Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bacán (green banana meat pie)

Serves 8.

Bacán is a dish that is made only in the region of Baracoa, the town on the North coast of the far East of the island of Cuba. This region, which is extremely difficult to reach by land, was isolated from the rest of the island for a long time and has some customs that have more in common with other Caribbean islands than Cuba itself; amongst these customs is the use of coconut milk in cooking.

The region produces a great deal of fruit including the coconut and the "guineo", the local name for bananas. Bacán is a small pasty (pie) made with green bananas mixed with coconut milk and seasoned with garlic and lime. The pasty can be filled with pork as in this recipe, or with stewed crab or smoked meat. The pasties are cooked wrapped in banana leaves and are eaten either at lunch or with milky coffee for breakfast.

For the Pork Stuffing:

9 ounces lean pork meat

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

4 garlic cloves

1 3/4 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomato

1 tablespoon white wine

1 banana leaf

7 green bananas (approximately 4 ounces each)

1 teaspoon lime juice

4 garlic cloves

1/4 teaspoon annatto powder or oil

7 tablespoons coconut milk


For the pork stuffing:

Dice the meat into 3/4 inch cubes. Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the meat for approximately 15 minutes until golden. Add the onion, the pepper, and the garlic first crushed in a mortar. Saute on a low heat for 3 minutes then add the tomato. Cook for 6-8 more minutes, stirring occasionally, and add the wine. Season with salt. Cover and cook for around 10 minutes on low heat until the meat is tender and swimming in a thick vegetable sauce.

For the wrapping:

Cut the banana leaf into eight rectangles 7 x 10 inches, and eight 3 x 10 inches. Wash the pieces of banana leaf well and boil them in water for 1 minute so that they lose their stiffness and become malleable. Dry them well.

Peel the bananas by making incisions along each fruit then removing the strips of skin one by one. Grate the bananas on a fine blade, then add the lime juice, the crushed garlic, and the annatto powder combined with the coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well. The mixture will not be very thick but it will thicken up once it has been cooked in the banana leaves.

Place two pieces of banana leaf, one of each size, on the countertop, in the shape of a cross. Place two tablespoons of the banana mixture in the middle and a line of the stewed meat on top. Fold the leaves over to form a little rectangular packet and tie like a parcel with kitchen string.

Cook the bacán in plenty of boiling water for 30 minutes then drain. They can be served in their wrapping or the banana leaves can be removed before serving them on a dish. Bacáns can also be eaten cold although they are not as tasty.

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