Cooking With Mark

Guide to cooking with plantains

Taste Caribbean cuisine with this popular fruit that fits well on a curry night

Last weekend was an epic shopping adventure. No, I wasn’t searching for bargains at the Dubai Shopping Festival, but a simple ingredient for an idea I had. I had seen on TV that a US burger food truck had used plantains to make burgers. They looked great, so I set about making my own recipe.
The elusive ingredient is hard to find in the city — I visited four different stores, and I had a picture on my iPhone so I could visually explain what I was searching for.
Met with various responses, none of which were particularly helpful, I was showed bananas several times. A mix-up that can easily happen as they do look very similar, although the skin of a plantain is thicker, darker than bananas. Leaving the third store empty-handed, I had one more place to check at — would I try or fail? I arrive at the final store, and as I approached the vegetables’ section, there they were, and piles of them. I grabbed a bunch and headed home.

The elusive ingredient is hard to find in the city — I visited four different stores, and I had a picture on my iPhone so I could visually explain what I was searching for.

Commonly known as cooking bananas, they are starchy and soft when cooked. Originally from Southeast Asia, they are now grown all over the world, including in India, Egypt, Indonesia and tropical regions of the Americas — high in fibre and a good source of carbohydrates.
Grown all-year-round, the fruit is popular in Central America, the Caribbean and African cuisine, and in South India. Eaten either sliced and shallow fried, or boiled and mashed. I usually serve them sliced and fried in coconut oil with a traditional Caribbean curried goat and rice and peas. With a side of slaw, this is the ultimate meal. I love the taste and texture with the spicy meat.

Unlike bananas, plantains are quite tricky to peel, so here are a few tips. Slice the ends off then make a slit from top to bottom. Under running water peel off the skin, and rinse; the inside can be slimy, but this will come off. Dry with some paper towel, then cut into 2cm slices. When shallow-frying keep the heat to a medium as they do brown quickly, and are a little tricky to turn. For the recipe alongside I’ve halved each plantain before cooking.
Keeping with the Caribbean theme I’ve added a sweet salsa salad, and of course, the burgers are jerk-seasoned. For a veggie version, brush a large Portobello mushroom with oil and coat with dry jerk seasoning. Shallow fry on medium heat for two minutes on each side. As I mentioned above plantains can be hard to find, so I bulk buy, slice and cook them, then freeze — all ready for that next Caribbean curry night.

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

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