Oh dear, where do I start from with how much detest unripe plantains. I really used to hate it as a child. What did my mother not try? The worst type is boiling it in water and serving it with egg sauce. Double Ugh!!! She used to also mash it and use as a thickener in some sauces. Ugh!! The memories are not so kind. She made it into a porridge, OMG I used to think to myself, can this woman just give this thing up already. We don’t like it. All of us never liked it thankfully, so this time it wasn’t just Miss fussy eater that was the problem. I remember the day she told me my beloved Ikpekere (plantain chips) that I could run across a moving vehicle to buy on the street was made from unripe plantains. You would have thought my pet died. It can be likened to telling a child Santa Claus is not real. Honestly. The impact was disturbing. How can something you like so much, be made from something you absolutely detest? I started looking at plantain chips a different way from that day, and my love for it dropped down a notch.
On the So You Think You Can Cook Facebook Page, our resident dietician and amazing cook Mrs Iquo Ukoh put up a picture of Unripe plantain porridge. It reminded me of my mum’s save for the cow leg that she cooked it with. I looked at it and thought, naaaaah. Not trying it out. The delicious Ukodo (urhobo pepper soup – recipe HERE) that I made on Sunday also calls for unripe plantain, but I intentionally left it out as I did not want it to ruin the soup for me. So you see, me and unripe plantain go back a long way and our history is not so pretty. It ranks up there with Garden Eggs. Now that I have found a way to enjoy garden eggs (my amazing but different garden egg stew recipe HERE), I thought to apply the same principle to unripe plantain porridge. Smother it with meat. You want me to eat something I don’t like? Easy, smother it with meat and I am a happy bunny. Ooops, I just gave out one of the secrets to making me happy. Future hubby, you had better buy shares in a meat factory cos your baby loves her some meat. Lol. My friends keep telling me, what if you suddenly hate meat when you get pregnant? It can happen you know? The look of sheer horror on my face is laughable. This is now followed by me knocking on every piece of wood I can find, and chanting, Lord forbid, Lord forbid, Lord forbid, snapping my fingers over my head in a circular motion at the same time. Lol. Hate meat, that must be my worst nightmare.
You guys must have noticed, I love me some Calabar-esque dishes. Anything from the South South – Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Rivers and Delta, I love. I may not know how to pronounce it, but give me the recipe or cook it for me once and that’s it, I am sold. This dish is called Ukang Ukom by the Calabar’s or Ubobok Ukom by people from Akwa Ibom. After ignoring it in Ukodo, I am giving unripe plantain another chance. Here is how I showed it some love.
2 unripe plantains
1/4 cup chopped goat meat
1/4 chopped Cow leg
1/4 cup King Prawns
3 pieces of Cameroon pepper – substitute ata rodo or dry pepper (cayenne pepper)
1 handful of Efinrin – basil is a good substitute
1/2 cooking spoon of Palm Oil
1 small Red onion
Seasoning cube – knorr chicken cubes preferred
1 teaspoon of sugar – optional
1 – 1 1/2 cups of water
1. Chop up the meats into cubes and chop the red onion finely and set aside
2. Heat up the palm oil in a pan, add the contents from Step 1 and fry till the meats darken in colour. This should take 2 – 3 minutes
3. Add half a cup of water to the pan, 1 piece of knorr chicken cubes, ground Cameroon pepper and salt to taste. Allow this to cook for 3 – 5 minutes to heat up and for the seasoning cube to take effect. Creating a delicious stock base.
4. Peel the skin off the unripe plantains, cut into rounds (not too thin, not too thick), add to the pan and lower the heat. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: unripe plantains are basically very tough. If you cook at high heat, the stock will evaporate faster than it can seep into the tough skin of the plantains.
Therefore you need the plantains to slowly simmer in the stock and absorb its flavour. Otherwise you will end up with a dish that tastes as if you boiled the plantains in water and added it to the stock. There is a method to creating this dish beautifully, stick to it and you won’t go wrong.
5. As the plantains cook, they will soften nicely, tasting juicy and oh so delicious You will notice that some may be soft enough to break into pieces, do so, but ensure that you still have enough rounds, so you don’t end up with baby food looking porridge. The stock is likely to have thickened considerably. At this point, I added water, but not just ordinary water, but 1/2 a cup of warm water that my dried Efinrin leaves have been steeping in for almost 20 mins. I can’t source fresh Efinrin you see, so the dried version to the rescue. If you have Fresh Efinrin or Basil, just add half a cup of warm water and save the fresh leaves for the next step.
6. Once you add the water, stir and allow the plantains to cook further in the now diluted stock for a few minutes, till the stock thickens. Taste for salt and seasoning and adjust if necessary, then add chopped Efinrin/Basil and allow the herbs to infuse into the pot for 2 minutes.
You should be able to smell and taste the addition of the herb. This really cements this dish perfectly.
I would like to point out, that unlike the other forms of Nigerian porridge that you will be familiar with, this is a more watery version. Think of it as unripe plantains cooked in a delicious Palm oil sauce.
Don’t be tempted to go over zealous with your spoon and mash-up the plantains to thicken the sauce. See the pictures above and below, this is the consistency that you should be aiming for. The sauce is thick, but not as thick as you would expect Yam porridge to be for example.
I am going to probably tick off a foodie purists from the South South, but I will go ahead and proudly proclaim that I took some foodie license with this recipe and added a teaspoon of sugar. In as much as I really loved this dish, its level on my taste buds satisfaction quotient was not as high as I wanted it to be, probably because of a lifetime of hating unripe plantains. My brain wasn’t connecting with my mouth because it expects some sweetness with plantains, but this dish was not hitting that area in my brain that gets activated by sweetness. More of a disconnect. To solve that problem, I added a teaspoon of sugar. Just a teaspoon and WHOA!!!!!! That was it. It rounded the dish off nicely. If like me, unripe plantains are not your thing, and you may not be interested in trying this out. Just cheat a little, add sugar and you will get the ripe plantain slightly sugary taste that is intensely satisfying. The same effect you have by boiling yam with salt and a little sugar. Apologies to any food purists, I did not mean to taint this dish, but the result I got, I won’t apologise for. Sweet and Savoury. Yum, Yum. Lol
………..and that’s it. Simple, simple simple. Either for a Weekend breakfast or light dinner. OMG, this is so good. Unripe plantains have climbed up the taste scale. I am no longer as scared to make Owo soup now. That delicious Palm Oil soup from the people of Benin eaten with boiled unripe plantain. Stay tuned
I got this bowl on Ebay, and it is a traditional Chinese bowl and it came with its own spoon. So I thought, why can’t I just plate Ubobok Ukom fancy with an Asian twist. I was quite pleased with the images