Wednesday, November 28, 2007

P is for Plantain

"..the city is not an urban jungle, it is a human zoo."

(Desmond Morris, anthropologist)

For the Great Big Vegetable Challenge, we have grown pots of chilli peppers, herbs and tomato plants in our little patio. I have even allowed mushrooms to sprout in the airing cupboard. But I know that cities are not always easy places to show children where food comes from. You have to play to the strength of where you live and when it comes to finding out more about unfamiliar vegetables, the city comes into its own. A few months ago we did a bit of advance research into plantains, which is our next vegetable. Well it is more of fruit, looking like a bunch of large green bananas.

We took the bus to Notting Hill to enjoy the annual carnival. In the streets that lead off the main carnival route, there are hundreds of food stalls selling different Caribbean and African delicacies. People turn their basements into makeshift kitchens. We drifted from house to house, sampling goat curry, sucking on sticky chunks of sugar cane, drinking jelly coconut juice and biting into hot yam chips. This is also where Freddie and Alex had their first ever taste of fried plantain. The stall holder told me how the plantain can be eaten in different ways at different stages of ripeness. As they ripen they turn colour from green to yellow, brown and then black. The flesh becomes a little sweeter along the way. She handed Freddie a hot stick of fried plantain wrapped in waxed paper. Flinching from the heat, he took a bite. "This isn't as good as banana" was his first reaction. This was all about expectations. Plantain look like bananas but their texture and taste are quite different. They are firmer and the flesh is not as sweet. But he took another bite and started to enjoy it. He scored it 7 out of 10.

How to Fry Plantains

4 ripe plantains

vegetable oil

salt and pepper to season or 1 tsp of cinnamon powder

Peel and slice the plantains into 1.5 cm chunks. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and use enough so that it would just cover the plantain. When the oil is hot, add the plantain slices and fry them until both sides are deep yellow in colour and a little crispy on the outside. it should take about a minute. Take them out and lay on some kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. Season with salt and pepper or if you prefer some cinammon powder.

How do you like to have your plantains? Please let us know...

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  1. Jackie10:41 PM

    I love tostones! They're fried plantains, but they're salty, not sweet and usually served with a garlic sauce. You take a firm plantain, slice it into rounds, fry it, smash it down then fry it again. It's heavy on the fat and oil, but they are delicious! Plenty of recipes are online.

  2. Tostones are great! Follow the directions that Jackie gave you, and afterward you can top them with just salt or a mojito sauce (saute some chopped garlic in a bit of olive oil, then whisk that into a mixture of fresh lemon and lime juice). You can dip your tostones in there or pour a bit over them.

    Or, you can actually use the tostones to make a sandwich, called a jibarito, which was created in the Puerto Rican community in Chicago. Use the tostones in place of bread; in between, put chicken, beef, pork -- whatever you like. At one restaurant in Chicago, they used to top each sandwich with a bit of a really great garlic-salt paste.

  3. Oooh, I love tostones! They are a bit greasy, but worth every bite, and a great accompaniment to something lighter like fish.

  4. One more. I almost forgot -- Filipinos wrap ripe plantains with sugar in an egg roll wrapper and fry them. They're delicious. It's called a turon; I can't offer a recipe, as I've never made them before, but the Internet should be able to help with that.

  5. Loved the quote at the beginning ... and then found this post very interesting and exotic. I wanted to be in that city trying this vegetable. Your kids are good sports.

  6. Mmm... tostones ARE delicious. But my favorite is to pan-fry very ripe plantains (black) in butter with a little brown sugar. Wonderful alongside cuban roast pork, yellow rice, black beans and sliced yellow onion marinated in mojo.

  7. Ripe plantians with cinnamon hmmmmm that's interesting.

  8. I love plantain chips! These can be made at home but are generally store-bought. In India, we get ones that are fried in coconut oil ( a specialty from the state of Kerala) and they are just divine.
    I like what you said: cities do have the advantage of exposing one to such a diversity of cultures and experiences.

  9. Once upon a time, not so long ago, I got a care package...125 pounds of plantains. No, I *really mean* 125 pounds of plantains. I began cooking all kinds of things...sweet, salty, soup, drinks, cakes, breads and the list goes on! Please feel free to visit my blog and try out any of the recipes! I still need to get more up. I adore the caldo de bolas soup and the baked plantains with a bit of OJ & lime peel was fantastic! Could go on and on...

  10. i have to say, the first time I tried them i found the experience quite strange - just like Freddie and I suspect many others out there, one does imagine they will taste like a banana, and when they don't, we are a little shocked. However, after we have accepted this little oddity, they become quite delicious for their slightly bananery sweet edge that tastes wonderful deep fried with a generous sprinkling of salt. I see we are still on 'p' :P

  11. Never eaten a plantain .... now I'll have to follow where Freddie has led the way



  12. schmoof1:45 PM

    mmm plantain - Mr Jerk's on Wardour Street do great fried plantain and they go well with jerk chicken or mutton curry, and a big glass of yoghurt drink (can't remember the name) or Guinness Punch for the oldies :) No home recipes from me I'm afraid though

  13. I have yet to have plantain, but I have seen many suggestions for cooking it over the past year on all the wonderful blogs. They seem to cook it twice to make a softer texture.

