Well this dish was just a complete surprise really. I had some bananas from Birregurra Organics but despite all my best attempts at encouragement and tricks with paper bags the little buggers remained resolutely green and hard. But it was a kilo of fruit produced with love, dammit, and there was no way I was going to let them go without a battle. The first stop was to google “unripe banana recipes”. Wow. That took me places I never wanted to go… Eventually, however, I ended up on a Hare Krishna site. Now let it be said that I have two specific issues with Hare Krishna cooking. I’m sorry, but asafoetida is not an acceptable replacement for garlic and the fashion fails to meet even my exceptionally low standards.
But there, at last, a solution to my problems: a curry made with unripe bananas. To tell the truth, the whole concept was kind of freaking me out and the weird gray mush pictured on the asafoetida site was not helping at all. I took the basic concept (bananas simmered in coconut milk and tempered with spices at the end) and largely tried not watch as I made the dish. The (imagined) texture of the bananas was doing my head in and it was largely this that drove me to make the fresh green bean pickle to give it a crunchy lift. This was a particularly good idea, if I may say so myself, as the combination of soft and crunchy was marvellous.
In trying to imagine this dish, replace “green banana” with “sweet potato” and you’re getting the picture. The unripe bananas don’t actually taste very much like bananas – they are more just like sweet, starchy dumplings. Not sounding so bad now, is it! Coupled with the crunchy beans it was really very lovely. And while I was eating it, I had an epiphany about how we consume food in our culture. We are such selective and extravagant consumers, taking only the finest cuts and types and leaving the vast bulk of foods behind that don’t meet our exacting standards. How much food do we waste like this? We grow food plants and consume sometimes only a fraction of their edible parts (think beetroots and broccoli) or kill an animal and take only the premium meats. It’s unsustainable and its disconnected. Think about it next time you reject a vegetable that is less than perfect. Mind you, that’s not to say I’m going to be taking up tripe and jowls in the near future, no siree…
Green banana curry with fresh green bean pickle
- 6 – 7 unripe bananas, peeled and cut into chunks (you may need to cut them into chunks first and then cut the peel off)
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 3 dried red chillies, chopped
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 tin chickpeas, coarsley mashed
- 1 desert spoon fish sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsps brown or palm sugar
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil
- 3 dried red chillies – additional
- 1 – 2 tsps black mustard seeds
- 1 – 2 tsps cumin seeds
For the green bean pickle:
- Handful of green beans, finely sliced on the diagonal
- 1/4 red onion, finely sliced
- Handful chopped coriander
- 3 tsp salt
- 3 tsp sugar
Start with the green beans as they need a bit of time to pickle up. So combine the beans and onions and sprinkle with most of the salt and sugar, leaving a pinch of each aside, rub to combine well. Leave to sit while you make the curry (or for half an hour). Then rinse well and gently squeeze dry. Mix well with the coriander and reserved sugar and salt.
So, the curry: quickly put the peeled and chopped banana pieces into the water with the turmeric, chillies and garam masala. They start to go black and manky looking if you leave them too long. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and then add the coconut milk, salt, chickpeas and shredded coconut. Simmer for another 10 minutes then add the fish sauce and sugar. Simmer until tender. The last step is to temper the curry. This just means heating the peanut oil in a small pan until very hot, then throw in the mustard and cumin seeds and additional chillies. Let them fry in the oil for a few seconds but don’t let them get too dark. Pour the hot oil over the curry and stir through. Done! Serve the curry with a pile of the pickled green beans on top.