Akwasi Brenya-Mensa’s vegan recipe for tatale, or spicy plantain pancakes | West African food and drink

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It’s January 2020, and I have just visited Paapa’s house in Kumasi, Ghana, where some plantains have just been cut down from our tree. I am looking for a name for a new Pan-African concept that I’ve been developing on Post-it notes and in my head, and I don’t really know anything other than the fact that I want the name to align with my favourite ingredient, the plantain, because I find it synonymous with the black experience back home and in the diaspora generally. Those plantains are later served to us as tatale, or plantain pancakes. The rest, as they say, is history …

Tatale (spicy plantain pancakes)

I like these as a dish in their own right, or as for brunch alongside a range of other plates, such as pico de gallo and roast mushrooms. Alternatively, serve them with red red, a traditional Ghanaian stew. Tatale are also often served with bambara beans, but those are quite hard to source in the UK, so I use black-eyed beans instead.

Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 4-6

700g over-ripe plantains (ie, with mostly or all-black skins)
80g brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 spring onions
(20g), green parts roughly chopped (save the whites for another use)
20g peeled ginger, roughly chopped
¼-½ garlic clove (10g), peeled
scotch bonnet chilli (10g) – if you prefer less heat, remove and discard the seeds and pith
25g plain flour, sieved
Red palm oil or coconut oil, for frying – make sure it’s a sustainable one
1 avocado

Put the peeled plantains in a bowl (I use a traditional Ghanaian asanka, which is a bit like a wide mortar, but any big bowl will do) and mash with a potato masher until they’re super-soft.

Put the onion, spring onion greens, ginger, garlic and chilli in a food processor, pulse to the consistency of a chunky salsa – it needs to have a fair amount of texture, rather than be smooth – then fold into the mashed plantains.

Gently fold half the sieved flour into the plantain mixture, then repeat with the other half of the flour – you will end up with a very thick batter. Season with salt to taste.

Put a little oil in a frying pan on a medium-low heat and spread it around the pan to coat. Once it’s hot, drop in four large spoonfuls of the batter (depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in batches), keeping them well apart, then flatten out with the back of a ladle so they’re about 10cm wide and 1cm thick. Leave to cook for three to four minutes, until the bases are beautifully golden brown, then flip and repeat on the other side.

Meanwhile, halve and stone the avocado, then peel it carefully, so you keep its natural shape intact. Cut each half in half again, so you now have four quarters, then slice each piece lengthways, but not all the way through the tip. Gently spread apart the slices to create avocado fans.

Put the cooked pancakes on to four plates, arrange the avocado fans on top and (h)enjoy.


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