Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Week 11 - Bananas

When I first saw the theme for Week 11, bananas, I immediately thought about Masterchef Junior. We had recently watched an episode where the kids had to make dishes with bananas, and I remembered a good looking banana curry. Looking back at recaps of the show, it seems like a few made curry type sauces, but I didn't see a curry with bananas as the main ingredient. I don't know why it stuck in my head, but my mind was made up from the minute I saw the theme that I was going to do banana curry. After searching around a bit, I found this recipe for a vegan Southeast Asian banana curry and decided to use that as my starting point.

We're not a vegan household so the one big change I made to the inspiration recipe to save time was to just use the bottle of fish sauce in the fridge instead of making my own vegetarian fish sauce. As usual, I didn't measure anything so spice amounts are estimates and to taste. For our adaptation of the recipe, I used:

- a few spoonfuls of coconut oil ($0.40)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.08)
- 1 yellow onion, chopped ($0.55)
- Madras curry powder, a few tsp ($0.10)
- 4 ripe bananas, sliced ($0.76)
- ground ginger, about 1 tsp ($0.05)
- about 1/2 cup of water ($0)
- 1 small spoonful of vegetable bouillon ($0.15)
- fish sauce, a couple of tsp ($0.10)

This was half of our Southeast Asian dinner that night and the total came out to around $2.19. Bananas can be pretty filling and with more bananas and onions, this could be a really affordable solo main dish. I love discovering budget-friendly healthy and filling recipes!

The steps for making this curry are really simple. First, melt the coconut oil in a skillet and then add the garlic and onions. Once those have softened up a little, add the curry powder and cook some more. I definitely sauteed these for longer than the 2 minutes in the initial recipe. I wanted to make sure they had plenty of time to soften and soak up the delicious curry powder.

Once the onions are softened, add the bananas and mix them in along with the ginger, vegetable broth (bouillon and water), and fish sauce. After I mixed it all together, I just let it simmer for a little bit, then tasted it, and added some more curry powder to taste. We love curry and I wanted to make sure the dish had enough curry flavor to it.

I suppose the curry could have been done at that point, but I let it keep simmering as I worked on cooking the other half of dinner. Every time I looked over, the curry skillet had more and more liquid in it. I'm guessing it was the bananas releasing water. As it simmered longer, the bananas also broke down a little bit, creating a really thick curry sauce. Cooking the curry for that long (I'm guessing it was about 10-15 minutes) wasn't intentional, but it produced such a flavorful thick gravy that I was so glad that I did.

I wasn't sure if we would like this banana curry but it was great. When I first tried it early in the simmering process, it just tasted okay, but the finished product was so much better and had so much more curry flavoring. We were very pleasantly surprised with how this turned out. (And it also would have made a much better dish for the one color challenge than what I actually did!) The sweet banana flavor matched up so well with the curry, and the soft sweet curry onions were also really good. I would definitely make this again. 

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