There’s an episode of Friends (‘The One Where Ross Got High’, for those playing along at home) in which Monica deigns to let Rachel contribute to the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner by making a trifle for dessert. One can only assume that Monica was pretty confident that Rachel wouldn’t be able to mess that up. What she didn’t foresee was the pages of the cookbook getting stuck together, leading Rachel to create a bizarre combination of trifle (jam, custard, cream, bananas) and shepherd’s pie (beef, peas, onions). Unsurprisingly, in the words of Judy Geller, the end result ‘did not taste good.’
You can therefore understand our trepidation whilst assembling the ingredients for Futunan stuffed bananas. Whilst this might sound like a dessert, it’s actually supposed to be a side dish, but whichever way you look at it, combining banana flesh, beef mince and onions to make a stuffing just feels wrong. Another factor was that banana is pretty much the only food Miranda doesn’t like (which is probably fair after the amount of coconut dishes we’ve made). This was perhaps our most experimental dinner yet…
Futunan stuffed bananas
Recipe from How to Eat a Small Planet.
6 green bananas, unpeeled
225g beef mince
1 onion, finely diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper
1. In a sauté pan, brown the beef and then set aside.
2. Preheat an oven to 180C.
3. Slice the bananas in half lengthways and carefully remove the flesh without breaking the peel. (This is quite a fiddly operation as the flesh of green bananas is so firm – patience is required!)
4. In a large bowl, mash the banana flesh (we used a stick blender as it was too firm to mash) and then mix in the beef, egg and onion, adding salt and pepper to taste.
5. Stuff the peels with the mixture and wrap in banana leaves. (It wasn’t clear whether we were supposed to put them ‘back together’, as it were, or wrap them separately: we put them back together. We also used alfoil as we didn’t have banana leaves.)
6. Bake for 45 minutes.
(This is one peeled and one unpeeled after cooking, to show the difference. Don’t eat the peel!)
Instead of using this as a side dish, we made it the main feature of our dinner, serving it with brown rice and a salad dressed simply with lemon juice to add acidity. This seemed to work as a combination – as did the stuffed bananas, despite all expectations! In some ways, you could probably describe the flavour as quite bland, but not in a bad way, and there was certainly enough flavour for us to enjoy it. The texture becomes quite firm once it’s baked, almost akin to a bread pudding, if we had to make a comparison. Ash’s comment after the meal was, ‘I’d make this again… I mean, we probably won’t. But I would.’ That probably sums it up. We did enjoy it, but whether we enjoyed it enough to actually make the effort to buy green bananas again is another story. All the same, it was a pleasant surprise, and one that was much more successful than Rachel’s trifle!
Next up, we’re finally back to exploring the cuisine of a country we’ve both been to: Fiji. We may put that off for another little while, though, because this weekend we’re having a go at something we haven’t actually done before, and that’s Thanksgiving dinner. We’re gearing ourselves up for some another crazy combination, because apparently a compulsory feature of this dinner is sweet potato with brown sugar and marshmallows. We’re both sceptical, but as our stuffed banana experiment has proven, we’re also both willing to try anything!