPPER
I love banana bread! This recipe is an adaptation from the hugely popular banana bread recipe in East by West. I was proud to create this version for the Bake for Syria cookbook from the wonderful people who brought us the Cook for Syria campaign to raise funds for those affected by the Syrian refugee crisis. Here, my original tasty and nourishing recipe has been given a Syrian twist for a warming, fragrant and spicy loaf. Not too sweet, with a moist texture, this banana bread is perfect with a cup of tea for breakfast, or as a dessert, a snack or a side to a spicy dish. Did I mention that I just love banana bread?!
For me, Syrian and Middle Eastern flavours and combinations are endlessly inspiring and so different from the cuisines that I grew up with, and I love the rich heritage behind the cuisine. I’ve used classic Syrian ingredients for the bread including; chickpeas as a protein-rich base, cinnamon for a warm, spicy taste, chunks of dates that get a chewy makeover in the oven, nutty olive oil and walnuts, and combined them with ripe bananas. Adding a bit of flax ties everything together, then to balance the rich malty flavours, I’ve added Aleppo pepper for a fragrant, sweet and salty kick of chilli.
Using Syrian produce is a brilliant way to honour and support the country ± from the olive oil and Aleppo pepper to the walnuts, even adding in some pistachios if you like. Aleppo chilli (which varies in strength, hence why I’ve given a rather varying amount in the ingredients!) is harder to come by so I’ve included a substitute of paprika and cayenne.
This banana bread is delicious served warm, drizzled in olive oil or spread with almond butter and sprinkled with cinnamon, which also makes it suitable for vegans, or you can enjoy with some good salted butter. It’s an easy recipe to throw together, and if the kids are not crazy about hot spices then substitute the Aleppo pepper chilli or cayenne for a handful of chocolate chips!
4 medium ripe bananas (~400g), mashed, plus one extra medium banana, chopped
2 tbsp dark jaggery or maple syrup (adjust sweetness to your liking)
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup water
4 tbsp olive oil
1½ cups (180g) chickpea flour (aka besan/gram flour)
¼ cup (25g) ground flax
2 tsp baking powder
1½ tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ - 2 tsp Aleppo pepper, depending on strength (or use 1 tsp sweet or plain paprika and ¾ tsp cayenne)
4 medjool dates or 6 dried dates, chopped into chunks
½ cup (50g) walnuts pieces or pistachios
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan 160ºC/gas mark 4).
Blend everything (except the dates, nuts and the one chopped banana) in a food processor.*
Transfer the mixture to a 750g (1½ lb) or 1kg loaf tin lined with baking parchment. Mix in the chopped dates, chopped banana and walnut pieces or pistachios by hand (I use a chopstick to quickly stir them in and distribute), reserving some of the dates for the top.
Top with the remaining chopped dates, push them in slightly and bake in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the bread is firm-ish to the touch. Don’t worry if the bread is not cooked through when tested with a skewer — just check that it’s firm to touch and then as it cools it will continue cooking.
Allow to cool before slicing, then serve with butter or extra virgin olive oil.
East by West tip: To make muffins, bake in lined muffin tins for 15-20 minutes.
*To mix by hand: Mash 4 of the bananas with the jaggery, vanilla, water and olive oil in one bowl. Mix the chickpea flour, flax, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt and Aleppo pepper together in another bowl. Mix everything together until well combined and continue to step 3.