B is for Banana Bread

Did you think this post would be about the Bell Tower or Barrack Street? Perhaps you were thinking about the beach or the bush? I even considered visiting a friend in Bassendean, just to have something to write about. All of these would be good choices. However, one thing far more ubiquitous to Perth defines this city. The humble banana bread.

Every good café in Perth has three must-have items on its cake shelf – carrot cake, caramel slices and banana bread. This is a conundrum because, as every good Australian knows, Perth is not the banana capital of the country. Carrots, yes, but bananas, no. That honour goes to Queensland, which produces over 90% of the nation’s bananas. I believe Perth is the capital that eats them.

“Our banana bread comes all the way from Melbourne,” confided one café owner. “It’s good, isn’t it?”

Yes, if you’re feeding a hungry five-year-old. Although I’m not sure why Victorian banana bread should be extra special.  Bananas do grow in Western Australia in Carnarvon and Kununurra, the moister and warmer parts of the state’s northwest.

Banana trees are a rare sight further south in Perth’s back gardens, although quite common in southern India where I was born. Street vendors sell bananas out of baskets. Plantations export them by the truckload. Perth’s luxury slice is the poor man’s lunch in Palayamkottai.

I’ve gone from café to café in search of the best banana bread the city has to offer. There’s so much on offer – paleo-style, with grated coconut, warmed up or toasted, with butter and without, and even gluten-free. But the quest has been interrupted by a pandemic and so I’ve hit the recipe books to try and make my own. So many recipes to choose from.


Chocolate chip banana bread

My first attempt falls flat. Literally. Too much banana? Not enough whisking and folding? It turns out I’ve read the measurements wrong. After three attempts, I finally find a recipe and a banana bread I feel proud of. I have found a solution to all my ripe banana wastage.

There is no more honest critic than a five-year-old.

“So which banana bread did you like?” I ask my son anxiously. “This week’s or last week’s? With chocolate chips or without?”

“I like all your banana bread,” he replies, liberally pouring custard on this week’s offering.

“Oh, okay,” I say, feeling pleased.

“Next time we go to the café, can we have carrot cake?”

The connoisseur has spoken. The end.

It’s been a long while since my last post, so if you’re still following my blog and reading this – thank you! The original “B for banana bread” died a sudden death with my laptop and the blog languished while I worked on other bits of writing. I hope to have the next post…hmm…I hope to keep posting. Sometime. No promises 😀

A is for Albany Highway


Albany Highway

Albany Highway heading as seen from the northern end, East Victoria Park.

The road to Albany stretches 400 kilometres. I think I have explored about five. At the other end of the highway, which runs through the Wheatbelt and the Great Southern is the fishing port of Albany. I’ll get there one day. Were you looking for a description of the route? Then this post is not for you, dear reader, move on.

My end of Albany Highway has car lots and cafes with quirky names. A is for Antz HQ, my haunt for this morning. The coffee for the day is the Golden Dragon. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I do like the idea of sitting on a barstool with a view of the sky. Or on a milk crate with a view of the playground. Take your pick. The coffee does fulfil its claim of putting ants in your pants.

There are other quirky café names along the highway – The Imp, Brewed, Harvest Espresso. I wonder what witchcraft inspired these first, and I can’t imagine how the words “harvest” and “espresso” conspired to come together. Across the road is a rather exotic Indian restaurant called Jewel in the Park, this is not going to be a rant about things that do not start with “A”.

There is a fine art to crossing the Highway. For the pedestrian, this involves standing at the edge of the pavement, squinting down the road at the approaching driver. This usually elicits one of several responses­ – said driver will a. slightly incline his head or, b. lift two fingers off the steering wheel or, c. blink his headlights. Some drivers will also make shooing motions with their hand or shake their heads vigorously. I expect this is done under the assumption that I may be a tourist unable to correctly interpret signs a, b, and c.

The correct etiquette when all of this happens is to is to scarper across the road, remembering all the while to half-raise one’s hand in salute to the driver. It’s been a decade since I moved to Perth, but I’m still working on the royal road-crossing wave.


Crossing the road: The red kangaroo and the black swan by Australia Post, Victoria Park

There is a red kangaroo on Albany Highway, and a black swan. There is a war memorial at one end of the cafe strip and a pub with sculpted mosaic coffee beans in front. Somewhere further down Albany Highway sprawling malls and warehouse style stores give way to forest and farmland. I imagine there will be hills as the highway carves its way past the Darling scarp. I expect there will be a smooth glide down to the Southern Ocean and the port where ANZACs sailing off to the First World War had their last glimpse of home. I imagine it is quiet and calm.

But my end of Albany Highway is busy with cars. A construction site looms large just half a block away, cutting off all views of the sunrise. A pensioner trundles past on his scooter. A friend texts to say she is enjoying a weekend in Albany. It’s just another day in Victoria Park.

After a long hiatus I have resumed my blogging with what is intended to be the first of a series of posts that are an A-Z of Perth. What is your A for Perth? Or the place you live in?

On a Grain of Rice

I confess – I am a rice purist. I am the person who trolleys down the rice aisle in Coles, turning up her nose at bags of long-grained rices of unknown origin and brands that promise a jasmine aroma. Not every long-grain can claim to be a basmati and I don’t particularly care if the sun rises on your Sun rice or your steamed bowl of white goodness could grace a Maharajah’s table. I’ve tried them all and they did not pass this chef’s test or palate.

Only one true brand exists for me – the Dehraduni basmati. Every few months, I make my foray into a little Indian store on Albany Highway in search of a bag of Maharani Dehraduni basmati rice. (Yes, the Maharanis of this world can outdo the Maharajahs any day). The rice comes in a five-kilo pack and so goes a long way for a family two. You can only imagine the tragedy of not finding a single bag on the shelf. Instead, I had to choose between India’s Crowns and Kohinoors – neither of which I was sure was going to be a jewel in my larder. Were I not satisfied with the Indian varieties, I could choose Pakistani basmati instead, which my mother promises me is twice as nice.

Dehraduni basmati brings back memories of a trip to Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas, when it was still a part of Uttar Pradesh. It is now the capital of the newer state of Uttarakhand. The town is home to the Doon School, the Indian Military Academy, and the Forestry Research Institute (among other notable institutions) and lies near the paddy fields it is famous for (among other things). We were visiting a mushroom factory (really a work-trip for my father) and also taking in the sights. This included a stomach-churning drive up into Mussoorie and the purchase of a woolen blanket at a market stall there that would one day warm my baby son – the blanket, not the stall. Family photos show me looking down palely at cable cars climbing a misty valley that is home to the writer Ruskin Bond. For the record: heights I do not do.

Now, clutching a bag of India Crown rice, also promising to be Dehraduni basmati, I head to the check out. I am not sure whether aromas of Himalayan hills will waft through my home as I cook my next lunch. To you it may just be another grain of rice but to me it’s a whole story about the places I have gone before and a reminder of how far I’ve come. I hope you enjoy your basmati, wherever you are!

PS: I would stick with the Maharani brand, if I were you, or Daawat *waiting for the sky to fall*. What’s your (basmati) rice story?