There is something incredibly ironic about this post. We Chef and Steward are writing about and photographing porridge. Don’t get us wrong, we love porridge. Well, I the The Steward do. The Chef claims he had way too much as a child. I remember sitting over a few bowls myself, squishing around the same mouthful for minutes to the soundtrack lecture of “starving children in Africa.” But this porridge promises only good memories.
Porridge is the stuff on breakfast tables set by loving caring mothers all across the Caribbean. While others have plain porridges, trust the bright, lively and colourful Caribbean folks to put their own spin to it and as my artist friend Abdulla Qureshi would say, “joujed it up” quite a bit.
There is nothing plain about porridge in the Jamaica or the Caribbean. Well you could say there is nothing plain about the Caribbean, period. For example, vanilla is not considered a stand alone ingredient- it’s way too boring. It’s just an essential ingredient in a symphony of flavours that meld together in perfect harmony.
There is an entire caste system dedicated to porridge back home. Thick, creamy, sweet porridges showed wealth in the olden days. Thin, watery ones that could flow out of a baby bottle meant that a family was certainly struggling and such babies were seen to be suffering from malnutrition and neglect. A good porridge needs to be had with a spoon.
Then there is the type of porridge. Easily accessible ingredients do not create so much of a stir and neither do easily made porridges. Oatmeal and cornmeal varieties were a must several times a week for growing children, pregnant or breastfeeding women or the elderly and more intricate varieties like Plantain Porridge, Peanut Porridge, Banana Porridge and Hominy Corn are the ones you discover in sweet surprise in your bowl every now and then.
Of course one of the blessings of having grandma around – especially one who cooks so well she makes The Chef eat things he swore off – is that the sweet surprises occur very often in our kitchen. Grandma loves to cook and does it excellently and knows that porridge is a great way to increase and sustain breast milk supply. Little wonder we have had no problems in that arena. She got so excited when she saw these green bananas at Spinneys supermarket last night.
She was beaming as she walked towards me… and as soon as she was close she went on and on about how “nice and lovely” the green plantains were as opposed to the “big and ugly” ones she previously lamented about. “I am going to make you a nice, nice plantain porridge tomorrow,” she chirped. Now I know where I got that eagerness for food shopping. Yes, like my smile, ‘I got it from my mom.’
I knew then that I would have to work with her to share the recipe with you. It’s a foolproof one that will have you wondering why on earth you didn’t make a larger quantity.
380-400g green plantains
3 cups water
1 cup coconut cream (learn how to make it)
1 cinnamon bark
1/8 teaspoon salt (or a pinch)
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp or 6 slides on grater)
Wash and peel and slice green plantains and slice in about 1.3 inches. Learn how to peel plantains, the same process applies for both green and ripe ones.
Put the plantains and water in a blender and pulse until chopped fine then blend to a smooth puree
Pour it in a pot with cinnamon and turn on the stove on low heat. Keep stirring to prevent lumps. A lumpy plantain porridge is the result of an untended pot.
Add salt and stir.
Add coconut cream and stir for about 15 minutes
Add milk and stir.
Add vanilla and nutmeg and stir.
After about 20-25 minutes of total cooking time, turn off heat, add condensed milk.
Enjoy! (Serves 2)