Natural Flava Chickpea Stuffed Plantain Recipe
EEvery once in a while I come across a cookbook whose recipes are so compelling that I have a hard time deciding what to try first. That’s what happened when I saw Craig and Shaun McAnuff natural flavora vegan sequel to their 2019 book, original flavor.
Like that book, this one is inspired by their trip to Jamaica in 2018, a few years after they started making online videos of their Caribbean recipes. The Jamaican-born brothers grew up in south London and have long wanted to demystify Caribbean cuisine, busting myths that its recipes are complicated and meat-heavy. And they do it with a lot of charm; one of the most delightful parts of their book is their sprinkling of such terms from “likkle” to “little”, bringing their vocals to life.
“Everyone thinks Caribbean cuisine is about jerk, jerk chicken, or barbecue chicken,” Craig, 32, said in a Zoom interview. “But people are more open to Caribbean cuisine now. The jerk chicken is so good they want to know everything about the rest. And over time people are more open and there are so many more vegan options which are increasing year by year.
The brothers are also careful to emphasize that they want everyone to enjoy their book, regardless of their food preferences. After all, while Shaun, 35, spent a year eating exclusively vegan food (and boasts that he saw his weight and skin improve as a result), they are now both flexitarians.
“This book isn’t just for plant eaters,” Shaun says. “It’s important for meat eaters to have balance too.”
One of their uncles is a Rastafarian, herbalist and healer in Jamaica, and they were inspired in part by the Rastafarian Ital diet, proving the nation has a long and genuine tradition of vegan cooking. But that doesn’t mean that natural flavor is limited to such recipes. Instead, I see it in the same vein as recent cookbooks like The Korean Vegan and Provechoboth of which respect the plant-based foundations of a cuisine (Korean and Colombian, respectively), while not being afraid to also offer vegan versions that respect the spirit, if not the letter, of tradition.
In natural flavor, this combination is part of what made choosing a recipe so difficult for me. Could it be Rasta Pumpkin Pasta? Tofu jerk? A cauliflower burger with spicy mayo, coleslaw and mango chutney? I settled on these Curried Chickpea Plantain Boats because I love all the ingredients separately and had no doubt that once put together I would love them all the more.
It’s sort of a cross between Puerto Rican-style canoas de platanos, sweet plantains usually stuffed with meat or seasoned seafood, and a chickpea and plantain curry that the brothers included in original flavor. You coat ripe plantains—nothing green, please—heavily in seasoning, and while they roast, you make a quick curry from Caribbean curry powder, coconut milk, herbs (garlic, onion, ginger) and chickpeas. When the plantains come out of the oven, you open them up a bit (like a baked potato) to make room for the chickpea mixture.
When I did all of this, then stuck into a fork and took a bite, the layers of sweet and spicy, creamy and starchy made it clear: I needed more, not just a little. .
Curried Chickpea Plantain Boats
Active time: 25 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes
Or buy: Caribbean curry powder and Caribbean all-purpose seasoning can be found in international markets or online. Head to the Latin or Caribbean markets for the best selection of plantains of varying levels of ripeness.
Prepare in advance: Chickpea curry and roasted plantains can be cooked separately and refrigerated for up to 1 week before reheating and joining.
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon fine salt
4 large ripe plantains (all yellow with a few black spots and no green), peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil (any kind)
1 small yellow onion (about 140g), chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons Caribbean curry powder (can substitute Madras or other curry powder)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 can (400g) whole coconut milk
1 can (425g) no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon Caribbean All Purpose Seasoning (can substitute low-salt or no-salt seasoning)
Fresh parsley leaves, to serve
Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, finely diced, for serving (optional)
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 205°C.
In a small bowl, combine the paprika, thyme, pepper and salt.
Using a sharp paring knife, cut a deep gash in the middle of each plantain lengthwise, stopping just before you reach each end. Carefully separate the two halves slightly. Place on a small baking sheet or rimmed roasting pan and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 35 minutes, or until a metal fork or skewer passes through with very little resistance.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil until shimmering. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add curry powder and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil, then add the chickpeas and all-purpose seasoning and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the oil begins to separate, 5 at 7 minutes.
Transfer the plantains to a serving platter or individual plates and open the middle of each by pushing from each end. Spoon the chickpea curry over the plantains, sprinkle with parsley and Scotch bonnet, if using, and serve hot.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
Nutritional information per serving (1 plantain and 80g chickpeas): Calories: 589; total fat: 31g; saturated fat: 23g; cholesterol: 0mg; sodium: 698mg; carbohydrates: 80g; dietary fiber: 10g; sugar: 31g; protein: 10g.