If you’re like me, when you read this, you are thinking – “plantains in a soup… interesting… I wonder if it’s any good?” I have eaten sweet plantains most often fried up as a side dish, and both ripe and green plantains used like potatoes in main dishes. But these two soup recipes caught my attention as something new, and I can testify to the fact that plantains are in fact a very tasty soup ingredient. Both of these recipes were adapted from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen, by Mary Urrutia Randelman and Joan Schwartz, and make about 2 servings each.
The first dish a stew of okra and other vegetables, some of the pork I roasted earlier in the week, and a little bacon for flavoring. Ripe plantain is boiled, mashed and rolled into ‘dumplings’ that are added to the stew at the end of cooking. When I first saw that the soup contained plantain dumplings, I assumed the plantain would be mixed with flour into some kind of dough – but it’s just plantain flesh itself, so starchy that it holds together very well in the soup without the addition of any gluten. I would add more tomato sauce and broth if I were doing this again, so I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly.
Guiso de Quimbombo
1 thick slice bacon, diced
1/2 lb. pork, raw chunks or pre-roasted
juice from one lime
1/2 c. onion, diced
1/2 c. green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes w/juice
3 c. beef broth
1/4 c. cooking sherry
1 c. sliced okra, fresh or frozen
1 ripe plantain
salt and pepper to taste
Season the pork with salt, pepper, and lime juice. Over medium heat, fry the bacon and pork in a soup pot until browned, adding olive oil if necessary. [If using pork that is already cooked, brown the bacon first, then add the pork.] When meat is browned, add some olive oil, the onion, pepper, and garlic to the pot and continue stirring and cooking for another 5 minutes on low heat. Add tomato sauce, broth, sherry, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Add the okra and cook for another 10-12 minutes, until the okra and meat are tender.
In the meantime, peel and cut the plantain into large chunks. Simmer the plantain for about 20 minutes in boiling water, until tender. Remove from water, drain and mash. Using your hands, roll the mashed plantain into small balls or ‘dumplings’. Add them to the soup, taste and re-season the broth with salt and pepper, and cook 5-10 minutes more. Serve with lime wedges.
This second recipe was simple, surprising and very tasty, I’ll definitely be making this one again. According to the cookbook where I found the recipe, it was originally published in 1856 in the Manual of Cuban Cuisine, and is still enjoyed today as a traditional Creole recipe. The green plantain is mashed and incorporated with the broth, which serves as a thickener for the soup. It doesn’t look very exciting but the resulting soup has a silky texture, with a nice sourness from the lime to balance the nuttiness of the almonds and comfort of the bread.
Sopa de Platanos Criolla
3 c. beef broth
2 c. water
1 green plantain, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
1/4 c. cilantro, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. almonds, sliced, slivered or chopped
2-inch slice of French or Italian bread, torn into chunks
Place the water, broth and plantain chunks into a minimum 2.5 quart pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until plantain is tender. Remove plantain from the pot and mash it in a bowl. Add back to broth and blend with a hand blender, or boat motor (as we call it in my family). If you don’t have a hand-held blender, you can blend the broth in a traditional blender – but be careful to cool it first or do it in small batches so it doesn’t end up exploding all over your kitchen! This step of blending was not in the original recipe, but I found that it gave the broth a really nice texture.
Bring the thickened broth back to a boil and add cilantro, lime and black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. If it forms a skin on the top, whisk it a little bit to re-dissolve. In a food processor with a blade, break up the bread and almonds into small crumbs. Just before serving, mix the bread crumbs and almonds into the soup and serve hot.