Cook this Week

Spiced-up ... Bananas, ground cinnamon and ginger, and half the cream is nice twist to Elvis' pound cake.
Spiced-up ... Bananas, ground cinnamon and ginger, and half the cream is nice twist to Elvis' pound cake.

With nothing better to do than investigate on the eating habits of the rich and famous, I find there really are weird appetites out there. What sets celebrities on this path to culinary oddity?

I am curious about Elvis Presley's food habits - his widely known peanut butter and jelly sandwich binges and flying across the country to gorge on pre-ordered burgers. And I'm surprised to discover his obsession with pound cake.

It's said that he consumed a whole loaf each time it was made for him by a childhood friend. She developed the recipe for Elvis, delivering the cakes to him at Graceland, and beefing up his version of the basic pound cake with extra cream, creating a smooth crumb but heavier texture. I have doctored the Elvis cake to create my version, adding bananas, ground cinnamon and ginger and halving the cream. This makes a delicately flavoured banana pound loaf, moist and fudgy with a hint of spice.

Bobotie ... The dish first appears in a Dutch cookbook in the early 1600s and made it's way to South Africa.
Bobotie ... The dish first appears in a Dutch cookbook in the early 1600s and made it's way to South Africa. Photo: Steve Shananan

The quantity makes two loaves and one always ends up in the freezer for later. I like this old-style cake in its unadorned state, pristine and warm from the oven, with maybe just a little butter. Alternatively, top with a sweet cream cheese and walnut icing.

Bobotie is a national food icon to South Africans, sometimes described as a South African moussaka. It is best described as a light-textured meat tart, flavoured with typical Cape Malay spices and fruit, then topped with a savoury custard.

The dish first appears in a Dutch cookbook in the early 1600s, and makes its way to the Cape Colony sometime in the 17th century. Dutch East India Company trading ships returning from the Spice Islands to Holland via the Cape of Good Hope brought the first Malay slaves, and their spices, to be added to the mix.

Dutch colonists and migrant Indians also have a hand in its development and the result is a very multicultural dish, with just the right balance of sweet, sour and spicy.

The variations of bobotie are pretty much endless, but it generally contains the signature spice flavours, meat and fruit and is topped with an egg custard and nuts. This recipe is for the traditional beef mince, apples, curry, bananas, almonds and coconut, a combination that improves if left in the fridge overnight and warmed up the following day.

>> Debbie Skelton is a Canberra food writer,

Elvis's banana pound cake

Makes 2 loaves

220g unsalted butter, softened

2½⁄ cups brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla paste

5 eggs

½⁄ cup cream

½⁄ cup milk

3 cups plain flour, sifted

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½⁄ tsp salt

3 bananas, mashed

1 tsp orange zest

Preheat the oven to 175C. Grease two 23-centimetre loaf pans and set aside.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at the time, beating each one in well.

Combine the cream and milk. Add about a third of the flour, then a third of the cream-milk mix, alternating until it's all mixed in. Add the ginger, cinnamon and salt and beat for about three minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the banana and orange zest.

Divide the cake batter between the two loaf tins. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave for about 15 minutes before removing from the tins.

Bobotie with banana

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil

2 red onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp korma curry paste, pre-made is fine

1 tsp turmeric

½⁄ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp chilli powder

salt and pepper to taste

500 g lean beef mince

2 slices of bread, crusts removed, soaked in a little milk (about ¼ cup) for 5 minutes to soften, then mashed

1 tsp tomato paste

1 apple, peeled and cored, then grated

2 tbsp raisins or sultanas

2 tbsp fruit chutney

juice and zest of lemon

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 bananas, sliced

200 ml milk

2 large eggs

2 tbsp slivered almonds

2 tbsp shredded coconut

3 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20 centimetre ovenproof pie dish.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and fry until soft. Add the curry paste and other spices, salt and pepper and fry for another minute. Add the beef mince, breaking up and cooking until browned.

Add the mashed bread and milk mixture, tomato paste, grated apple, raisins or sultanas, chutney, lemon zest and juice and garlic. Fry for a few minutes until combined on a medium heat.

Transfer the meat mixture to the pie dish. Top with sliced banana. Lightly beat the milk and eggs with a fork and pour the custard mixture over the pie. Top with slivered almonds, coconut and the bay leaves.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with boiled rice cooked with half a teaspoon of turmeric. Bobotie can be eaten warm or at room temperature and is best eaten the day after cooking.