Just a quick kitchen note for today: Another experiment on the theme of Jean-Baptiste Labat’s banana pie. As noted in earlier posts, the 17th century writer Labat described pies among many uses for plantains and bananas:
Plantains, (bananes), just like figues de l’Amerique, can be cooked in tartes. They are prepared with sugar, cinnamon, and a little lemon or orange peel. Note that the Spanish call the figue d’Amerique the banane and the banane the plantain.
His description of the banane and figue d’Amerique make it clear that the former is a variety of cooking banana, the latter what we would recognise as an eating banana, though shorter and rounder than our familiar Cavendish. I already know the recipe works well with modern bananas and surprisingly well with relatively fresh plantains, I also wanted to see how it performed with very ripe plantains. Since these are not sold here – German shoppers are rarely familiar with the fruit and thus leery of buying one that shows even the first brown spots -, I had to buy them green and leave one to ripen in my kitchen until the skin turned completely black.
I was apprehensive as I peeled it, but the fruit inside was soft, firm, and surprisingly sweet. This, I suppose, is the level of ripeness other 17th-century authors describe being mashed and eaten as a relish with cooked cassava or roasted plantains. It was certainly possible to eat this uncooked with some pleasure, but it was still sliceable, so into the pie it went.
I used storebought crust again and this time went with lemon zest (I had half of one left over from making Oxford Sausages for my son), and the result was even more convincing than the first plaintain experiment. The filling remained in discrete pieces, but it was so soft you could not feel them when biting into it. The sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest dissolved completely, creating a unified flavour. On the whole, this pie was an unqualified success everyone (except my son) enjoyed. But then, he didn’t like the Oxford Sausages either and preferred standard meat loaf.
I kept half for eating the next day and it was still good. It makes an interesting recipe and a timely reminder that in many cases, how ripe a fruit or vegetable is can make a big difference for the outcome.