Magic is actually an understatement. This simple fruit is so accommodating, versatile and changing depending on the treatment one gives it that it becomes bewildering the amount of things one can do with it. Pudding, cakes, biscuits, side vegetables, savoury snacks, you name it, there will be a way of working it.
Whether it is green, yellow or black, there is something delicious to make with plantain and my family is completely converted. Both girls like the fruity puddings, my youngest loves the pancakes – which find themselves in her school bag on a regular basis as little jam sandwiches – and my eldest could eat duck empanadas on a daily basis.
When I mention plantain to people, their face says it all – and not in a good way. When they taste what I make with it, it tells a different story. The unknown has a lot to answer for. So I decided to champion this magic fruit, strip it of its unknown label, so people can enjoy it as much as we do.
Firstly, yes it looks like a banana, but you have to cook it to eat it. Secondly it is fairly easy to get hold of in large supermarkets, which is where I get mine from. It is also available in some local Asian, Caribbean or South American shops.
I normally find it green, when it is unripe and more starchy than sweet, and therefore bland. This is the stage when I use it to make more savoury dishes such as the Patacones from last month theme on Costa Rica or the upcoming Empanadas, as well as some cakes.
Then it turns yellow as the starch turns into sugar. The fruit is then sweeter and takes a mild fruity flavour all of its own. That is when I use it to make the puddings and pancakes. It is softer to blend and great to make sweet dishes.
As it ripens further it becomes black and soft, the flesh becoming more and more yellow, sometimes with a tinge of orange. Its taste is then more pronounced and more sweet. But it is still delicious to make the pancakes in particular.
It is truly very easy to use and cook, but please bear in mind that having said that, all plantain is NOT born equal… what I mean by that, is that depending on which country it comes from and/or the type of plantain that is available, you will see a difference in its behaviour during the cooking process.
We do not have a choice however, the shop decides for us and the good news is, all the recipes still work and are still delicious. But if like me, you use plantain on a regular basis, you will see that the texture and taste can vary, providing a slightly different result. Just adapt the cooking process a little if necessary and nd carry on, it’ll still be gorgeous.
I do use plantain flour too (as some of you might have spotted in some previous recipes), but decided to concentrate on the more readily available fresh plantain this month. I will sometimes provide alternative recipes which use plantain flour. If you do try and source it, just beware that many brands are actually a blend of plantain and other starches, so take care when checking the ingredients. Please refer to the Paleo Store cupboard in the Basics section to see where I source mine.