Suzi’s Blog

Banana Pecan Coffee Cake from Big Bad Breakfast



In his newest book Big Bad Breakfast, author John Currence demonstrates why, in the tiny town of Oxford, Mississippi, he has six restaurants and they are all packed. Born in New Orleans, John’s Southern heritage is evident on every page. The recipes are designed for elevated breakfasts but many, like this one, make for a perfect dinner, too.

Much of Big Bad Breakfast is devoted to savory dishes. You can see that from the full book review here. But, but, John knows that people love breads and biscuits and waffles, too, so they happily populate part of the book.

For most of us, a banana cake is that loaf thing we make when the yellow is gone and the bananas are fragrant and black. One more day and the flies will appear. In truth, bananas are used by us too little and too late. This breakfast cake is ample proof of banana power. It is John’s reconstruction of a chain bakery cake he grew up with in New Orleans and, with his skills, you can be sure this is spot on close to the original.

Oh, you are not a banana fan? Wait! Use chopped strawberries or blueberries instead. There is, you know, a theory that as long as cake has plenty of fruit it is perfectly healthy. I read that somewhere. I think the health blog on, but I could be wrong.

This cake is definitely not wrong.

Optionally, here you can add some white glaze like you find on cinnamon buns. In fact, for his Honey Buns, John says you would have to be an idiot not to glaze, so that recipe follows!

Banana Pecan Coffee Cake

Yield: one 8-inch square cake

For the cake:

  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
  • 2 soft, ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1egg
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup whole milk

For the topping:

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons very cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ⅓ cup toasted chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

To make the cake, in a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the granulated sugar and butter at medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the bananas, sour cream, and egg and mix until combined.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture, and then the milk. Beat until well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.

To make the topping, in a small bowl, stir together the flour, sugars, and cinnamon. With a pastry blender or your fingertips, work the cold butter into the flour mixture until coarse crumbs form. Sprinkle the topping over the batter, followed by the pecans.

Bake until golden brown across the top, 35 to 40 minutes. Drizzle with glaze and let cool for 10 minutes or slightly longer before cutting into squares or wedges. Serve immediately or cover with a cake cover or kitchen towel for up to 2 days.


Yield: 1 cup


  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


In a small bowl, add the ingredients and stir to mix. Lick the spoon.

Source: Big Bad Breakfast by John Currence [Ten Speed Press, 2016]


Cookbook Review: China: The Cookbook by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan



Sometimes a cookbook, however complex, can be described in a single word. Like, magnificent. Or, maybe, encyclopedic. I think the best single word description for China: The Cookbook is actually hyphenated: must-buy.

Chinese food is one of the top three or four cuisines on the planet. [No, I’m avoiding all Italian versus French discussion here!] So much of what we eat around the world has Chinese origins or influence. And, Chinese food sets the standards for quality and beauty of presentation. It’s more than food. It’s art.

In over seven hundred pages, over 650 recipes, art truly is on display in this wonderful book. The authors, Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan, are Chinese culinary experts. This is not their first book, but this is surely their masterpiece.

What’s the challenge when you go to a Chinese restaurant? The menu, of course. That menu that goes for page after page. You lose track, you lose count. You could almost do that here, too, in the pages that radiate flavor. There must be a dozen recipes for fried rice, crab is everywhere, dumpling galore and sticky spareribs. It’s all here.

Actually, there are three classes of recipes in China: The Cookbook. At least for Americans. First, there are the old friends we know: Pot Stickers, Spareribs, Hot and Sour Soup. Then, there are recipes that you may not have tried but, after you do, will embrace as friends, too: Steamed Grouper, Drunken Chicken, Duck Casserole. And then, last, there are some recipes here that prove this book is quite, quite authentic: Pork Lungs And Apricot Kernel With Snow Fungus, Pig’s Heart With Scallion, Stir-Fried Pig’s Tongue, Ginger And Vinegar Trotters. These final recipes are, I am certain, delicious, I may summon up the curiosity to try them, but I am happy to let you be the first to cook the trotters. There’s so much else here that I, a bit of a food coward, am going to repair to my beef and my noodles and my eggplant.

The book has eight primary food chapters, our usual suspects:

  • Appetizers and Salads
  • Soups
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Vegetables, Tofu and Eggs
  • Rice Congee and Noodles
  • Desserts

There is an introduction detailing the history and the breadth of Chinese cuisine. Each recipe is identified for the region it comes from and you are told about the preparation and cooking time.

Ah the times. I tend to consider Chinese food to be healthy fast food. Goodness, my fan-tailed shrimp are deep-fried in a minute. And the stir fries seem to take just seconds in that very hot wok. There are the spices, too, so the food is always fast and hot.

Sometimes fast and hot. And sometimes not. The Steamed Grouper takes a full 12 minutes to steam but it is not spicy. Some ginger, some scallions, and soy sauce altered with fish sauce and sugar. But the delicacy of the fish is respected.

On the other hand, if you want Drunken Chicken tonight, you better have started yesterday. This dish needs to marinate for 26 hours before a final half hour of cooking. That long marinating time results in a flavor that is described as bold, deep and complex in taste.

It is this range of recipes that makes China: The Cookbook such a resource: fast or slow, simple or spicy, meat or tofu. If you have an ingredient you want to use, say some pork, then just open this book and consider your array of choices: there are almost 200 recipes here that use pork, as an element or as the focus. China is a huge and ancient country with perhaps the greatest culinary history on the planet. China: The Cookbook is your best guide to this enchanting, delectable diversity.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some recipes from China: The Cookbook. The Drunken Chicken, the Pot Stickers, and that Steam Grouper. Here’s the photo of the fish. I can’t wait. You should not either.



Tunisian Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce from 100 Ways with Eggs from Ryland Peters & Small


In 100 Ways with Eggs the editors at Ryland Peters & Small offer a very diverse set of egg ideas. There are classics here, omelets and scrambles. We tend not to bake our eggs for breakfast but in other parts of the world, they do. Here is a North African dish that will make your brunch perfect. Imagine taking that dish pictured above to your table. The physical beauty and the aroma of cooked peppers and onion are sure to capture your attention. And spur your appetite.

You can see my review of 100 Ways with Eggs right here.

Tunisian Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Yield: serves 4


  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red (bell) pepper, chopped into strips
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon harissa
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to season
  • Chopped fresh coriander/ cilantro, to garnish


Roughly chop the tomatoes, reserving the juices.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy- bottomed frying pan/skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion, (bell) pepper and garlic and fry, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until softened.

Mix together the cumin with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl to form a paste. Add the harissa and cumin paste to the pan and fry, stirring, for a minute. Add the tomatoes and brown sugar, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Uncover and simmer for a further 10 minutes, stirring now and then, to reduce and thicken the mixture.

Break the eggs, spaced well apart, into the tomato mixture. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes until the eggs are set. Sprinkle with coriander/cilantro and serve at once.

.Source: 100 Ways with Eggs from Ryland Peters & Small, 2016