For those not familiar with plantains, they are those huge ‘bananas’ that you may have seen in Caribbean or African food stores and markets. They are sold in shades from green (hard, starchy and unripe) to yellow (firm and semi-sweet) to mottled brown (soft and sweet). When ripe they are very banana-like in taste, but their main use is as a source of starch in tropical cooking – and for this the less ripe fruit is normally chosen. If you’d like to try, just boil them in their skins for about 30 minutes in salted water, then peel and mash them with a little oil or butter and some seasoning. It makes a nice change from the usual potato mash.
For this recipe, however, you’ll need the very ripe brown plantains. The fritters can be made teaspoon size and used as a canapé – eat them topped with crème fraîche and black olive tapenade. It may seem that combining something from the Caribbean with something Italian is a peculiar thing to do, but it works a treat. Made larger and topped with tomato and coriander salsa they are a delicious starter. You can also make one large fritter and cut wedges to serve as a side dish for grilled pork or roast chicken. A Ghanaian woman, Vasti, first showed me how to turn plantain into a fritter, so thanks to her.