In January, I attended the Mahalaxmi Saras Exhibition at BKC, which showcases the abundant talent that comes out of rural India by way of handlooms, handicrafts and produce. The exhibition takes place every year and it’s a great way to educate yourself about the sheer variety that is on offer when you step out of the metros we live in. Some of the produce I picked up were masalas-a spicy Solapuri masala, a dark Goda masala, and a Malwani masala for my fish curries at home. I also picked up freshly pounded peanut chutney heady with garlic, an old-school stone pot that I’ve already cooked in a few times, puffed jowar to snack on, and two incredible new additions to my larder- sticky, dried banana or sukeli, to be eaten as candy, and liquid molasses, also called kakvi.
I wanted to use the two together in some way that would really complement the jaggery of the kakvi and the candied banana. Together in a banana bread, they fit perfectly. I glazed the sukeli in a frying pan with dark rum and brown sugar. This would later become the topping. Once glazed, I got on with the banana bread itself, wherein I added 3 heaped tablespoons of kakvi to finish. The golden, glazed sukelis started to peek out of the banana breads as they baked, and were absolutely delightful to bite into. This banana bread recipe is the only banana bread recipe I will ever need because it yields that soft, dense loaf with an even banana and toffee flavour throughout.
Sukeli (Dried Banana) and Kakvi (Liquid Jaggery) Banana Bread
Yield 2 7-inch mini loaves
When making this banana bread, if you wish to omit the sukeli and kakvi, you can. If you do, increase the amount of bananas to 2 medium sized and add either golden syrup or caramel sauce to the banana bread instead of the kakvi. Since this recipe is so versatile, you can also add 25g of nuts or 25g of chocolate chips for a different version.
Greek yoghurt 150g (I used Epigamia Natural Yoghurt)
Baking soda 1/2 tsp
Sukeli or dried bananas 2, each about 50g-55g in weight (get in touch with The Better Foods Farmers' Market if you need to source some for yourself)
Brown sugar 2 tsp for the banana
Rum 2 tbsp
Butter 60g, melted and cooled, plus 1 tbsp for glazing the sukeli
Caster sugar 125g
Egg 1, lightly beaten
Cinnamon 1/2 tsp
All-purpose flour 150g, sifted
Baking powder 1/2 tsp
Banana 1 medium-sized, mashed
Kakvi or liquid molasses/jaggery 3 heaped tablespoons or alternately, use Golden Syrup
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Line two 7-inch (18-cm) mini loaf pans or 1 9-inch loaf pan with baking paper.
Combine the yoghurt, cream and soda together in a mixing bowl and set aside for 10 minutes until you work with the sukeli.
Slice the sukeli lengthwise into two.
In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of butter and when hot, add the sukeli and toss for a whole minute. Take the frying pan off the heat and sprinkle over the brown sugar and add in the rum. Be careful because it will sizzle.
Return it to the flame and toss the sukeli in the sugar and rum till the sugar has melted and the sukeli has taken on a glossy sheen, 2 minutes. Set this aside. (You could just as easily have the sukeli at this stage with some vanilla ice cream if you wish it. It’s incredible.)
To the mixing bowl with the yoghurt, cream and soda (you will see that bubbles have formed at the surface), add the melted butter, sugar and the lightly beaten egg. Stir this to combine.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, then add it to the eggs, butter and yoghurt mixture.
Add the mashed banana to this mixture and swirl the kakvi through the mixture. Divide the batter into both the pans and top both with two pieces of the rum glazed kakvi in a yin-yang sort of formation. Bake the banana bread for 45 minutes or until. skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cover the pans loosely with foil if they seem to be taking on more colour than usual. After the loaves are done, take them out of the oven and let them rest for 10 minutes before turning them out and letting them cool completely.