Perfectly packaged by nature, many say the banana is nature’s greatest gift to the edible world.
It is said that Alexander the Great found bananas in India in 327BC, recognised something special about the fruit, and introduced it to the Western world.Lady finger (sugar) bananas, which are sweeter and ideal for desserts, and to a lesser extent, the plantain, or cooking banana, are both also available here.
Selection and storage: Choose fruit that feel firm in the skins and show no sign or bruising or blemishes. Bananas are best eaten while the skin is yellow. Too ripe and the texture and flavour change. At this stage, peel the banana and freeze in a plastic bag. Use for blending in a smoothie, blending with yoghurt for instant ice cream, or in cakes or bread. Banana leaves, useful as a wrap for steaming food or to serve food on, are available in fruit markets. Banana flowers, used in Thai cooking, are also gaining profile in the Australian market, although still difficult to source.
Bananas go with: Cream, brown sugar or caramel, nuts, pastry, vanilla, ice cream, rum, strawberries, chilli, coriander, curry leaves, ginger and onion.
These recipes were originally published in the October / November 2015 issue of Australian Country. Order the back issue here.
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Recipes and styling Kay Francis
Photography Ken Brass
TINY BANANA TARTS
1 cup brown sugar
1 medium-sized, firm banana
100g banana chips, finely ground
2 tablespoons cream
1 egg, whisked with
½ teaspoon vanilla paste
⅓ cup self-raising flour
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Melt butter in a saucepan. Brush two 12-hole tiny muffin tins with a little butter. Return butter to heat, add sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Place ¼ teaspoon of this mixture in the base of each muffin tin. Slice bananas and place one piece in the base of each tin. Stir banana chips, cream, egg, vanilla and flour into remaining butter and sugar mixture. When smooth, spoon mixture into tins, to almost fill. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes. Cool for just 3 minutes in tins, then turn out before toffee topping sets. Store in an airtight container.
BANANA PANCAKES WITH RUM PEANUT BUTTER CARAMEL AND CREAM
Makes 8 pancakes and 1 cup caramel
½ cup self-raising flour
¼ natural yoghurt
¼ cup pouring cream
¼ cup crushed banana chips
Butter, for greasing griddle
Rum Peanut Butter Caramel
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup pouring cream
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
3-4 lady finger (sugar) bananas
2 teaspoons crushed banana chips (banana praline)
Combine pancake ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. The batter can be refrigerated, covered, at this stage, until required. To cook, heat a griddle iron or heavy based frying pan. Grease with a little butter, then using about 2 tablespoonsful of batter for each pancake, cook on first side until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip, then cook until underside is golden and pancake is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cool to room temperature. You will need to keep adjusting heat under griddle to ensure an even result. Trim ends from bananas, then slice each in three long strips, through the skin. Peel, and place on buttered griddle, cooking both sides until dark golden. Turn off heat.
To make caramel sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan until foaming, add sugar and cream and bring to the boil, stirring. Add peanut butter and rum and stir until mixed through. Reduce heat and cook 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
To serve, spread caramel on a pancake, then top with banana slices and whipped cream. Make a stack of 2 or 3 pancakes, finishing with cream. Secure with a skewer pushed through the layers. Sprinkle with banana praline.
BANANA AND CASHEW STEAMED FISH
3-4 ocean perch fillets
Coconut brown rice, to serve
1 cup raw cashews
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2cm green ginger, peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh curry leaves
3-4 kaffir lime leaves, sliced from centre vein and chopped
½ bunch coriander including roots, washed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chilli jam, or 1 long red chilli including seeds, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons coconut water
To make paste, put all ingredients in a food processor and work until a thick paste forms. Place half in the base of a shallow dish, lay fish fillets on top and spread remaining paste on them. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. (The fish can be left longer, but the banana tends to blacken. This affects the appearance only, not the taste.)
To cook, position one piece of banana leaf, large enough to fold over all fish, in steamer basket (firstly soften leaves in hot water to prevent splitting when folding). Place fish and paste in a single layer on leaf, then fold it over or top with another leaf. Secure with a long toothpick or skewer. Sides can be left open. Heat water in a pot of the same diameter as the steamer basket. Cover basket with lid, position over water and steam for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and rest until required. Serve in steamer basket, positioned on a platter or board, with brown rice cooked in coconut water, passed separately.