Last weekend was an epic shopping adventure. No, I wasn’t searching for bargains at the Dubai Shopping Festival, but a simple ingredient for an idea I had. I had seen on TV that a US burger food truck had used plantains to make burgers. They looked great, so I set about making my own recipe.
The elusive ingredient is hard to find in the city — I visited four different stores, and I had a picture on my iPhone so I could visually explain what I was searching for. Met with various responses, none of which were particularly helpful, I was showed bananas several times. A mix-up that can easily happen as they do look very similar, although the skin of a plantain is thicker, darker than bananas.
Leaving the third store empty-handed, I had one more place to check at — would I try or fail?
I arrive at the final store, and as I approached the vegetables’ section, there they were, and piles of them. I grabbed a bunch and headed home.
Commonly known as cooking bananas, they are starchy and soft when cooked. Originally from Southeast Asia, they are now grown all over the world, including in India, Egypt, Indonesia and tropical regions of the Americas — high in fibre and a good source of carbohydrates.
Grown all-year-round, the fruit is popular in Central America, the Caribbean and African cuisine, and in South India. Eaten either sliced and shallow fried, or boiled and mashed. I usually serve them sliced and fried in coconut oil with a traditional Caribbean curried goat and rice and peas. With a side of slaw, this is the ultimate meal. I love the taste and texture with the spicy meat.
Unlike bananas, plantains are quite tricky to peel, so here are a few tips. Slice the ends off then make a slit from top to bottom. Under running water peel off the skin, and rinse; the inside can be slimy, but this will come off. Dry with some paper towel, then cut into 2cm slices. When shallow-frying keep the heat to a medium as they do brown quickly, and are a little tricky to turn. For the recipe alongside I’ve halved each plantain before cooking.
Keeping with the Caribbean theme I’ve added a sweet salsa salad, and of course, the burgers are jerk-seasoned. For a veggie version, brush a large Portobello mushroom with oil and coat with dry jerk seasoning. Shallow fry on medium heat for two minutes on each side. As I mentioned above plantains can be hard to find, so I bulk buy, slice and cook them, then freeze — all ready for that next Caribbean curry night.
JERK BEEF PLANTAIN BURGERS WITH CARIBBEAN SALSA
Makes 2, prep time 10 minutes, cooking time 20 minutes
FOR THE BURGERS
400g minced beef
2 tbsp of oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 red chilli chopped
2 chopped garlic cloves
2 spring onions
Pinch of salt & pepper
FOR THE PLANTAIN
Oil for deep frying
2 large plantains
FOR THE SALSA
1 small red onion diced
100g pineapple cubed
125g pomegranate seeds
100g mango cubed
1 ripe avocado cubed
1 large tomato cored and diced
1 cup of coriander leaves
Juice of a lime
1 red chilli sliced (optional)
Salt & pepper
4 cheese slices
Ketchup and American burger mustard
2 tomatoes, sliced
For the salsa: in a bowl combine all the ingredients with fresh lime and season. Cover and chill in the fridge.
For the beef patties: break up the beef into a mixing bowl, add the dry spices and combine. Add the remainder of the ingredients, mix, then divide into four. Roll each part into a ball then flatten into a round patty. Cover and chill in the fridge.
Heat the oil in a deep pan. While the oil is heating peel and halve the plantain.
When the oil is hot add the plantain and fry for two minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on some paper towel.
Allow the plantain to cool, place on a chopping board, and using the palm of your hand flatten each plantain into a circle, then chill in the fridge.
Next, heat some oil in a griddle pan and fry the burgers evenly on each side.
When cooked, remove the burgers from the pan, add a slice of cheese and set to one side.
In the same pan fry the plantain evenly on both sides.
Finally, place a slice of plantain on a serving board, add some rocket, ketchup and mustard.
Stack the burgers, top with tomato and serve with the salsa.