3 MAY 1997, Page 58

BY the time this is out, the fate of the

nation will, I suppose, have been decided, and thank God all that tommy-rot that goes on in the media will cease. Meanwhile, we have had the very important feast day of St Zita, patron saint of the kitchen and domestics, a must for all households which aspire to good food. She was a dear little saint, a servant herself in a rich household in the Tuscan city of Lucca, where she tended to give the good food provided for her to the beggars and impoverished of the town. Her master found this deeply irritat- ing, particularly once, during a famine, when she gave away much of the family supply of beans, though when he inspected the bean cupboard they had miraculously been replaced; wasn't that nice?

I have been filming in the splendid Brazilian embassy all week. They have the most marvellous kitchen covered in old Dutch tiles where they very kindly allowed us to work. At the end of the shoot they gave a cocktail party, using the things we had prepared, but they produced the most wonderful supper dish for the late stayers. It was a huge pumpkin, roasted to gleaming chestnut brown, the inside hollowed out and filled with a most delicious aromatic chopped beef concoction, a type of stew with the lid of the pumpkin replaced after the filling: an excellent form of presenta- tion which could be used for many other dishes such as curries or chilli con came. I don't have the receipt but will try to get it.

As a cure for my foot warts, I am having to bind each toe in fresh banana skins every day, so I have been trying to find ways of using the fruit as I don't particularly like a plain banana, or even one with cream as did that naughty father of Auberon Waugh. One method I have found palatable is to cover them in a lime and oil vinaigrette with the addition of a lot of Worcester sauce, rather as though they were avocados. This also went very well with a fish curry. The following receipt is another good way of using them up.

Crab au gratin

4 bananas 1 good tablespoon plain flour

1 good tablespoon butter 12 pint single cream

2 fluid oz medium sherry 3 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese salt, freshly ground black pepper Tabasco anchovy essence 1 lb crab meat (brown and white) 4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs extra butter

Make a bechamel sauce with the butter, flour and cream; when ready stir in most of the cheese, reserving some for sprinkling later. When it is mixed and melted, season well with the salt and pepper and a good dash or so of Tabasco and maybe a little grated nutmeg. Add the sherry, then stir in the crab meat, adding a little anchovy essence to suit your taste. Put the mixture into a shallow gratin dish. Mix the bread- crumbs with the remaining cheese and sprinkle all over the top. Dot with butter and grill until nice and brown. Peel the bananas, cut them in half lengthways and fry in 11/2 oz of butter. Serve with the crab.

Another nice little dish which even chil- dren will eat is

Banana and bacon rolls 1 banana per person

1 good long rasher streaky bacon (rindless) 1 slice bread or baguette to fit the banana butter to fry the bread

Peel the bananas and cut them in half. Stretch the rashers of bacon with the back of a knife and cut in half. Wind the bacon round the halves of bananas and secure with a cocktail stick if necessary. Grill the bananas for 7-10 minutes, turning from time to time until the bacon is crisp and the banana is/soft within. Meanwhile fry the bread crisply, pile the banana rolls on top, remove any cocktail sticks and serve. Good with a tomato salad.

A different salad to go with any hot, spicy dish is the delectable

Banana raita

3 tablespoons sultanas or seedless raisins 1 oz blanched slivered almonds

7 oz natural Greek yoghurt 312 fluid oz each of sour and whipping cream

1 heaped tablespoon honey 1 medium-sized banana, ripe but firm pinch of salt 6 cardamom pods

Pour boiling water over the sultanas or raisins and two thirds of the almonds. Leave for 10 minutes. Toast the remaining almonds. Mix the yoghurt and creams with the honey. Stir in the drained raisins and almonds. Slice the banana thinly and add to the mixture with the salt. Take the car- damom seeds from their pods and crush them. Add to the raita a little at a time to suit your taste. Turn into some charming dish, scatter with the toasted almonds and chill for an hour. It is important not to add the banana more than an hour before the meal, or it will lose its bite and the raita will become soggy.