During the past week I reconnected with a Tanzanian friend Anna Ikoki who was my housemate when I first arrived in Belgium some years back.
During our conversation of nothing specific but everything random, I told her about my theme for this month and how I remember that she was the first person to introduce me to cooked savoury bananas.
In southern Africa, this is not very common as we reserve bananas for sweet dishes or just as a fruit. I then thought, let me talk about Matooke or plaintain bananas. This banana type is not the same type that we find here in Zimbabwe. This remains green even when ripe and is a little firmer than the bananas we are familiar with.
So, Matooke is a staple food in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, as well as other regions around Lake Victoria. The bananas are peeled and mashed, steamed or fried. They can also substitute potatoes in beef stew.
Understanding that it may be difficult to get plaintain bananas in Zimbabwe, I will take you through a recipe that uses our regular bananas but they have to be green and very unripe.
When working with these green bananas, either wear gloves so that your hands do not get stained by the starch coming off the bananas which can be difficult to remove or oil your hands with some cooking oil so that it’s easier to wash off. I’m talking from experience!
Matooke and oxtail
l500g oxtail with stock, cut up and boiled about 2 hours
l250g tender boneless beef eg tenderloin, cubed.
l500g peeled, cubed green bananas and soaked in water to prevent browning
l¼ cup chopped onion
l1 cup chopped tomatoes
l½ tsp black pepper
l¼ tsp tumeric
l1 tbs tomatoe paste
l1 tbs ground coriander
l1tbs crushed garlic
l¼ cup plain yoghurt
In a large pot, heat a table spoon of olive oil and brown the beef on both sides. Remove from the pot and add more oil, about two tablespoons and saute onions and garlic. Add the black pepper, tumeric and coriander.
Saute until onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook for about seven minutes, strirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the tomatoe paste, you can add more if you like a heavy sauce.
Add the browned beef, oxtail and season with salt. Add the matooke or green bananas stock reserved when boiling the oxtail. Cover, reduce heat and cook about 30 minutes, test readiness with fork. Make sure the bananas do not over cook. Serve with rice.