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By Laura Parr, Jamie’s head nutritionist

I still have a dog-eared looking copy of the first recipe I was taught to make at school in home economics class.

It’s for a banana & walnut cake, which, given the state of the paper, I must have baked many times growing up. I’m sure my Mum was sick of it, but she didn’t have the heart to tell me; instead she encouraged me to get in the kitchen and get involved, even if that did result in a lot of mess!

banana cake

It was an easy recipe for a child to master, being an all-in-one method and needing little preparation. However, just getting familiar with ingredients and weighing them out to realise the importance of accuracy in baking was a learning curve in itself.  Last month I blogged about the idea of things you can do to make cakes a little bit healthier, and this recipe is a great way to try it.  Speciality flours can be substituted in and seeded flour would be a great fit in this recipe to create some texture and flavour.  You could also add some extras like cinnamon and vanilla extract – half a teaspoon of each will be enough – and it would be delicious served with a spoonful of Greek fat-free yoghurt.

Jamie has a fantastic version of banana cake here, and Amber from Food Tube cooked it up in support of Food Revolution Day.

Banana cake was one of many baking explorations; I made my first Christmas cake at the age of 12 and there was no holding me back! My love of all things nutrition-related came later in life, but I thank my lucky stars that my Mum got me involved in the cooking at home early on, as it made me the foodie I am today and equipped me with plenty of recipes that I still cook now.

From a young age, children should be aware of the impact that the foods they eat have on their health and wellbeing. They should learn to love food early on, because it will encourage them to understand where ingredients come from, and arm themselves with basic cooking skills to give them healthy habits for life.

Practical cookery and food education will be compulsory in the new national curriculum for pupils up to the age of 14 in the UK from September 2014. However, inspiration can really be driven at home, and support and encouragement from parents is crucial. Even small things like ensuring they have breakfast in the morning before they leave the house can make a huge improvement to their development, set them up for the day and prevent them raiding the local shop for the all-too-convenient high-fat and sugar snacks and drinks.

16 May 2014 is Food Revolution Day, a campaign by the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation to celebrate the importance of cooking good food from scratch and raising awareness of how it impacts our health and happiness. Let us know what you have planned with your friends, community and, of course, kids this Food Revolution day.

Banana and walnut cake recipe

Ingredients

60g butter
60g dark brown sugar
1 large free-range egg
60g wholemeal or seeded flour, sieved
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 medium banana
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
25g chopped walnuts

Method

Grease a 7” round Victoria sandwich tin and line with greaseproof paper. Set oven to 190°C/374°F/gas 5. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Crack the egg into a little basin, beat with a fork and stir a little at a time into the butter mixture, then fold in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Mash banana with a fork until soft, then stir into the cake mixture.  Add the vanilla extract and stir in chopped walnuts.  Pour mixture into the baking tin.

Bake in middle of oven for 25 minutes, until firm to touch.  Remove from oven and place onto wire rack to cool, then cut into slices and serve.

About the author

Laura is a registered nutritionist and head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver. Her passion for food comes from having cooking lessons at a local college from the age of 10, and the nutrition side has always been driven by being fascinated by how eating the right foods can fuel the body. Believe it or not, her favourite foodie treat is an afternoon tea... only eaten occasionally, of course!

Laura Parr's blog

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