Thursday, July 10, 2008


All sorts of exotic fruit and vegetables have come into fashion in the past 20 years. But not plantain. You do not see it on the menus of trendy restaurants or gastropubs. Probably it has failed to make the breakthrough because it is a little one-dimensional: perfectly pleasant, but less interesting than a banana. However, fried and served with chilli sauce and rice, it offers a decent lunch from time to time.

Plantains look unappetising in the shops, because with their blackened skins they appear to be overripe. (Many of my local shops sell bananas in that state too.) But you find when you peel them that the flesh is unharmed. Blackened skin indicates readiness. (The ones in the picture would need to be kept for a bit.)

Having written recently about couscous, I decided to fry my plantains in a couscous coating rather than in breadcrumbs. Naively, I thought that because the couscous was pre-cooked, I would not have to do anything to it before frying. That was a mistake.

I cut each plantain into three crosswise, and cut each portion lengthwise into three slices. I had a plate of flour, a shallow bowl of beaten egg, and a plate of couscous, and I coated the plantains in the usual way: roll them in the flour, roll them in the egg, roll them in the couscous (or breadcrumbs). The couscous (or breadcrumbs) soon turns soggy: one needs to refresh it with a new, dry batch. Because of sticky fingers, one cannot get the slices uniformly coated: it does not matter. I laid them on plates, and put them in the fridge for half an hour to allow the coating to firm up.

I poured about two-thirds of a bottle of sunflower oil into a saucepan, to a depth of about 5cms, and heated it gently, until a little cube of bread sizzled in it. I fried my plantains in batches, and kept the cooked ones on kitchen towels on a plate in a heated but switched-off oven.

They were somewhat crunchy. Not unpleasant; but next time I shall soak the couscous first.

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