Jihva for Bananas ~ Fritter Fright and Magnificent Mtori

mmm… mtori
mmm mmm mmm… simple and magnificent mtori

It’s Jihva time again, and this month we are treated to Jihva for Bananas by a dear friend from my dear home state: lovely and talented Mandira of Ahaar fame. Thank you Mandira, for all your hard work hosting Jihva!

I must admit, bananas are not my favorite fruit. As kids we adored them fixed simply and specially by mom — mashed smooth and sprinkled with a liberal dose of sugar. I’m not sure why I am not enamoured of them now. I do enjoy them in bread and muffins, that sort of thing — but eat a banana? Only rarely, sliced thin on cold cereal.

Thankfully I did not pass this trait on to my kids; they both love bananas. They will only eat them just this side of ripe, however, before the brown specks begin to appear. So picky! 😉

That said, I was happy when Mandira chose banana for her JFI. Here was my chance to find a new way to enjoy bananas. I found just what I was looking for in a cookbook I got a few months ago: A Taste Of Africa by Dorinda Hafner.

Or so I thought.

taste of africa
A Taste of Africa by Dorinda Hafner

The cookbook had a tasty-sounding recipe for banana fritters. It was easy — very ripe bananas, milk, caster sugar, cornstarch and ground ginger to season. Oil to fry. The name was intriguing: chapati ya n’dizi tamu. Sound a wee bit Indian? It did to me. OK, I can do this. I don’t have caster sugar but I can use plain. I don’t have ground ginger but I have cardamom. “Excellent”, thought I.

So I tried. Three times. Ugh. The first batch was AWFUL. Indescribably awful. Not even worthy of a photo. Just picture a gloppy oily sticky mess.

OK, so maybe my bananas were REALLY overripe. Pushing the envelope. Better used for banana bread. Onward and upward. I added more cornstarch.

The second batch came out a little better, but not much! Bananas in Africa must be much smaller than those I used because my ‘batter’ was still all banana and sugar; it was burning outside before it could cook. My daughter came into the kitchen and pronounced the fritters ‘nauseating’. Great.

I forged on. More cornstarch. Closer watch on the heat. The third batch was almost edible; still I was not enamoured of this dish. While the inside was meltingly delicious, the outside was too chewy and the whole thing absorbed way too much oil. That might be the fault of the cook, as I am no expert at frying.

Nonetheless, here they are, along with the recipe. Perhaps someone with more fritter expertise than I can make this work 🙂

Chapati Ya N’dizi Tamu
Banana Fritters ~ from A Taste of Africa by Dorinda Hafner

3 large, very ripe bananas
1/4 c milk
4 oz (about 1/4 c) caster sugar
2-4 TB cornflour
(cornstarch – I started with 3 TB and added at least 1/4 c more all told)
1 tsp ground ginger (I used cardamom pwd)
canola oil for frying

~~~

From the book:
“Peel the bananas, cut in halves, put in a mixing bowl and mash into a thick coarse paste with your fingers, a wooden spoon, or an electric blender.

Stir in all the ingredients except oil and mix together thoroughly. You may need to add more or less cornflour but the finished mixture should be thick and slightly coarse (which is why it is preferable to mash the bananas initially with your fingers).

Have the oil in a skillet or frypan until just before the oil starts to smoke. Fry one tablespoon of the fritter mixture first as a test. If it burns immediately, the oil is too hot so reduce the heat. If it does not burn immediately but browns nicely, turn it over and cook the other side until both sides are golden and the fritter is firm.

Continue to fry the remaining mixture in small batches. Drain the fritters on paper napkins or have a wire sieve and keep them in a warm oven until all the fritters have been cooked. Serve hot”.

–recipe from Tanzania by Dorinda Hafner

fritter fright!
the third batch, and they look better than they tasted 😉

The second dish I tried from this cookbook was a green-banana soup, also from Tanzania called Mtori. The name conjured up visions of a book I had as a child, and which I read to my kids when they were young, called A Story A Story: An African Tale Retold And Illustrated by Gail E. Hailey.

“Mtori” took me back to bedtime as a small girl, and the stories my dad would read to me. One was this book, with Nyame the Sky God, to whom all stories belonged… and Ananse the Spider Man, who wove a web to the sky in order to buy back the stories. In my memory of long-ago, alive once more were Osebo the leopard of-the-terrible-teeth, Mmboro the hornet who-stings-like-fire, and Mmoatia, the fairy whom-men-never-see. My dad gave them all voices of their own, and I shed a tear remembering.

You can find this magical book on amazon.com or I am sure, in any good children’s bookstore. Read it with your kids and perhaps when they are older with kids of their own, they will remember it as fondly as I did last night, just out of the blue. Of course you could simply read it for own enjoyment 🙂

green cooking bananas and ripe tomato
green ‘cooking bananas’ and ripe garden tomato

Back to the recipe: I found these green ‘cooking bananas’ at the regular grocery. Somehow these were sold separately from the regular eating bananas, which can also be sold green. I loved this recipe and the green bananas!
It was an entirely different eating experience. The original called for a strong beef broth, but I substituted bean broth from a pot I was making at the time. I added the fresh tomatoes and onions along with the finely cut cooking bananas. When I tasted the mix, it seemed to beg for garlic, so I added three cloves, coarsely cut so as not to overpower.

The aroma of this soup was more than enough to banish the fritter-blues.

