"..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
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.