  14. Plantains are uncharted territory for me - I must track some down (or travel to one of those lovely exotic places where the wonderful recipes above come from). The nearest "exotic" shopping street to us is Mill Road in Cambridge - I'll start my plantain hunt there!!!! I love tasting new veg.

  15. Sterretje, the Netherlands11:40 AM

    I think a plantain is what in Dutch is called a "frying banana". No recipe, but they are deef fried in batter and eaten plain or with sate sauce. Yummie.

    BTW, love the blog!

  16. Anonymous4:15 PM

    The key to frying plantains is to fry them twice. That makes them softer and sweeter. You can also add brown sugar, but I always temper that with a bit of salt. In my family sometimes we also use hot queso blanco to pour over them as a sauce. Very good, but completely different flavor to the brown sugar method.

  17. Anonymous2:40 PM

    I first came across plantain in Seychelles, visiting my grandmother when I was a child. We regularly had them deep fried in coconut oil and salted,instead of chips with a meal. Years later I would get quite excited about bags of banana chips only to be very disappointed to find they were coated in honey or other sweet substances as I was expecting a savoury experience. My local Somerfield store briefly stocked salted plantain chips but sadly I haven't seen them for a long time now.

  18. Great Big Vegetable Challenge10:28 AM

    Anon - I have found plantain chips in our local tescos and sainsburys which is great.
    Sterretje - THank yo ufor your comments. Do keep on coming back to the blog. We'd love to hear more about Dutch recipes.
    Magic Cochin - Do try them. You won't be disappointed. So long as you know that they won't taste as sweet as bananas!
    The BoyDoneFood - Deep frying most things tastes great...It is an excuse to borrow my neighbours deep pan fryer again.
    Gretchen Noelle
    We are coming over to visit your blog right now. What a care package!!
    Nupur - I love living in the city for that reason. There is always something different to experience.
    Mrs W - Thanks for your comments. I will try them with a little brown sugar as a side dish with some meat and see what Freddie and Alex think of it.

    Meg W -
    I liked the quote too. I do also miss being in the countryside. But as I said - you have to find the strengths in the place you live and enjoy them.

    Caroline - Thank you for all of these suggestions. The jiborito is one I will look forward to trying out. Also Tostones - There is so much here for us to enjoy. Many thanks!
    Jackie - reading y9our comment and then Carolines was so useful - thank you for taking the time to explain the recipe. We appreciate it.

    Lydia - As I said earlier to The boy Done Food - most things taste good when fried - it is a sad fact...

    Bellini Valli - Yes cooking it twice seems to be a good tip.
    Schmoof - I will be visiting Mr Jerks at the earliest opportunity!
    Do try - If Freddie can....

  19. Tina M9:17 PM

    In South India, we batter and fry ripe plantains. The batter is made of all-purpose flour, water, a pinch of salt and i add poppy seeds as well. Then i dip long 1" slices of ripe plantain and deep fry them. It's soo yummy :) We used to eat them with our afternoon tea. TRy it, you won't be disappointed. We called it ethakka appam or payam pori.

  20. In my Haitian household we make lots of things with Plantains. We fry them (just like Tostones), make pudding out of the green ones as well. If Freddy likes bananas, coconut, and green plantains then he will like this pudding. A lot of the time, it is given to babies to eat without the extra sugar added. This dish is called Llabouyi (translated - plantain puree)

    1 green plantain
    1 ripe banana
    1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk or you can use 1 cup regular milk (you can even substitute with soy or rice milk as well - I use rice milk because my daughter is highly allergic to milk)
    1 (12 or 14 oz) can coconut milk
    1/4 tsp vanilla extract
    3 cinnamon sticks
    2 whole anise stars - if you don't have anise stars you can just leave them out -- but, you should be able to find them at any grocery store
    pinch of grated nutmeg
    1/4 cup white sugar and a 1/4 cup brown sugar (or you can use one or the other)
    1/2 tsp grated lime rind, or 1/2 inch whole lime rind

    Peel the plantain. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. In a blender, puree plantain pieces, add 2 cups water, and ripe banana.
    Or gate the plantain, mash the banana and mix both with 2 cups water to get a puree. In a saucepan, add plantain puree and bring to a boil on low medium heat.
    Add evaporated milk, coconut milk, vanilla extract, anise stars, nutmeg, sugar, and lime rind.
    Cook for 15 to 20 minutes stirring occasionally so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Consistency should be like oatmeal.

    Another recipe would be Fried Bananas (Beyen)

    Fried Bananas Beyen
    3 Very ripe plantains (the skins will have to be very brown or black because the plantain needs to be very soft)
    1 tbsp flour
    1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tbsp sugar
    1/8 tsp baking soda
    sugar for topping (optional)

    Mix bananas, flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in medium size bowl.
    Place spoonful of batter in very hot oil and fry until golden brown. Sprinkle sugar.

    these are my kids favorites and my son doesn't like plantains cooked any other way but these.

    I hope you enjoy them -- post it after you've tried them.

    Rose H


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