So, as I mentioned in the last post, tropical fruits are abundant in the Seychelles, but none more so than bananas. Searching for Seychellois recipes, I found sweet banana recipes, savory banana recipes, banana curries, banana fritters, bananas flambéed in rum, bananas used to season fish and fish used to season bananas, and a snack rather delightfully named a “banana carrot.” (It doesn’t involve carrots; it’s just shaped like one. And it sounds pretty tasty!) The recipe I settled on, ladob banan, uses plantains as its banana variety of choice, and also features the other fruit that seemed nearly ubiquitous in Seychellois cuisine, the good ol’ coconut. Interestingly, ladob can be made as both a sweet or a savory dish – the savory version replaces the sugar with salt and the vanilla with pieces of fish. That sounded interesting, too, but I already had a fishy dish. I wanted dessert.
You know the drill by now:
I was lucky enough to be able to find ripe plantains at the store, so that I didn’t have to wait days between purchasing them and cooking with them – often you’ll only be able to find green ones, which are great for savory plantain dishes, but for sweet things, you want plantains that have significant amounts of blackness on ’em. These plantains were just about perfect.
The first step was to peel the plantains and cut them into quarters (once lengthwise, and once the other way, so that I ended up with long chunks of plantain with one flat side). Plantains don’t peel as easily as bananas, so a couple of times I had to take my knife and slice pieces of the peel off, but after a minute or two, I had twelve nice plantain pieces. I arranged those, flat side down, on the bottom of a big cooking pot (it took some plantain-wrangling, because there was just baaaaaaarely room for all of them), wedged some cinnamon sticks in between them, and then covered them with the brown sugar, nutmeg, and just a tiny dash of salt.
At this point, the pot got to sit for a while because I was busy with rice and curry, but once I knew the curry was almost done, I poured in the vanilla and the coconut milk, and then put the pot on the stove at medium-high heat and brought the liquid up to a boil.
Once it had maintained a good, solid boil for about ten minutes, I turned the heat down to medium-low (on my stove with the 1-10 number dial, I set it at about a 3), and let it gently cook for another half hour or so while we ate curry and rice. By the time we’d finished eating, the liquid had almost all been absorbed or evaporated so that what was left behind were tender plantains in a very thick, gooey coconut-and-brown-sugar sauce. They were ready to eat.
Scrumptious! I really loved this. I was a little worried that cooking the plantains for so long in all that coconut milk was going to make them turn out too soggy and squishy, but they held up beautifully while still soaking up tons of flavor from the other ingredients.
I’m not even going to say “if” I make this again, because not only will I make this again, I’m probably going to make it again within the next day or two, because I got a good deal on plantains and bought three more of them already. When I make this again, in a day or two, I won’t change a thing. It’s great – and as desserts go, it’s even relatively healthy. I suspect that not only will I make ladob banan again this week, it will probably end up in the rotation of “desserts I make on a regular basis for the rest of my life,” because it’s very easy, very tasty, and just different enough to be an interesting treat to whip out for guests.
3 ripe plantains
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp nutmeg
dash of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 can (13.5 oz) of coconut milk
(Since I’m running waaaaaaaaaaaaay behind schedule on writing up these posts, country #7 should appear about two minutes after this post does.)