Borough Belles: Polly Heffer

Categories: Reflections and opinions

The Borough Belles, Borough Market’s neighbourhood branch of the Women’s Institute, is packed with keen cooks, happy to share their ideas and insights. This month: Polly Heffer

Polly HefferI joined the Borough Belles in February 2015. I’d just moved to Peckham from north London and I didn’t know anybody in the area—or in the whole of south London, for that matter—and I heard about WI because of all the celebrations leading up to its centenary. I thought it would be a good way to meet people, so I went along to see what it was like. I really enjoyed it and became a full member.

This year I joined the committee. I’m in charge of our culture club, which involves organising outings to different cultural venues such as museums. Recently we went on a trip to the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret. It’s in the attic of one of the buildings by London Bridge and some of the things they have there are amazing.

I’m not a natural baker, I have to admit! My other half is actually much better at baking than I am, but I have always really enjoyed it—I’m more enthusiastic than I am skillful, so when I bake I want it to be something that’s relatively simple, but looks impressive. I’ve baked a couple of times for the Choir With No Name, with whom we have a connection. It’s nice to have a good excuse to do it.

The recipe I want to share is for banana loaf. I took inspiration from Jamie Oliver, but I have adapted it over time through trial and error. The recipe can change depending on your oven, or whatever you like to add in as extras. I have a few hand-me-down recipes from my mum and grandma, but they’re much more complicated! This is a quick, easy, tasty recipe—it’s a good fail-safe. The thing I love about it is you can do it all in one bowl, so there’s minimal washing up.

Banana loaf

Polly’s banana loaf
You need 285g plain flour, 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, a pinch of salt, 110g butter, 225g muscovado sugar, 2 eggs, 4 bananas, 85ml milk and a few spoons of vanilla extract. Turn the oven on, cream the butter and sugar together until it’s nice and fluffy, then add the eggs, mashed up bananas, milk and vanilla essence. Mix it well, then fold in the bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt.

At that point you can just chuck in anything you like—when I’m making it for my boyfriend, I’ll add a load of raisins, and the other day I made one with chopped up chocolate in it, which was really nice. Pour it all into a loaf tin and bake until golden brown and a knife comes out clean.

It’s so delicious, lovely for this time of year—and it’s basically fool-proof! The key is to make sure the eggs are incorporated well, which can take some time, and add quite a lot of baking powder which makes it rise better. My first one was stodgy, but I was using baking powder that was quite old—you want it to be nice and fresh. It’s also a great way to use up leftover bananas, so you’re minimising food waste at the same time, which is what WI is all about.