In 2017 I was told I was at a high risk of getting diabetes and, after many months of waiting, took part in a NHS diabetes prevention programme. Diabetes, and particularly type 2 diabetes, is a growing health problem for people of South Asian descent. The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes is reported to be as much as 6 times higher in South Asians than in Europeans. It is a serious condition that is far too readily ignored by many people; it costs the NHS 70 billion a year.
The prevention programme was an eye-opener on many levels and it taught me about the sugar and fat content in many of the foods we eat. Through following dietary and lifestyle changes, I managed to reduce my blood sugar level and am no longer in the high risk category for diabetes.
My one weakness in life has always been sweet foods. My mother is an excellent baker and, whilst growing up in Tanzania, every day at around 4pm we would have a glass of milk together with a piece of her delicious home made cake. This habit has only changed in the sense that the milk is replaced by a cup of chai masala tea instead!
At that stage in 2017, I really struggled to find any cake recipes that were genuinely sugar free. Many would claim to be sugar-free yet contained either honey, agave nectar or maple syrup. I stumbled across this banana bread recipe in BBC Good Food Magazine, but like most recipes, adapted it to suit me. This recipe successfully gave me the “sugar-fix” I so craved and I still make it now.
My father, who is a diabetic, always asks that I make this, alleging that the version my dear mother makes is not as good as mine. I find that hard to believe, but am nevertheless happy to indulge him.
My adaptations – I replaced the wholemeal and self-raising flour with wholemeal organic spelt flour, and added some ground cinnamon and of course, the obligatory crushed cardamom! On other occasions, I have added some ground almonds as well.
Natural Sweetener – any stewed fruit will do, this is where plums/apples/pears etc any fruits that have seen better days can be used.
On this occasion, I had apples that were well past their expiry date. I have also added some diced apple into the cake that has been gently stewed in some butter and cinnamon for a few mins – this helps to get rid of the excess moisture from the apple.
This cake freezes beautifully; I slice it and wrap it between sheets of greaseproof paper or cereal packets. Simply take out a piece whenever you fancy it.
Preparation: 10 – 15 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour and 10 mins
Butter – to grease tin and to brush the apple on top of the cake
140g/5oz wholemeal or wholemeal spelt flour
100g/4oz self-raising flour
1 teaspoon each bicarbonate of soda and baking powder
300g mashed bananas from mashed overripe bananas – see note below
2 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic if possible
150 ml natural yogurt (I always Yeo valley full fat version)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
I teaspoon crushed cardamom pods (optional)
50g walnuts (some roughly bashed, they add texture to the cake) a few kept whole to decorate the top of the cake
150g any stewed fruit, and if using apple, an extra apple, sliced to decorate the top of the cake
Note re. bananas – the recipe says that the blacker and mushier, the better the end result. A banana a day past its best won’t add enough flavour and moistness and you will miss the fat. However, I have added bananas that haven’t quite reached that stage with equally satisfactory results but that may be because I have added stewed fruit instead and full fat instead of low fat yogurt.
1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment and allow it to come 2cm above the tin.
2. Sift the flour(s), bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the cinnamon and cardamom (if using).
3. Mix the bananas, eggs, yogurt and stewed fruit. Quickly stir into the dry ingredients. Put the nuts, apple (if using) in a nice pattern on top of the cake. Brush the apple with some melted butter. Bake for 1 hour and 10 mins or until a skewer comes clean.
4. Cool in tin on a wire rack. This can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Personally, I think it is best toasted and lightly buttered with a splattering of some reduced sugar jam, (eg St Dalfour).