The plantain is the tenth most important staple in the world and a very popular ingredient in the Jamaican diet. We fry it, boil it, bake it and make it into porridge, tarts and potato chips.
From the same family as the banana, the plantain looks very much like a large banana. Like the banana, both the green and yellow plantain are eaten. The yellow plantain is sweeter and softer than the green. Unlike the banana, though, we don’t usually eat them uncooked. A plantain has about 200 calories and is a very good source of vitamins and minerals.
I’d always preferred the ripe, slightly sweet plantains to the green ones until several years ago at a family gathering when one of my aunts made fried green plantains.
She cut three or four plantains diagonally about a quarter of an inch thick and fried them for a minute or two on each side. Once they turned reddish-brown, she lifted them from the pan, mashed them flat then returned them and fried them for another two minutes until they were crisp. When she finished, she served them with bully beef.
I couldn’t believe the taste – the mild saltiness of the bully beef was a delightful balance to the crispy, semi-sweet plantain – or that I’d previously ignored this delicious food. I couldn’t wait to return home to try it out and made plantains and bully beef every chance I got.
When I’m too tired or don’t feel like frying plantains – the yellow one is preferable – I bake them in the microwave, or oven (wrapped in foil) like I would a potato. I usually cut the tips off and score the skin lengthwise to allow it to expand as it cooks. For variety, you can also stuff the plantain with ground beef, for example, and bake it.
As you can see, plantains are quite versatile. Hope you pick some up the next time you’re in the supermarket.
- 2 cups sifted flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 2-4 tbsp iced water
- 1 cup ripe plantain, peeled and cut up
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp raisins (optional)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- Red food colouring (optional)
- To make filling
- Pre-heat oven to 450ºF
- In saucepan combine plantain, sugar, and water
- Cook over low heat until plantain is cooked
- Remove from heat and add nutmeg, vanilla, raisins and butter; you may add a little red food colouring if desired
- Allow filling to cool before filling tart
- To make pastry
- Combine flour and salt with shortening and cut with pastry blender until flaky.
- Add ice water to bond together; form in a ball, wrap and refrigerate.
- Roll out dough about 1/8 inch thick, on lightly floured board.
- Cut into 4 inch rounds or larger.
- Spoon cooled filling in the centre of each 4 inch round, fold over and seal with crimper or the prongs of fork.
- Place on a baking sheet.
- Brush tops with a little milk and prick top with the fork.
- Bake at 450ºF for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes. Pastry should be a delicate brown.
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