Green plantainIt looks like a banana, it feels like a banana, it is a banana. Sort of.

It’s actually a plantain. A green (unripe) one. And, lest anyone should think from the mere fact that I’ve called this post “interesting vegetable of the week” just the same as I called my post one week ago that I’m going to start a regular feature on the subject of interesting vegetables, think again. It’s just a phase. (Ariel is hoping that it will be a short one!) Anyway, strictly speaking this is a fruit, but we will gloss over that.

So, to the plantain.

They don’t peel like banana, because they are not ripe enough for the skin to just peel off. Nor do they peel like a potato, because the skin is too thick for any vegetable peeler known to woman. You just have to hack the skin off with a knife, using one or more of the various techniques vaunted on the internets, hoping not to lose too much flesh (yours or the plantain’s, as one writer whose link has been lost wittily remarked).

Having more or less successfully peeled the plantain, there are just about as many options for cooking it as there are for cooking the trusty potato. Most of them involve frying or turning it into soup but I chose to make Mangu, which is basically boiled and mashed with stuff added, including onions and oil. Unfortunately, I didn’t believe quite how much oil/liquid would be needed. I put in a fair quantity of olive oil and a good lot of milk as well but it was STILL really dry.

So here are my tips for Mangu, or any other form of mashed plantain recipe:

  • Add LOTS of liquid. At least as much as it says in the recipe. Maybe more.
  • Mix and mash the plantains really quickly, ideally over a low heat, because as they get colder they get harder. Like, really hard.

As it turns out, the reason for plantains being this way is that, relative to comparable foodstuffs, they have a very low water content. Bananas and potatoes both have about 80% water, while plantains have about 60-65% water. I would reckon that you have to add at least three times as much liquid when you mash a plantain as you would when you mash a potato. If not more.

It did turn OK in the end, if a bit hard and lumpy. I confess that I liked the tomato curry that we had with it much more. (Ariel complained it was too spicy so I drowned hers in natural yoghurt. Yum.)

Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it for posterity, but then I may well eat plantains again so that isn’t the end of the world. 🙂