Friday, December 07, 2007

Tostones on a stormy day

Freddie would like to thank you for tostones. We don't know how it is pronounced but knowing how it transforms plantain has been a revelation. We are particularly grateful for one comment left by someone known only as Carolina who told us about jibaritos. Carolina, wherever you are, in our home you have earned the title Queen of Plantain.

Let us start with Tostones which are fried, flattened and then refried slices of green plantain. There is something a little gothic about the name - add a "mb"and you get tombstones. I went out in the morning to buy my plantain when it was still dark and it was stormy. My nearest market runs along the side of a red brick railway line, punctuated with huge arches that are full of stalls selling anything from goat meat to salt fish. Every few minutes the stalls rattle as a train passes overhead. The plantain were being piled up by the grocer, glowing bright green in the half-light. By the time I got home, it was lighter but there were was a squall blowing. This is a recipe that requires a certain amount of brute force and the howling gale drowned out the sound of me flattening my plantain between two wooden chopping boards. It also drowned out the sound of me howling as I attempted to flatten my own finger. We used half of these delicious tostones as dippers, served with Guacamole, an avocado dip. This might not be the healthiest way to eat your plantains but it is delicious and Freddie awarded tostones the maximum 10 out of 10.

How to make Tostone Dippers

Serves 4

4 green plantain

vegetable oil

Choose the greenest plantains you can find. Peel them with a knife and slice them in half lengthways. In a large deep frying pan heat up enough oil to cover the plantain slices. Add the plantain when the oil is hot and fry for 3-4 minutes until they are a yellowy golden brown. Take the frying pan off the heat and remove the plantain carefully. Use a kitchen towel to absorb excess fat from the plantain. Find two large heavy chopping boards. If they are wooden, cover with clingfilm to protect them. Lay the plantain slices on top of one board, and press to flatten. Try not to break them as you want them to stay intact. When they are flattened, heat up the oil again and add the plantain to refry for a minute. Remove them, wipe them with kitchen towel to remove excess fat and keep in a warm place until ready to make your jibaritos. Serve as dippers with Guacamole. (If you prefer you can slice the plantain into 3 cm discs and then flatten them and serve them as s a snack.)

This is a post in two parts. With half of our tostones we made our own jibaritos (hee-bah-ree-to) which are inspired by a dish made by the Puerto Rican community in Chicago. Jibaritos are like sandwiches with slices of flattened plantain instead of bread. I filled our jibaritos with strips of beef steak, onions, red peppers and lettuce. Interestingly, Freddie was not sure whether it was the beef or the plantain slices that he liked most. He gave a 9 out of 10 for jibaritos. It is just over a year since we embarked on the Great Big Vegetable Challenge. Freddie has pushed plantain up to the top "I like" section of our Naming and Shaming Fridge.

How to make Jibaritos
Serve 4
4 green plantains
400g beef steak,cut into thin strips
Half a red pepper cut into thin strips
Half a round lettuce
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Half an onion, very finely chopped,
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 ablespoons of mayonnaise

Follow the instructions above to make tostone dippers. Keep them in the oven on a low heat to stay warm. In a shallow frying pan, heat the olive oil. Saute the finely chopped onion, crushed garlic, red pepper, smoked paprika, oregano until the onion has softened. Cut the beef steak into thin strips and add to the onion and saute with a tablespoon of lime juice until the beef is cooked. Take a tostone slices,spread half a tablespoon of mayonnaise, scatter a quarter of the beef, pepper and onion mixture, a lettuce leaf and top with another tostone slice.Serve immediately.


  1. Anonymous4:23 PM

    Congrats Freddie! Plantains are my favorite too. I must confess I'm more of a brown sugar or queso blanco girl but I'm definitely going to try them out with some fresh guac. They were a mainstay in my diet until I didn't use enough oil, and smoked out my apartment to the point where the NY Fire Department decided to grace me with a visit. Rule to the wise, always use enough oil.

    There is a great baked plantain casserole I ate once from a friend from the Cote D'Ivoire. If I can find it, I will pass it on.

  2. Here's my stab at how it's pronounced:
    toe-stoe-nay, accent on the second syllable

    it all sounds delicious, I'm now salivating but it's only breakfast time

  3. Oh my goodness! Yay! I'm so happy you enjoyed them Freddie!

  4. Freddie needs to go to Miami! There are so many amazing Cuban restaurants there that you can eat tostones all day every day if you like! I've never had jibaritos, but I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled for them - they sound fantastic!

  5. A guy in Miami4:37 AM

    Jibaritos sounds like Colombian & Venezuelan patacones - I definitely do love them as well!

  6. Very interesting. I've never heard of jibaritos, but will be looking for green plantains at the grocery store.

  7. Hello Charlotte - it is ages since we last communicated but saw details of your vegetarian venture in Telegraph. Impressive. Was astonished at how similar to you your daughter is! We are currently living in a country house west of Monmouth. I am drifting back into writing / journalism and in London from time to time. Would be lovely to catch up over a coffee. My e-mail address is:

    Otherwise, keep up the good work! (Matthew Barnett)


We always love to read your comments - thank you