Those who know me will tell you that I am very fond of British TV, in particular their excellent selection of cooking programs. Although more an entertainment program than a cooking show, Come Dine With Me features several contestants who each throw a dinner party on successive evenings and are rated on their food and hosting skills by their competitors. This very popular show has been running very successfully, almost non-stop since 2005.
Don't assume that these are all accomplished cooks however. There are usually a couple of competent cooks in the mix but this is British TV after all and the eccentric is almost always well represented in the mix of competitors, often serving as a foil to a "posh" contender in the group. One recent show I watched featured a self described "nomad" who's diet was heavily subsidized by roadkill. A roadside freshly found unfortunate pheasant served as the filling for her appetizer meat pie which she fed to a posh housewife, a millionaire playboy and a comic chap who's Coronation Street themed party saw him cross dressing as venerable Rovers Return landlady Bette Lynch. If you cannot recognize the comic possibilities in that mix, you might want to consider a funny bone transplant.
The show also is a window into some of the most common dishes in current British cuisine. I don't know who popularized baked monkfish wrapped in parma ham with the British public but judging by it's popularity on the plate in Come Dine With Me, it must be a now ubiquitous dish in the collective culinary consciousness. I suspect it's simplicity of preparation with just enough of a "gourmet" association to those contestants without an extensive cooking repertoire accounts for its popularity.
Similarly, a very common "pudding" to end the meal on many episodes is the Banoffee Pie, which my research tells me has been extremely popular across the pond since the early 70's. While a graham crumb crust is practically universal for no-bake pies in North America, a digestive biscuit crumb crust seems to be more the standard in the British Isles and one of the reasons I wanted to try a version of this recipe which also combines a sort of dulce de leche base filling topped with sliced bananas and whipped cream. Having seen it prepared so many times, I could not help but try a version of it myself. The combination is quite rich and very delicious and proved to be very popular with my kids and some of their friends who visited yesterday and this morning only a few crumbs remain on the serving plate. This one is sure to please all ages and is well worth a try.
2 1/4 cups digestive biscuit crumbs (pulse biscuits in food processor)
1/2 cup melted butter
3 tbsp sugar
Press into the bottom and sides of a lightly greased 9 inch springform pan, about an inch and a half up the sides of the pan will do. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 10 -12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack.
In a small saucepan combine:
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Bring to a slow boil until foamy, then add:
1 10 oz (300 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
Bring back to a slow boil over medium low heat. and cook stirring continuously for another 3 or 4 minutes until the mixture darkens slightly. Remove from heat and pour into the prepared cookie crumb crust. Chill for 2 hours or more until thoroughly cooled.
Banana Cream Topping
Add to the bowl of an electric mixer:
2 cups whipping cream
3 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract.
Beat together until soft peaks form and then gently fold in:
4 ripe bananas, sliced
Spread the Banana Cream Topping over the toffee filling and garnish the top of the pie with chocolate shavings if desired. Chill for about another hour before serving.