How does this combo sound to you – green plantains, smoked fish and callaloo? Nice eh? While doing research on plantain porridge for last week’s column (on plantain porridge) I was surprised when I saw photographs of callaloo, plantains and fish cooked together like a stew with the caption – plantain porridge, Nigerian plantain porridge to be precise.
Curious, I clicked on a few links. From research over the years, I knew that in various parts of Africa, porridge was simply a term used to describe a starchy mash such as coucou and fu-fu depending on the region, so this hearty stew was a surprise, and a welcome one too. Where cassava and green plantains are concerned, the more ways I can find to enjoy them, the happier I am. The original recipe called for some specialty ingredients, some I had and others I didn’t.
Red palm oil was needed, mostly to colour the dish, I used a bit of tomato sauce instead. Pumpkin leaves were needed, however, the recipe I adapted said that any type of spinach could work. Fortunately, I had all the other ingredients – green plantains, smoked fish (top notch quality smoked fish from Guyana) and ground cray fish! I had bought a packet of ground cray fish a couple of years ago while in the United States hunting for some specialty ingredients. Not to worry though, you can substitute with dried shrimp to give it that umami taste and depth of flavour.
This is a one-pot dish that comes together very quickly; the longest cooking ingredient is the green plantain(s). The flavour is not one that we are unaccustomed to and I think eating the combination in the manner in which it is cooked could take getting used to. You know when you feel as if you have too much stew or curry on your plate than starch? That is the feeling I got because the dish is very savoury. I found myself eating more of the plantains to kind of offer relief to my palette. It’s a different way of eating; it’s worth trying. Here’s how to make it.
Nigerian Plantain Porridge
(Heavily adapted from Nigerian Food TV)
- 1 pound smoked fish rehydrated from a 12 – 16 hour soak in tap water changed 2 – 3 times
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion finely minced
- 2 stalks Chinese/Guyanese celery finely minced
- 3 – 4 broad leaf thyme, finely minced
- Minced hot pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon ground cray fish (substitute with 1 tablespoon finely minced dried shrimp)
- 3 large green plantains, peeled, halved and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Room temperature water
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- 1 large vegetable cube
- 4 bundles/bunches callaloo, cut up
- Salt to taste
1. Add oil to a pot and place over medium until hot. When oil is hot, add onions, celery, thyme and hot pepper, cook for 1 minute then and ground crayfish or dried shrimp, toss well to mix, reduce heat to low and cook until pot is fragrant and onions softened.
2.Add plantains, toss to cook with aromatics for 1 minute.
3.Raise heat to high, pour water to cover plantains, add tomato sauce and cube, stir to mix and dissolve cube, breaking it up. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Cook until plantains are tender.
4.While plantains are cooking, drain and rinse fish well; break fish into large bite-size pieces. Add to pot and cook for 3 – 4 minutes with plantains.
5. Taste and add salt if necessary.
6. Add spinach/callaloo and stir. Cook until spinach/callaloo is just wilted.
7. Remove from heat. Let pot sit for 5 minutes before serving.