It’s been a while since my last post! Between moving from Accra to DC to London, I’ve been traveling a lot in the last few months, and cooking has unfortunately taken a backseat to research papers; however, I hope to update Jikoni more periodically.
While most people from West Africa and the Caribbean are well-acquainted with plantains, here’s a crash course on plantains vs. bananas for those who may be unfamiliar. Plantains are a member of the banana family, but they’re starchy and can’t be eaten raw. They’re typically fried or baked, and the older they are (i.e. the more black spots), the sweeter the taste.
In West Africa, plantains are typically cut, fried, and served as a snack or side dish. In The Gambia, where my mother is from, they’re usually served hot off the fire. In Ghana, the local take is called kelewele, and they're seasoned with dry chili peppers, ginger, and a whole host of delicious spices.
In the spirit of kelewele, which I greatly miss from my Accra days, I’ve been reflecting on how to integrate sweet plantain with something savory. I decided I would roast some plantain and stuff it with meat and vegetables.
Turns out that I’m not as original as I thought. In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which have large numbers of Afro-Latino people, stuffed plantains are called canoas de platanos maduros, or “canoes of sweet plantains.”
Instead of frying the plantains whole, I took the advice of Jannese of Delish D’Lites and baked the plantains for a lighter twist without sacrificing the sweetness. For this recipe, I used plantains that were yellow with lots of black spots. As she warns, using plantains that are completely black will result in a mushy mess.
For my take on the plantains, I followed Jannese’s recipe, and brushed the whole plantains with ghee, wrapped them in their peels, and baked them inside the peels for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit in order to keep them moist.
For the filling:
2/3 pound ground lean beef
2 chopped bell peppers
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Dash of salt and cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
Optional: provolone cheese
- Heat a large skillet over low-medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add bell peppers and cook until tender. Add tomato sauce and ground beef, which you should cook until browned.
- Season with salt, pepper, and oregano to taste.
- Add bay leaf (discard before serving).
- Fill the baked plantain with the meat and vegetable mixture.
- Optional: drizzle cheese on top
Serve alongside some Spanish rice (or jollof, for those who feel like taking it one step further)!