RECIPES

This Green Banana Chowder recipe embodies the flavors of St. Vincent

Leeonney Bentick
Black Food
"Black Food," edited by Bryant Terry, includes Leeonney Bentick's recipe for Green Banana Chowder. (Courtesy of 4 Color Books)

In "Black Food," chef and activist Bryant Terry created an anthology celebrating African American food and culture. The book, which is far more than a cookbook, includes this recipe from the vegan Caribbean chef Leeonney Bentick, who is based in Baltimore.

Learn more:New book 'Black Food' explores a 'beautiful, complicated and amazing history'

About the recipe

Growing up in the Caribbean — namely St. Vincent and the Grenadines — fall and winter were unfamiliar terms. Nonetheless, what we share with North America is the plethora of spices, root vegetables and comforting dishes that are enjoyed during these seasons. The islands’ fertile volcanic soil allows for easy cultivation of green banana, breadfruit and cassava, introduced through the slave trade. These crops are drought resistant, with an abundant yield, and fed and nourished the workers. “Ground provisions,” as they are affectionately called, are not only central to our Caribbean foodways but also to the islands’ economy. 

This recipe embodies the flavors of St. Vincent and is near and dear to my heart. It is the epitome of Vincentian cooking — sustainable and simple, yet bold in flavor, a velvety smooth and nutritious soup. When handling green bananas and eddoe, please use caution and oil both hands and your knife generously as they tend to “stain” or darken your fingertips. Cut the ends from the banana, then make a shallow slit down its length and proceed to peel. If you have trouble, use a knife and peel as if peeling a potato. Much like potatoes, they will oxidize if left out after peeling, so be sure to soak them in cold water while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Servings: 4

Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients

3 star anise pods

1 cinnamon stick

3-inch piece ginger, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife

5 by 5-inch piece of cheesecloth

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 shallot, finely diced

1 stalk celery, diced (1⁄4 cup)

3 pimento peppers, finely chopped

Small piece of Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded and finely minced

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

5 green bananas, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces (3 cups)

3 or 4 eddoes (taro roots), peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces (1 cup)

2 carrots, chopped into bite-size pieces (1 cup)

1 (13.5-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk

3 1⁄2 cups vegetable stock, plus more as needed

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Begin by wrapping the aromatics (star anise, cinnamon stick and ginger) in the cheesecloth and tie with a piece of kitchen twine. (If you don’t have cheesecloth, you can sauté the star anise, cinnamon stick and ginger along with the cumin seeds, shallot, celery and pimento peppers in the next step. Be sure to remove the aromatics before serving.)

In a pot, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the cumin seeds, shallot, celery, pimento peppers and chile for 1 minute or until the shallot is translucent. Add the garlic, green bananas, eddoes and carrots, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock to the pot, then nestle in the wrapped aromatics. Stir to mix well, cover, bring to a boil, then let simmer for 45 to 50 minutes over medium heat or until the root vegetables are fork-tender and the broth has thickened. Be sure to check that the liquid doesn’t boil out, and add more if needed.

Remove the aromatics (star anise, cinnamon stick and ginger) and turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Reprinted with permission from BLACK FOOD: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora edited by Bryant Terry, copyright © 2021. Published by 4 Color Books, an imprint of Ten Speed Press and Penguin Random House.” Photographs copyright © 2021 Oriana Koren.