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Prune, banana and cocoa nib bread {Dairy and refined sugar free}

12 January 2019

I'm pushing it a bit saying this twelve days into January - but happy new year to you all! I hope you are all back into the swing of routine and aren't giving yourselves too hard a time with new year's resolutions. I read a compelling article recently which argued that we should make resolutions for change in Spring, rather than in January, as Spring is the natural time of new beginnings and growth. Some food for thought for anyone who's already thrown the towel in, perhaps.

I feel excited and optimistic about 2019, and am doing my best to hold on to that feeling as I get bogged down by the everyday. I have a couple fun projects in the pipeline, and the festive break was a great opportunity to reflect and assess too.

While I'm not normally one for resolution, I have enjoyed eating more healthily after the Christmas deluge. I made the decision in late 2018 to gradually move towards only eating organic animal products, which has meant dramatically reducing the amount of meat and dairy that I eat day to day. I am definitely not vegan (I love cake and cream too much - and more to the point, run a wedding cake business!), but following quite a bit of research into the UK dairy and meat industries, I do want to be sustainable and conscientious in the way I buy and consume these products.

This recipe is part of the range that I developed for Nature's Finest Fruit last year (find the current batch of seasonal recipes here). I'm sharing it here now because it is naturally dairy and refined sugar free, so is a nice bake for anyone who is also changing the way they eat and cook at the moment - whether for January, Veganuary, or as a longer-term shift. Bake this vegan by substituting the eggs for chia or flax seed, or decide to spend a bit more to buy from one of the many amazing organic farms we have here in the UK.
150g Nature’s Finest prunes, drained and dried
175g pitted dates
115g boiling water
115g coconut oil, plus extra for greasing
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large bananas
260g plain flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g cocoa nibs

Place the dates in a saucepan, then pour over the hot water. Leave to soak for 10 minutes, then blend into a purée.

Heat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan. Grease a 1kg loaf tin with a little coconut oil, then line with a strip of baking parchment.

Add the coconut oil to the date purée, and place over a low heat, stirring until the coconut oil has melted. Remove from the heat.

Peel the bananas, and mash with a potato masher in a large mixing bowl. Add the date mixture, eggs and vanilla extract and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sea salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Add to the wet mixture and beat to combine.

Slice the prunes in half, then add to the batter with the cocoa nibs and stir through. Pour the mixture into your tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

The banana bread is cooked when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, or with a couple cooked cake crumbs attached.

Cool the cake fully before slicing and serving. The banana bread will keep well for 4-5 days and can be toasted and served with butter for a further 2 days beyond this.

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