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In Nigeria, we call it Dodo.

IMG_1259No, silly….. not the bird, I’m talking about fried plantains and please don’t ask me why we call them that, ’cause I don’t know the history!

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When I was at school, as a girl…..in the 80′s, I loved Geography. I made top grades in Geography. But obviously the theoretical aspects :-).

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Fast forward to 2009 and I could be likened to certain females who don’t know country from continent.

IMG_0787The only place I’ve been to in Africa is Nigeria and that doesn’t count, does it? I mean, I am Nigerian. Born, Bred and still am.

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I must confess that my geography of the world is rather limited, though serious progress has been made. I mean, I more or less know which countries border which in (most parts of) Africa, all that learnt in the last year.

IMG_1195And so when I saw this announcement at Souvlaki for the soul, about Joan’s 13 week 2010 South American Culinary Tour, I signed up straight away for these reasons:

  1. Improve my ‘handicap’ in Geography;
  2. Know a bit more about food culture and cuisine across South America;
  3. Investigate similarities between Nigerian cuisine and South American (you’ll see why as we go along!); and
  4. Cook and eat….of course!!!!!!!!!

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Joan suggests that we adopt a ‘chef’s-choice’ approach to the tour. To quote, our dishes can be:Foodalogue

  • Traditional – recreate the country’s national dish or any other traditional dish.
  • Contemporary – use a traditional recipe and make it Nuevo Latino (contemporize it).
  • Algo Nuevo (something new) – create something totally ‘your own’ by using the flavors and techniques of the destination.
  • Published Chef – follow the recipe of a published chef/author specializing in that cuisine.

She says, ‘I think this opens the challenge up to all sorts of interesting interpretations.

Please tell us which category your dish falls into…sort of like when the Chairman’s nephew on Iron Chef says please tell us your inspiration…“.’

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My plan is to use this opportunity to make a variety of dishes – including desserts, drinks and snacks. I have included my ‘planned recipes’, all things being equal so you know what to expect:

The Itinerary (Posting Dates).

  • January 11, Mexico: I missed it!
  • January 18, El Salvador: Platanos fritos tortillas – Breakfast/Main – this post
  • January 25, Nicaragua: Horchata, a type of…. – Drink
  • February 1, Argentina – Pizza or empanadas
  • February 8, Brazil: Acaraje – Snack/Main
  • February 15, Colombia: not yet decided
  • February 22, Jamaica: Jerk Fish with creole sauce – Main
  • March 1, Haiti: not yet decided
  • March 8, Cuba: not yet decided
  • March 15, Puerto Rico: not yet decided

According to Wikipedia,

El Salvador (Spanish: República de El Salvador, literally meaning “Republic of the Savior”; original name in Nahuatl was Cōzcatlān) is the smallest and also the most densely populated country in Central America. It borders the Pacific Ocean between Guatemala and Honduras and is affectionately called the “Tom Thumb of the Americas” (“Pulgarcito de America”).

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Also according to the wiki, one of the most popular Salvadoran breakfasts is Fried Plantain (Plátanos Fritos), usually accompanied with beans, cream, and cheese.

IMG_1130Plantains are basically cooking bananas – the Dutch and others call them Bakbanen. They are never eaten raw (except you’re me, and many others who munch on slices of them en route the frying pan!).

Did you know that Bananas and Plantains are always picked green? Interestingly, they don’t start ripening till they’re harvested, which is why you’ll often find both green and yellow ones on the shelves.

In Nigeria, we eat fried plantains in a variety of ways – sliced thinly to form plantain crisps (Kpekere) or ‘regular’ slices (Dodo), eaten on its own or also with beans, though sans cream and cheese!

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I chose this recipe because I have promised myself that this year, while doing everything else, I will showcase more of my Nigerian roots. My take more Algo Nuevo (I think) as I’ve decided to serve it all ‘wrapped up’!

IMG_1157Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you: Platanos Fritos in a tortilla, with ‘Doritos’ salsa

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For the Plantanos Fritos Tortilla

Serves 4 – 6

4 – 6 wheat tortillas
Plantanos Fritos (made from 2-3 plantain fingers)
Salsa
1/4 of an Iceberg lettuce, washed and shredded
Coriander leaves and stems, torn
To serve
Sour cream

Warm tortillas according to instruction on the pack

Place some salsa in the centre of each tortilla and spread out with a spoon. Top with some ice berg lettuce and coriander leaves and finish off by adding  some whole/sliced plantanos fritos and rolling up into a cone.

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Serve like this….or….

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Roll into a cylinder and use skewers to hold it closed.

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Cut into rings to form lollipops.

IMG_1271Enjoy with sour cream and a glass of something cold and refreshing.

For the Platanos Fritos

Ripe plantains (plátanos maduros)
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Salt (optional)

How to

Heat about 3-4 cm of oil in a pan over medium heat.

Slice the plantains open and halve length ways and cross ways to yield 4 pieces.

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Salt if necessary.

When the oil has wamed up (such that an onion ring fries in 30 – 40 seconds), add the plantains, a few pieces at a time, and fry till one side is golden.

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Turn and let the other side brown.

Remove and place in a colander/sieve lined with paper towels.

When ready to use, leave whole or slice.

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For the ‘Doritos’ Salsa

Now, I call this ‘Doritos salsa’ because around 1999, I bought a jar of Doritos salsa dip, read the ingredients list, wrote it down in my ‘kitchen address book’ and have repeated it ever since. Now though it didn’t specify the quantities, I’ve worked out my own formula, which I love…..sweet, with some heat and a peculiar flavour from the green paprika.

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Ingredients

3 tablespoon vegetable oil
300g fresh tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 large red onion, chopped into chunks
1/2 a green bell pepper/paprika, cut into chunks
2-3 small chilli peppers (or to taste), chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped finely
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I used some homemade blackberry wine vinegar)
1 – 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1/2 a teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 a teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 a teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and black pepper, to taste
IMG_0744How to

Heat oil in medium sized saucepan.

IMG_0761When hot, add chopped tomatoes, onions, paprika, chilli peppers and garlic. Salt to taste and let simmer for 10 – 15 minutes till the vegetables are soft.

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Add the tomato puree, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and the spices and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

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Adjust seasoning to taste – the aim is to have a balance between sweet, rich and peppery.

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Yields about 2 1/2 cups

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So, there, I’ll tell you the top 3 things I learnt:

  1. Where El Salvador is on the map;
  2. The similarities in world cuisines; and
  3. …I need to make this salsa more often. It rocks…..

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My husband LOVED it – especially since he viewed it as a ‘Nigerian-style meal’, with a twist.

Daughter #2 was out on a play date but #1 had it for lunch…and dinner and tomorrow, its going in her lunchbox. For her, I cut it into little rolls and skewered them…a bit like lollipop sticks!!!!!!!!

I loved the wrap, the colours, the flavours, textures and the chance to develop a recipe :-).

I am really looking forward to sharing my Horchata recipe from Nicaragua, next week Monday. Come back please for a taste of some!

IMG_1252And feel free to head on over to Joan’s to join the tour….or watch! X X X

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