After Dowding moved from Berkshire to East Sussex in 1968 to be a chef under Mackenzie at now closed Jevington establishment The Hungry Monk, he put his inventor’s hat on. His sister spoke to him about boiling unopened cans of condensed milk in water for a few hours, prompting him to realise he could resurrect Blum’s coffee toffee pie.
Along with Mackenzie, they tweaked the recipe and experimented. To add to the classic and well-loved toffee flavour, they tried adding: apple was quite good, mandarin didn’t work, but banana was just right. And so banoffee pie was born, named by Mackenzie originally as a joke.
Together, the two wrote and published several cookbooks, Cooking with The Hungry Monk and The Very Best Secrets of The Hungry Monk, which has sold over 150,000 copies. The banoffee pie recipe first featured in the 1974 title The Deeper Secrets of The Hungry Monk and was republished in their 1997 book In Heaven with The Hungry Monk.
A couple of years passed and Dowding and Mackenzie, unable to take the dessert off the menu, were soon hearing tales from people in America and Australia that their creation was a hit there too. It was even rumoured to be served in Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, being a favourite dessert of Thatcher and also became listed in the Oxford Dictionary.
So, they must have made a fortune? After all, you can find banoffee ice creams, chocolates, biscuits and more pretty much anywhere and virtually every supermarket has its version. However, supermarkets were selling it as an American pie, so Mackenzie offered a £10,000 prize to anyone who could disprove its Englishness. No one has won yet. Alas, Dowding and Mackenzie never thought to trademark the name. “I am proud of banoffee pie,” Dowding says. “We just wouldn’t have thought of trademarking it at the time.”
He now gives adult education classes at Sussex Downs College and at Ashdown Manna Cookery School, in Blackham, near Tunbridge Wells: “I absolutely love teaching. I’ve found I have met loads more people since I went freelance, which is just great.”
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