~~~

Mtori
cream of banana or plantain soup ~
adapted from a Tanzania recipe in A Taste of Africa by Dorinda Hafner

1 qt bean broth from 16-bean mix or your favorite beans
(the original calls for strong beef broth)
5 medium green bananas or plantains, peeled and chopped fine
(I used 2 big green ‘cooking bananas’)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 big ripe tomato, chopped fine (original calls for peeling tomato, I did not)
2-3 big cloves garlic, peeled and cut in large pieces
1 TB butter or ghee
salt and pepper to taste

Optional for garnish:

1/4 c yogurt

~~~

From the book:

“Pronounced “m-tory”, this Cream of Banana or Plantain soup is a traditional dish in the Kilimanjaro region. It is very popular among nursing mothers, and while the men would traditionally consider it feminine to take liquid foods, an exception is made for this soup because it is so delicious! The excuse used is that the men are helping their wives to eat well”!

Heat the bean broth on med-high heat to near boiling.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the veggies (the book suggests using oil on your hands to avoid staining from green banana/plantain). Add diced bananas, onion, tomatoes and garlic to the hot bean broth. Simmer until all ingredients are soft — 1-2 hours depending on your veggies.

Mash with whisk or blender to make a smooth soup.

Mix in the butter or ghee, and swirl in the optional yogurt if using. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

~~~

This soup is wonderfully thick and rich and can easily stand alone; but it tastes even better next day, served with hot steamed rice.

Thanks again Mandira — I’m really glad I had the chance to cook with bananas! 🙂

mm mm mm … mtori
yummy mtori (green banana/plantain soup from Tanzania)

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25 Comments »

  1. Revathi said

    HAd to leave a comment on this one… Not for bananas, I am not a great fan either.. but for the wonderful childhood memories that never come back. Especially the close people that you lose forever who are associated in those memories!!

    I feel a sense of pathos reading about it…

    Btw thanks for asking, yes I am back from my 2 month long vacation….Whenever I want to do a post the unpacked suitcase glares at me..:)

    Childhood memories are wonderful, yes, Revathi — thankfully we go on making new ones are we age. So welcome back! Maybe you can do a post on unpacking 😉 Can’t wait to hear all about your trip, and the wonderful memories you made 🙂

  2. Suganya said

    May be AP flour instead of cornflour may work in that fritter. Don’t you think we need more flour to hold the banana together?

    Thanks for the suggestion, Suganya. I sure thought it needed a lot more than the recipe called for! After my daughter turned up her nose, I think I’ll stick to green bananas for cooking 🙂

  3. Nupur said

    Wow, these are some cool experiments with bananas! The plantain soup is so unusual.
    Here is a banana “fritter” that is my favorite: Just-ripe (sweet yet firm) banana slices (peeled) dipped in thick “pakoda” batter (chickpea flour, salt, turmeric, chilli powder, maybe some carom or cumin seeds) and deep-fried. The shell is spicy and crisp and the inside gets meltingly soft. This banana pakoda is my Dad’s favorite snack 🙂

    Hi Nupur,

    Your dad’s banana pakodas sound alot better than ‘fritters’! I will definintely try this — and will let you know how it goes 🙂 Thanks for sharing a family recipe and I hope you have a relaxing blog break 🙂

  4. srivalli said

    wow..great ones linda..my you really try very innovative ones!..way to go

    Thanks Srivalli — once in awhile I do like to stray from the usual, it’s good for us yes? 🙂

  5. sra said

    A Tanzanian recipe, now that’s truly different! It looks good. And take heart, Linda, my banana fritters would be as good as yours, nothing to do but forge on, like you said.

    I feel alot better knowing I am not alone in fritter-nightmare … thanks Sra 😉

  6. bindiya said

    Very unusual recipes,soup looks good!

    Thank you Bindiya 🙂

  7. Asha said

    I would never follow any recipe as it is in cookbooks Linda, always take the basic idea and improvise!:)
    I would chop ripe but firm Bananas in to 2-3″ chunks and dip in the corn flour batter and fry.Lot better than frying mashed Bananas.
    Plantains are like vegetables, that’s why they are not kept with the fruits. Mtori looks delicious.I loved it. Great recipes Linda!:))

    Hi Asha, I ordinarily don’t follow a recipe to the letter either; sometime that works, sometimes not! 😉
    Ordinarily I wouldn’t fry a ripe banana, but Jihva moves me in strange ways 😉

    BTW these green bananas were sold as just that — “green cooking bananas”. They were separate from the plantains and “eating” bananas. There is a large Latin Americal population in and around Boston — perhaps that explains it 🙂 Anyway I like your banana fritter better than mine – next time I try it will do as you say 🙂

  8. indosungod said

    Linda, these sweet banana fritters were made at home, brother loved them, I did not go near them, would not hurt to check with my mom perhaps, the kids might like it. The soup looks truly delicious, would like to try it for sure and when old man winter comes calling need more of these hearty soups. I am going to use chicken broth.

