I have a bit of a thing for South American food, I lived in Colombia for a few years as a child so have fond memories of buttery, charred maíz, crispy plantain patacones and cassava chips, giant avocados and creamy arequipe (dulce de leche). I also have some not so fond food memories...in Colombia, being vegetarian means that you just don't eat beef... lamb and chicken are perfectly fine for vegetarians to eat... therefore finding actual vegetarian food could be tricky, and my school lunches often consisted of a bowl of rice and a piece of cheese as the cooks just had no idea what to feed me...I grew accustomed to not being too fussy about it, began eating fish, and would pick the chicken out of bowls of ajiaco (chicken and potato soup).
Now that I am a grown up and do my own cooking, I still often cook things with a South American influence (and a Caribbean one, having in-laws of Jamaican descent) and living in Birmingham means that I am lucky enough to be able to find most ingredients quite easily, though I do struggle to find a variety of chillies; so I was very pleased when I was contacted by Encona to ask if I would like to try their new Peruvian Amarillo chilli sauce. I was sent a bottle of the Amarillo chilli sauce and one of smokey Mexican jalapeño sauce, both were delicious and very versatile. The Amarillo sauce has a slightly sweet, subtle chilli and garlic flavour and was really good with salmon and rice, the jalapeño sauce is warm, sweet and smokey and is fantastic with (veggie)burgers, and both of them make great dips. I have been a big fan of Encona's hot pepper sauce for years and will liberally slather it on just about anything, so I was extremely happy to have some new sauces to try, and I've gotten through about half a bottle of each already...
Of all the ways that I tried them, my favourite was as a dip with crispy plantain chips. They are really quick and easy to make, and are a delicious alternative to regular potato chips. You need to make sure that you use green plantains, not ripe ones, else they won't go crispy; and the thinner you slice them the crispier they will be. They only take about 15 minutes to prepare and cook, but are best served fresh, with a liberal sprinkling of salt, some dips and a couple of cold beers.
- 3 green plantains
- about 1.5 litres vegetable oil for frying
- Peel the plantains by chopping off either end, then cut a slit through the skin along the length of the plantain. Use your fingers to prise the skin off, it will come away easily once you get your thumb under it.
- Place the vegetable oil in a deep saucepan, the oil should be about 5cm deep (or use a deep fat fryer), heat it to 200C/390F.
- Slice the plantains into thin rounds, about 2mm thick if you want them really crispy, or 4mm if you want them soft in the middle.
- Fry the plantain in batches for 2-4 minutes, until golden. Drop the slices into the oil individually or they will stick together and wont cook properly.
- Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll, sprinkle liberally with salt and serve immediately with your choice of dips.