A chickpea-stuffed plantains recipe proves Caribbean cooking isn’t all meat

“Everybody thinks Caribbean food is about jerk, jerk chicken or barbecue chicken,” Craig, 32, said in a Zoom interview. “But people are more open to Caribbean food now. The jerk chicken is so good, they want to know about everything else. And as time goes on, people are more open, and there are so many more vegan options growing year by year.”

The brothers also make sure to emphasize that they want everyone to enjoy their book, no matter their dietary preferences. After all, while Shaun, 35, spent a year eating exclusively vegan food (and boasts that he saw improvements in his weight and skin as a result), they are both flexitarians now.

“This book is not just for plant-based eaters,” Shaun says. “It’s important for meat eaters to have balance, too.”

One of their uncles is a Rastafarian, herbalist and healer in Jamaica, and they were inspired in part by Rastafarian Italian diet, which proves that the nation has a long, authentic tradition of vegan cooking. But that doesn’t mean that “Natural Flava” limits itself to such recipes. Instead, I view it in the same vein as such recent cookbooks as “The Korean Vegan” and “Provecho,” both of which give respect to the plant-based underpinnings of a cuisine (Korean and Colombian, respectively), while not being afraid to also offer vegan spins that keep to the spirit, if not the letter, of tradition.

In “Natural Flava,” that combination is part of what made it so difficult for me to choose a recipe. Would it be Rasta pumpkin pasta? Jerk tofu? A cauliflower burger with spicy mayo, slaw and mango chutney? I settled on these curried chickpea plantain boats because I love all the ingredients separately and had little doubt that once they came together, I’d love them all the more.

These are somewhat of a mash-up between Puerto-Rican-style canoas de platanos, sweet plantains typically stuffed with seasoned meat or seafood, and a chickpea-plantain curry the brothers included in “Original Flava.” You heavily coat ripe plantains — nothing green, please — in seasoning, and while they’re roasting, you make a quick curry from Caribbean curry powder, coconut milk, aromatics (garlic, onion, ginger) and chickpeas. When the plantains emerge from the oven, you push them open a bit (like a baked potato) to make room for the chickpea mixture.

When I did all that then stuck in a fork and took a bite, the layers of sweet and spicy, creamy and starchy made it clear: I needed more, and not just a likkle.

Make Ahead: The chickpea curry and the roast plantains can be cooked separately and refrigerated for up to 1 week before rewarming and assembling.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

Where to Buy: Caribbean curry powder and Caribbean all-purpose seasoning can be found in international markets or online. Go to Latin or Caribbean markets for the best selection of plantains of different levels of ripeness.

  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 4 large ripe plantains (all yellow with some black spots, and no green whatsoever), peeled
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (any kind)
  • 1 small yellow onion (about 5 ounces), chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons Caribbean curry powder (may substitute Madras or other curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • One (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • One (15-ounce) can no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon Caribbean all-purpose seasoning (may substitute low-or no-salt seasoning)
  • Fresh parsley leaves, for serving
  • Finely diced Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, for serving (optional)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, thyme, pepper and salt.

Using a sharp paring knife, cut a deep score straight down the middle of each plantain lengthwise, stopping just before you reach each end. Carefully ease the two halves apart slightly. Arrange on a small rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, and sprinkle all over with the spice mixture. Drizzle with olive oil, and roast for about 35 minutes, or until a fork or metal skewer goes through with very little resistance.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the curry powder and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil, then add the chickpeas and all-purpose seasoning and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the oil starts to separate, 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer the plantains to a serving platter or individual plates, and open up the middle of each by pushing from each end. Spoon the chickpea curry over the plantains, sprinkle with the parsley and Scotch bonnet, if using, and serve warm.

Per serving (1 plantain and 1/2 cup chickpeas)

Calories: 589; Total Fat: 31g; Saturated Fat: 23g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 698mg; Carbohydrates: 80 g; Dietary Fiber: 10g; Sugar: 31g; Protein: 10g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “Natural Flava” by Craig and Shaun McAnuff (Bloomsbury, 2022).

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