At first glance, you may mistake plantain for a banana, and while very similar, plantain is the staple food of many cultural dishes. It originates from the tropical regions of South-East Asia and Northern Australia. Plantain is different from the sweet and soft banana and must be cooked before eating. Depending on its ripeness, plantains can be green, yellow, pink or dark in colour and it’s also much firmer and contain less sugar than normal bananas. Some people compare its texture and taste to a potato. Plantain is starchy and is the base food for many dishes. It is also rich in fibre and contributes significantly to your RDA. Like bananas, plantain contains lots of potassium and vitamin A to support a healthy immune system.

If you’re intrigued by this mysterious plant, why not have a go at making these delicious plantain recipes?

Spicy Savoury Plantain—perfect with chicken or fish: For this recipe, make sure the plantains aren’t too ripe. Start off by frying the plantain in oil over a medium heat for 3–4 minutes until golden brown. Then add chopped garlic, cayenne pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for a minute or so and finish with a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice.

Fried Sweet Plantain—This is an easy recipe that you can whip up in minutes. Simply cut up a plantain into thin slices and fry in oil over a medium/high heat. Serve with vanilla ice cream and dust with cinnamon and demerara sugar.

Plantain Stuffing—This is a great accompaniment to chicken, fish or even on its own.

2 cups stuffing cubes
1 large plantain (preferably black in some areas)
3 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Jalapeno (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350F/180 (fan)/gas mark 4
2)  Over a medium heat add 1tbsp. butter and 1tbsp. oil to a large pan. Add the onion, pepper and thyme and fry until the onions and pepper are quite soft.
3) Add the garlic and continue to fry until garlic is also soft.
4) Remove from pan and add to a large mixing bowl with the stuffing cubes.
5) Heat remaining butter and oil and gently fry the plantain slices until golden brown
6) Add plantain to the rest of the mix along with the chicken stock and mix with your hands or a large spoon.
7) Add to an oven dish and cover with foil. Bake for 30 mins. Then remove foil and bake for a further 20 mins, or until golden.

Cliona Elliott, Editor (Food)

Image Courtesy: © Scott Ehardt, Released in the public domain | Wikimedia Commons