Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lentejas con platano frito

Lentils with fried plantain
My grandfather had a banana plantation in the Soconusco region, in Chiapas. This Southern region of Mexico is at times unbearably hot, so the vegetation is very lush, the perfect place to grow bananas. My mother used to tell me that no matter what, her childhood home in Tapachula always had this fruit. This included "platano manzano" a fat banana that tasted like apples, pink bananas, plantain, miniature "platano Dominico" and several other banana species that are not well know here in the US. Plantains were as popular as potatoes, and just as widely used.

My grandmother used to make this simple dish. It is no surprise that Tapachula's cuisine has a lot of tropical influences, like the plantain topping on this lentil stew. A secret of tierra caliente, is to serve hot stews and dishes that promote perspiration to "cool off" the body. If you want to make this family recipe you will need the following ingredients:

1 large green plantain
1 package of lentils
1 cup vegetable broth or water
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
1 spring of cilantro
1 celery rib
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the plantain and cut into slices. Soak the plaintain in cold water with a smashed clove of garlic and salt to taste.

Sort the lentils and get rid of any impurities. Wash the lentils and cover with water. Boil in medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add the celery, a minced garlic clove, the chopped onion and the cilantro spring. Boil for about 20 minutes more. If necessary add more water or broth to the lentils until they are fully cooked and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the plantains and dry on a paper towel. Fry in the vegetable oil until brown. If you like your plantains crispy, you need to flatten them (with the back of a glass, or another instrument) and fry for a second time. Drain again on paper towels. Remove the celery and serve the lentils, topped with fried plantains.

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