All Join In: Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Banana Cake

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Book:
All Join In by Quentin Blake
1998, Random House

March is a funny month. It’s still cold (and, in some places, snowy), but the daffodils and crocuses are pushing up, the snowdrops are already blooming, and the trees are all covered in catkins and buds.
Now is a great time to put on your wellies and go for a muddy walk to look for signs of Spring.
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Today’s book is All Join In, a book of seven poems written and illustrated by Quentin Blake. They are loosely related in theme, but all relate to a motley group of family/friends who get up to all sorts of activities, usually noisily and messily, but with great enthusiasm.
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All Join In is all about making music…or just noise.


‘The Hooter Song’ concerns a pair of children who thoughtfully ‘help’ various adults by surprising them with bicycle horns.
‘Nice Weather for Ducks’ is about a muddy walk and joining in the duck song.
‘Sliding’ concerns various means of going downhill quickly: banister, sled, etc.
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‘Sorting Out the Kitchen Pans’ is about some more helpful children who take up the noisy task of…sorting kitchen pans.
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‘Bedtime Song’ is not a lullaby, but about joining in with yowling cats.
‘All Join In’ (part two) is just about all the various ways the family and/or friends all join in, whether with cleaning, painting, or eating a chocolate fudge banana cake.
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These poems are fun for anyone, but they would be particularly fun for younger children, because they are meant to be read aloud. Little children love repetition that they can join in with, and each of these poems has that. They are often fun things to shout out, as well, such as BEEP-BEEP or QUACK QUACK QUACK! They also have the benefit of a simple but effective rhyme scheme which is good for demonstrating how rhyming and poetry work.  I certainly know what I will be bringing to class for World Book Day.
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The illustrations, of course, are typical Quentin Blake: very lively, fun, and fluid, with lots of funny little details to find. They complement the messy, noisy poems very well and make the characters seem like people you’d love to hang out with.

or maybe not...
or maybe not…

The downside is that many children would probably be inspired by these poems to start sorting out the kitchen pans!  But that could be fun too. So get together in a group, make some noise, walk through mud, do some Spring cleaning, or go sledding, and when that’s tired you out, enjoy a slice of Ferdinand’s chocolate fudge banana cake.
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Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Banana Cake
(grain-free)

Ingredients
For the cake:
1 greenish banana, thickly sliced
3 cups peanut butter (or almond, cashew, sunflower or other nut or seed butter)
2 cups dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1.5 cup plain cocoa powder
⅔ cup grated coconut
3 eggs
1 cup maple syrup
1.5 Tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1.5 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

For the frosting/topping:
2 cups dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups cream
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 banana, thickly sliced
2 cups grated coconut


cfbc1Method
Mix together all of the cake ingredients except for 1 cup of the chopped chocolate.  Put greaseproof paper in a round 8 inch cake tin and sprinkle in some of the chocolate you put aside.  Then pour in half of the batter and spread with a spatula to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle over some more chocolate and then put your banana slices on top of that.  Try to place them on their sides so that when the cake is cut they will be more visible.
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After that, pour over the rest of the batter and top with the rest of the chocolate.  Bake at 180 C/356 F for 25 – 30 minutes, checking after 20 to make sure it is not getting overdone.  It’s OK (and in fact, desirable), for the cake to be a bit squidgy, like a brownie.  When the cake is done, wait for it to cool and turn it out.  While it is cooling you can make the frosting, which is a basic ganache.
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Melt the 2 cups of chopped dark chocolate very gently in a double boiler (you can rig one by using a metal or Pyrex bowl in a saucepan of simmering water).  Remove from heat and then slowly whisk in the cream and coconut oil.  Put in the fridge for 10 – 20 minutes to cool — you want it to be pourable but not too runny.  Meanwhile, put your banana slices on top of the cake (you could try whole bananas like Ferdinand, but I suspected that would end in disaster). Then pour the ganache over the cake.  Bananas are quite difficult to coat, it turns out, so you may have to melt some extra chocolate and dip them in.  Lastly cover in shredded coconut — because if we’re having chocolate, fudge, and banana we might as well have peanut butter and coconut too.
And it’s OK if it looks super messy because that’s what we’re going for, right?

Also this is only a small cake but then again I’m not feeding five adults, twenty-one children, a cat, and a duck.
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My kitchen table IRL after making this — anyone wanting to JOIN IN tidying it up??

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This is the perfect treat to enjoy with a glass of milk after a walk in the cold March air. And although Pancake Tuesday is over, we might as well have a couple of days more of a carnival atmosphere of noise and rich food.  Especially if it’s raining.
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The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher: A Dish of Sardines and Cress

Books:
Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter
1997, Frederick  Warne
Citrus and Spice: A Year of Flavour by Sybil Kapoor
2008, Simon & Schuster

eggshell1To further explore the verdant theme and make use of all the cress now growing on my kitchen windowsill, I reread The Tale of Jeremy Fisher, which is an extremely watery, green sort of story, perfect for a rainy day.
JFaThe story concerns Mr Jeremy Fisher (a frog), who lives in a “damp house amongst the buttercups at the edge of a pond.”  So close to the edge, in fact, that the water gets into his larder, but Jeremy Fisher doesn’t mind that; he likes getting his feet wet.
JFd He also is pleased when he sees that it’s beginning to rain.

