Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

When bananas go caramel

I have decided I don’t like ripe bananas, excepting when they’re in banana bread format, but that’s another story.

Too many times this past while I find myself eating ripe bananas only to come across a swathe of black mush.

This mush is avoidable in daylight hours of course, but I often eat my banana as I’m driving in the evening, as a late energy booster.

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And in the darkness of the car, the black mush is only detectable when it’s in your mouth.

Therefore, I have instigated a moratorium on ripe bananas; no more freckily ‘nanas for me.

Did you know that a banana is botanically a berry? Me neither but every day’s a school day.

I recall the first time I tasted that elusive (in these parts anyway) cooking banana, the plantain.

More starchy and less sweet, my fried plantains arrived on a plate alongside a fillet of dorado wrapped in leaves and some rice and peas.

This was about ten years ago in a beautiful restaurant in St Lucia, called the Coal Pot.

I remember too thinking it a weird name for an eatery. Anyway…

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I was looking forward to the fish, but I was dubious, let’s say, about the fried plantains.

Indistinguishable at least visually from the sweet Canvendish bananas we know and love, the plantains I suspected wouldn’t be adding anything to the plate other than a distraction.

How wrong was I? They were sensational, as satisfying as well-seasoned chips.

I promptly polished off the lot, before I even sampled the fish.

Alas, just like money, plantains don’t exactly grow on trees around here, so I’ve yet to try and replicate my St Lucian meal at home. One day though… one day.

Instead and as a dish which falls half way between the unripe bananas I’m buying to avoid the black mush and the cooking bananas I’m yet to make, I’ve started frying bananas as a dessert.

Fried bananas with cinnamon, butter and honey are wonderful on their own, but they also make a delicious accompaniment to vanilla ice-cream.

Caramelised and unctuous and moreish, you could make a real pig of yourself with these things, as I frequently do. Oink, oink!

The key here is to keep an eye as these bad boys cook because turn your back for a second and as sure as eggs are eggs, the bananas slices will catch and burn. You want caramelisation yes. Burn, no.

INGREDIENTS
• 2 un-ripened bananas ( you can also use bananas which are just ripe but any freckles and you’re best saving for banana bread – but that’s another story). You can cut them into rounds or slice down the middle
• half a tsp of cinnamon
• small pinch of sea salt
• 1 tbsp of butter (you could also use coconut oil or any tasteless oil)
• 2 tbsps of honey (preferably raw)
• Vanilla ice-cream for serving

THE PLAN
This is easy as pie – in fact, pie would be more difficult.
Start by adding the honey, cinnamon, butter and that small pinch of salt to a frying pan and turn the heat up to medium high.
Swirl and stir until everything is mixed through. Do not be tempted to dip your pinky in, no matter how good it smells!
As it’s heating, quickly peel and chop the bananas and add these to the pan. Fry for about three to four minutes on either side, until they start to caramelise and turn golden brown. As I said, keep a close eye and when the caramelisation is perfect, flip. If they burn you might cry (I know I would).
After they’re all caramelised on both sides, remove and devour as you see fit.
Vanilla ice-cream optional but recommended.

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