Think outside the banana. Eat the skin.
In November, British cookbook author and culinary personality Nigella Lawson shocked her nation when she featured a recipe from her latest cookbook, ‘Cook, Eat, Repeat,’ on her BBC TV show on the same. last name. It was not scandalous at the level of the royal family. Yet, based on the public reaction, one would think it caused major controversy.
And all because she had prepared a dish flavored with cauliflower – and banana peels.
“I certainly didn’t expect the headlines about it!” she said in an email. “It’s hard to overcome cultural assumptions about what is and what is inedible and start eating what we have traditionally thought of as junk.”
A few months earlier, another British food television star and cookbook author, Nadiya Hussain, had appeared in a ‘Good Morning Britain’ segment on cooking during the lockdown. “Everyone makes banana bread,” she explained, offering ingenious advice on using leftovers to avoid food waste. “Don’t throw the skin away. Cook it with garlic and onions and barbecue sauce, put it in a burger, and you have, like pulled pork, pulled chicken.
After Ms. Lawson’s show aired, Ms. Hussain’s previous appearance resurfaced and peels became a famous culinary cause. “Nigella Lawson shocks viewers with banana peel recipe,” one indie headline read. “Are banana peels about to become a must-have ingredient?” the Guardian wondered.
Mrs Hussain, whose parents are Bangladeshi, thanks her father, a former chef and restaurateur, for having introduced her to cooked peels. In Bengali cuisine, unripe skins are cooked until tender, then mashed with garlic and green peppers and sautéed with additional seasonings.
As Lathika George, author of “The Kerala Kitchen” said, “Different varieties of bananas grow all over India and there are recipes for all parts of the plant – flowers, fruits and even the trunk of the plant. ! “
In the southwestern region of the Indian state of Kerala, where Mrs George was born, unripe bananas are most often paired with a thoran, a type of stir-fry for which they are soaked and then sautéed with a bouquet of spices. flowery and an aromatic, ground coconut paste warmed in Chile. Some adaptations include the peels, while others feature them on their own. “As the skin and flesh of unripe green bananas are like a vegetable, they are also used for kofta (vegetable puree dumpling), cutlets and vegetable curries,” Ms. George added.
Travel north and you will find dishes with more ripe skin. Ms George cited an Assamese khar from northeast India claiming the ripe, sun-dried rinds of a native banana strain. “Personally, I think it’s just a fad, especially if you’re vegan and looking for different options,” she said of the hype in Britain.
Banana peels have been all the rage with vegans since at least 2019, when recipes started circulating online to treat the peels like bacon. Around the same time, the non-pork pulled pork got its first contact with internet fame, thanks to Canadian blogger Melissa Copeland, who posted an explainer – and recipe – on her Stingy Vegan site. with a video on Facebook. She had developed it after learning that vegans in Venezuela use outer jackets of bananas as an alternative to carne mechada (grated beef), and in Brazil a similar exchange is popular in a dish known as carne louca (or “Mad meat”). Ms. Copeland’s ‘pulled’ peels “have made their way onto the menus of several restaurants in places as far away as Hawaii, Malta and New Zealand thanks to this recipe!” she wrote in an update to her original article a few months after posting it.
For American author Lindsay-Jean Hard, the appeal of cooking with banana peels goes beyond the interests of veganism. She has spent the past 11 years learning as much as possible about the use of the discarded parts of her products. Her 2018 cookbook “Cooking With Scraps” includes a recipe for her grandmother’s banana cake covered in brown sugar icing, and one notable change: She replaced the fruit with its peels, softening them with a boil, then Puree them with some of their cooking liquid. . (She later realized that freezing them in advance takes care of the sweetening.) She applies the same technique to banana bread, using the whole fruit – the husk and the flesh – to “again.” more banana flavor ”.
Ms. Hussain also makes a whole banana loaf. It’s a gooey, chocolatey “roller coaster” as her daughter described it on her mom’s Instagram story, where she made her debut. She doesn’t care to wait for the peels; they give way during cooking, resulting in elastic chewing.
Now that Ms. Hard is a salesperson at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Mich., She has encouraged the bakery to put peels in all the banana bread it produces and ships across the country. It’s a “bigger-scale impact,” she said. “We compose a lot at the bakery, and the composting is great, but it’s not as good as eating the food and not wasting it in the first place.
But eating the peels may not be as good as choosing another fruit or being more selective about the bananas you buy. According to Lauren Ornelas, founder and president of the Food Empowerment Project in San Jose, Calif., A nonprofit that seeks to educate people, among other reasons, bananas are one of the worst performing crops when it comes to damage. environmental. on their relationship to their food systems. “There are a lot of things wrapped up in this fruit, whether it involves colonization, sexism, racism, just in this fruit,” she said.
She recommends buying bananas from a fair trade source, citing Equal Exchange as a reliable resource for products that have been grown and marketed under ethical and environmentally sound conditions.
Ms. Hard received nothing but praise for her banana cake. And on her curry, Ms Lawson reported that the feedback from those who have made it has been only positive. “I don’t think I received a single negative comment from those who cooked it themselves,” she said. “Some, certainly, said they had doubts before tasting it, but felt they just had to try it for themselves and were universally delighted.”
British food columnist Felicity Cloake was one of them. “I had to try it because there wasn’t much promise at the time,” she said. “And that blew me away. I liked that.
In truth, the flavor of the cooked skins isn’t too pronounced – it’s subtle, with a polished hint of bitterness and a slight floral note on the finish. Ms. Lawson thinks that “if you were to guess what the cut banana peels were, and not know it, you would be much more likely to think they were related to the eggplant.” This is how she uses them, in ratatouille as in this dish. She uses a traditional method to prepare curry – frying a concentrated salty paste, then adding coconut milk to form a sauce. Once the peels are thrown in the pan, Lawson marvels at how they “take on a succulent velvety texture.”
For those who are not convinced, she offered this last encouragement: “If you took a bite out of a raw potato, you would never guess the delicious flavor of a French fries!” Moments later, she followed up with a postscript: “I rather think I should have added an expectation management sentence after comparing baked banana peels to fries!” No, it will never be fries. But they’re not outrageous, and yes, you can eat them.
Recipes: Cauliflower curry and banana peel | Whole banana bread