“I will get some worms and go fishing and catch a dish of minnows for my dinner,” said Mr. Jeremy Fisher. “If I catch more than five fish, I will invite my friends Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise and Sir Isaac Newton. The Alderman, however, eats salad.”

JFcJeremy Fisher does indeed go fishing, but the rest of the story is a series of misadventures.  He fails to catch anything for a long time, so he decides to have his lunch of a butterfly sandwich (!).
JFeBut while he is eating he is pinched by a water-beetle and hears a mysterious splash which he is afraid might be a rat.  Then he catches, instead of a minnow, Jack Sharp the stickleback, who flaps around with his prickly spines, and a shoal of other little fish laugh at Mr Jeremy Fisher.  Worst of all, Jeremy is then eaten by a big trout.  Thankfully, the trout doesn’t like the taste of Jeremy’s a mackintosh and it spits him out.

Poor Mr Jeremy Fisher can’t offer his friends minnows for dinner, but it turns out all right in the end.  Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise brings a salad in a string bag, and Jeremy serves roasted grasshopper with lady-bird sauce, on the subject of which the author comments:

“which frogs consider a beautiful treat ; but I  think it must have been nasty.”

JFfThis story is fun for all ages, although it does have a little bit of peril for Mr Fisher.  Though he had a bad day, he managed to persevere, adapt and make a nice dinner for his friends anyway.

It would also be a good opportunity to learn about frogs and pond life.  This is a good time of year to look for frogspawn.
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You could organise a child’s tea party with “butterfly sandwiches” and “roasted grasshopper with lady-bird sauce.”  For now, I decided to see if I could make a dish of minnows for myself and a guest.  I wanted to make a salad of leeks and eggs, similar to this one in Citrus and Spice:
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But obviously it had to be a fish dish.  For the minnows I used sardines, and had them with a bit of toast, a duck egg and a salad of cress.EGG&CRESSa

Dish of Sardines and Cress

Ingredients
2 slices sourdough bread (I used Schär gluten free seeded loaf)
2 eggs (duck eggs if you can get them)
2 handfuls mixed baby spring greens
2 large snips of cress or mustard & cress
1 tin sardines
2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp good butter
2 Tbsp young leeks, sliced.
1 sheet nori or kombu
4 fillets anchovies
Squeeze of lemon juice
Mustard and hot sauce to taste
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Method
First make the salad: arrange baby spring greens on two plates, and top with cress, chives, and a couple of anchovy fillets (these are very salty so use caution!).  Then cut the nori into one inch strips and sprinkle on top (these are salty too so you only need two or three).  If you like you can cut them into shapes — I cut them to look like butterfly wings.  Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.  Next fry the leeks and slices of bread in the butter on medium heat, or you can also use olive oil.


When the bread is golden, set aside and fry the sardines.  Be careful with the sardines as they may fall apart if handled roughly.  After a couple of minutes, when they are hot and slightly crisp, remove them and the leeks to a hot plate and fry the eggs.  Duck eggs are preferable because they are very rich.  They also should take only a minute or two to cook.  Try to keep the yolk a bit runny.  Add the fried bread to the plates with the salad, and top each slice with a couple of sardines.  Then put an egg on top of the sardines.  Sprinkle with a bit more cress and chives.  At this point you can add a squeeze of lemon, although my sardines came in a tin with lemons, so I just drizzled a little of the lemony oil onto my eggs.
egg&cressbServe immediately with hot sauce and mustard.
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Of course, maybe your guest is more like Ptolemy Tortoise and doesn’t want fish.  In that case, you could make this cute mini stacked omelet.
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Cheese & Cress Omelet

Ingredients
1 handful baby spring greens
1-2 Tbsp cheese of choice (I used unpasteurized Red Leicester), grated
1 Tbsp milk or cream
A dash salt and pepper to taste
1 snip cress or mustard & cress
2 eggs (preferably duck eggs)
1 tsp butter or olive oil for frying
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Method
First add the spring greens with a dash of oil or butter to a medium pan to wilt.  This should take less than a minute.  Remove and set aside.  Add the cream to the eggs, and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk them up and pour half the mixture onto a medium hot pan.  If you have a mini frying pan you can use that, or you can pour the eggs into a metal cookie cutter to help them keep their shape.  Flip the omelet when it starts to bubble in the middle (it should only take about a minute).  After another minute, remove the omelet to a hot plate and pour the second half of the egg mixture onto the pan.
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While this is cooking, top the first omelet with the wilted greens, cress, and cheese.  When the second omelet is cooked, place on top of the first and scatter with a bit more cress, cheese, and baby greens.  Serve at once.
omelet3If Jeremy Fisher’s misadventures don’t put you off, never mind the rain and go fishing! 

Whether you fish or not, have friends round for dinner, and cook something with a lot of green.  It doesn’t have to be grasshoppers!sradines&cress6
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