How To Cook Plantains #2 ~ Plantain Fritters (Tatale)
with Shito Yoghurt & Freshly Picked Herb Salad
Welcome to Cook With Lerato! A newsletter with recipes & stories for sunshine on your plate, & a good dose of African magic. If you aren’t subscribed, what are you waiting for?! Do consider becoming a paid member, as this helps to support the small ‘village’ needed to keep this community alive and thriving. Join us as we travel the world one dish at a time! In today’s newsletter we travel to Accra where I cook incredibly moreish plantain fritters.
Remember when I told you I had just returned from a soul-healing holiday in Accra? How time flies, as that was almost a month ago. Now I am back in Sussex, enjoying the best of British sunshine while pretending to live in the Riviera. Some of the fondest memories of holidays with my family have been in Accra. There was a time in Nigeria when jetting off to neighbouring Ghana, was the thing to do.
Accra is smaller in size and naturally quieter with just over 2.5 million inhabitants compared to over 15 million inhabitants in Lagos. When the hustle and bustle of Lagos, the unique heartbeat and feverish pace of this most populous African metropolis became intense as it often did, one would be off ‘next door’ for well-deserved rest. It’s no surprise that after two years of being on lockdown, physically and mentally, with the deep desire to travel to Africa for that “ginger” as Nigerians will say - a special jolt of energy and inspiration the continent blesses one with, I chose Ghana.
Although this holiday was intended for absolute rest and luxuriating, I ended up developing a plantain recipe and filming it with the executive chef of Movenpick who graciously hosted me in their beautiful hotel. Being back there brought on so many wonderful memories of my brother, mum and me at Christmas, my friend Angie’s wedding and many other memorable occasions that brought us to Ghana. Coincidentally they had been planning a food festival, and kindly asked that we film in celebration of Africa Day. They had created a beautiful Chef’s Herb Garden right outside the main restaurant and overlooking the pool, with a wonderful selection of herbs and greens. What an excellent idea I thought, as we decided to film outside by the herb garden which was located coincidentally, or perhaps intentionally, where I could spot right below my room balcony.
I had developed what I like to call holiday brain - you know that feeling of total relaxation when you are simply in the moment, in a kind of relaxed trance. If you had asked me what I did the previous day and what I was planning to the next day after, I would have struggled to answer. It was pure bliss. And so when I had to decide on what to cook and film to showcase Ghana and this beautiful herb garden, I was stumped for a few days. This was supposed to be a holiday of total rest. But I seem to take work with me wherever I go, perhaps because my work is really my life and no work at all, even with its challenges.
As soon as I honed in on the direction and intention of this shoot, the next and most important question was, “What would give me absolute pleasure if I was a guest at the Africa day celebration”. And the idea for plantain fritters locally known as tatale came alive. Because I wanted to be extra about it, I decided adding squid to the fritters would make them even more sumptuous, while a dip of Ghana’s much loved chilli sauce known as shito, mixed with refreshing Greek yoghurt would be a marriage made in heaven. Far from being just a colourful and unmemorable accompaniment as salads can be, the combination of lettuce leaves, beetroot leaves, sweet and spicy basil, all freshly picked from the Chef’s herb garden, washed, dressed and eaten in less than 30 minutes was quite an enchanting experience. The crunch of the lettuce leaves and burst of flavours from the greens and herbs were like nothing I had ever tasted. I suppose this is what it feels and taste like to grow your own. And it is bloody wonderful! No wonder Chef Tahir is very proud of his green gems.
Plantains are a great source of joy and contentment in my life as you may already know, or you may come to realise as we get to know each other better. I am not sure if it is just the sweetness I pine for, after all, bananas are even sweeter, or perhaps the wonderful memories from my childhood eating plantains in their many guises. I love it all, from fried plantains with eggs, boiled green plantains with braised greens adored by my late Grandma Theresa who I am honoured to be named after, to plantain chips which I have an insatiable appetite for, so much so that bags of chips/crisps have accompanied me on holiday, from the South of France to The Netherlands, Miami, Marrakech…
It may simply be the pure science of it. In this mouth-watering list of 50 foods that boost your mood, bananas make the cut as an important source of happiness helper, potassium. This Cambridge journal also cites research from the British Journal of Nutrition that suggests diets high in potassium helped reduce symptoms of stress and depression. I could go on and on about the many ways I love plantains. And because I can, I have launched a series called, How to Cook Plantains, to indulge my every plantain memory, dream, fantasy and yours! Unwittingly, this series began last year with my first official newsletter, How to Cook Plantains #1. Plantain lovers, this is our chance to unite and convert as many as possible to this sweet sweet life.
Throughout filming this recipe (60-second teaser here with a fuller video coming in a second post), I referred to these plantain fritters as talé talé to the bemusement of those around me. I blame it on my extreme multi-culturalism or cultural immersion. I have so many different yet similar experiences from across Africa that sometimes the lines and languages become blurred. I lived in Benin Republic in my early teens, a francophone country that borders Nigeria, and we enjoyed a deep-fried plantain doughnut known as talé talé. I am unsure as to why it is called plantain pancake, because it looks more like a fritter to me. On my return to the UK and while on the hunt for shito chilli sauce, I spoke with Joana of Aftrad Village Kitchen who sells a wonderful array of African spices and condiments. We spoke about her childhood memories of tatale.
“My childhood happy memories included moments of seeing my dad return from his work trips from the hinterlands. His return always meant lots of fresh organic foodstuffs from plantains to mangoes, oranges, avocados and more. He would bring bunches of both ripe and unripe plantains. For me, it was a time of plantain heaven as each ripening phase of the plantain presented different ways of cooking it. I was just a sucker of all dishes made with ripe plantain particularly when it was fried. One thing I appreciate now as an adult is how we never wasted any over ripened plantain, especially those ones that were so soft and looked ready to be trashed. The moment, my mum saw those over ripened plantains, tatale and beans were sure to be on the menu.
Tatale is typically served with soft mushy beans drizzled with palm oil, a scattering of salted fish, caramelised onions, some garri (dried & ground cassava/yucca) & buttery avocado on the side plus a dollop of spicy shito. This was and is soul food for me. As an adult living outside my home country Ghana, being able to recreate these dishes brings those memories of home alive.”
What a wonderful story of food and its connection to family. Now I’m ready for some tatale! Are you?!
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with Shito Yoghurt & Freshly Picked Herb Salad
A vibrant and moreish brunch with sweet and spicy plantain fritters inspired by a Ghanaian favourite street food known as tatale. My unique twist to this recipe includes seafood encased in the fritters, served with freshly picked herbs, a mix of lettuce leaves, and a refreshing dip with the teasing heat of Shito chilli sauce. You will absolutely love this!
About 8 - 10 fritters
Time: 5 - 10 minutes