    If you get a that fritter recipe, ISG, please post, would love to try 🙂 The soup was a keeper, it would be good with chix broth too. It was flavorful with the bean broth, but next time I might add some spice as well. I’m getting accustomed to your level of chiles and now things taste bland without! 😉

  9. indosungod said

    And I am looking for the book for the kiddies.

    🙂

  10. Cynthia said

    I love ripe bananas but I have a weakness for dishes with green bananas 🙂

    That was the first one I’ve tried Cynthia, with the green bananas. They seem a little different than plantains, maybe not quite as starchy? 🙂

  11. shammi said

    I’ll tell you why the Swahili name for the banana fritters sounded indian – it’s because there’s a HUGE Indian influence on Tanzanian cuisine 🙂

    In that case Shammi, I’ll have to look for an honost-to-goodness Tanzanian cookbook! 🙂

  12. mandira said

    Linda, I LOVE both your entries. Plantain soup looks fantastic. And the sweet banana fritter is yummy! Thank you so much for your entries Linda.

    Thank you so much Mandira, and I can’t wait to see the roundup! 🙂

  13. Nupur said

    hi,
    i am also not a great fan of ripe bananas . I may have one banana in maybe 6 months…but i love experimenting with the plantains ….love the soup recipe …very interesting …will have to try it the next time i get some plantains …. 🙂

    Hi Nupur, if you have 2 a year that’s probably one more than me 😉 If you try the soup, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  14. Rajitha said

    hey! welcome to the club…the minute i knew it was bananas for JFI…i know i was in trouble 😉 i stick to green ones too

    Can’t wait to see what you cooked up, Rajitha! 🙂

  15. bhags said

    I am a little extreme with bananas….i hate them, the ripe yellow ones, but I do like cooking plaintains the green firm ones, which are not at all messy…the soups looks yummy

    The soup was really tasty bhags, and yes, without the mess of ripe banana. I need to try more dishes with plantains 🙂

  16. roopa said

    oh i am on the other side i love bananas so my family 🙂 Not to find bananas at home is rare !

    My kids love them, Roopa, so for them, I can’t keep them long enough 🙂

  17. Jyothsna said

    Nice experiments !! 🙂 I too have started liking bananas!

    Thanks Jyothsna… I’m still on the fence about ripe bananas, but the green were yummy cooked! 🙂

  18. Nice ones Linda……
    The recipes are new to me…..The soup and the bowl that contained it look so good 🙂

    Hi Sirisha, and thanks! Glad you liked the soup in its bowl 🙂 Was pretty easy to make too, not so the fritters! 😉

  19. sandeepa said

    Would love to hear more of those stories….good how the book brought back memories Linada..
    The food ahhhhhhhhh..need I say more

    Thanks Sandeepa. Yes, a good book can trigger a lot of memories, kind of like a good aroma in the kitchen yes? 🙂

  20. mansi said

    a new banana recipe! I used to love eating them just like that, but with so many new ways, I’m gonna have more fun time!

    Hi Mansi, your blog sounds like it’s full of fun time! Will have to check it out. Thanks for stopping! 🙂

  21. Mishmash! said

    Linda, Salute you, for trying that fritter recipe three times!! I would not have bothered to try it after the first time…..you have patience and determination:) Plantain soup is something totally new to me..never tasted it:P

    Shn

    Hi Shn… I couldn’t give up because I am stubborn. Thanks — I wish I could say it was patience 😉 I made this soup with (what I assume were) unripe bananas, I don’t know if it might be a heavier dish with true plantains. I would like to try that way too. 🙂

  22. Nabeela said

    I recently had a similar falafel experience….*sigh* what all we do in the name of blogging 😉

    I think falafel would be one of those hard things too — basically frying a puree! I have to run see if you have that on your blog now Nabeela… have never tried making that 🙂

  23. Kaykat said

    This sounds delicious! I’ve never tried a plantain soup before. Many thanks for the recipe 🙂

    You’re most welcome Kaykat, and thanks for stopping by! If you try, I hope you enjoy it. Have to take a peek at your blog now 🙂

  24. musy said

    Mtori looks and sounds really good! Will try this, cuz’ the lentil-plantain combo is really cool! As for ripe bananas, i just have them as such :). Really new and different recipes, Linda! and i like Nupur, i would vote for the banana vadas/bajjis too (batter fried banana slicces). Hey, and like you said, isn’t even something simple prepared by Moms really special! Mashed bananas are usually a favorite of all kids :).

    Lovely post!

    Thanks Musy, I’m happy you liked it! The soup was really yummy, but yes like you and Nupur, will stick to sliced bananas for fritters 😉

  25. K S Attalia said

    Mtori,
    Una weza ku weka Nyama ja Mbuzi, ama Kuku ka Mtori.
    Kwanza utha chomesha Nyama, paka epikay vizuri, kisha ndio utha weka mawitu za Mtori. Sasa ndio upikay paka Mtori ni thayari.

    Rgds

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