Banana curry

Listen up, banana-bread-baking schmucks! I have levelled up in the avoiding-eating-bananas-in-their-natural-state stakes: today I cooked a banana curry. I ate one nearly 20 years ago at an excellent vegetarian Indian restaurant in Tooting called Kastoori, which soon after shut down, leaving just faint taste-memories.

UNTIL TODAY. I have a kitchen again after nearly four years of not having one, and a lot of self-isolation time to use it. And bananas.

Apologies for the vague sloppy way in which it is written; recipe-writing is, as I know from this Allusionist episode, is bloody difficult, and I’m not qualified. Also I’m staying in an Airbnb, with only such ingredients and equipment as I could gather in a brisk pre-shutdown shopping trip, so if you happen to have more spices in stock than I have, by all means bung them in. The amounts below are approximate, and many of the ingredients are substitutable; if you aren’t stuck with bananas you are trying to dispose of, I think the sour tomato sauce would be nice with chickpeas in it, or other veg – fried chunks of aubergine, or maybe a cubed squash, although the times I want to eat squash are very few.

The recipe is vegan. Serves two plus leftovers, or four if you had a side dish with it.

EQUIPMENT: Two saucepans; 1 frying pan; bowl; cutting board; sharp knife; wooden spoon; fork; tongs.


onions: either one gigantic one, or three medium-sized (I used white onions, red would work)
ginger root: 5cm piece, finely grated
garlic cloves x2, grated or minced
tumeric – I grated 8cm of root, but you could use powdered
coriander seeds – 1/2 teaspoon approx
ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon
smoked paprika, 1-2 teaspoons
garam masala, 1 teaspoon (tbh, I only found this in the cupboard pretty late in the process, and would have added more if I’d come across it earlier)
red wine vinegar, 20ml
1 can of plum tomatoes
tomato puree, around a tablespoon
veg you’re trying to use up before it rots – I diced two sticks of celery and half a bulb of fennel and lobbed those in. A diced or grated courgette could work. There’s got to be something courgettes are useful for. SURELY. One day I will discover whatever that is.

bananas x2, ideally on the underripe side
around 3 tablespoons of gram flour (plain wheat flour or other flours would probably work fine)
a handful of cashew nuts, roughly chopped and toasted in a dry frying pan (optional)
a handful of fresh coriander, if you have it. I didn’t, so strew the top with some micro rocket and broccoli shoots I’ve been growing, because all the Facebook ads for growing your own microgreens finally got to me.
flavourless oil – I used sunflower
rice (I cooked a mug and a half of basmati rice using the reduction method, but you do you)

There happens to be a curry plant in the Airbnb, so I chucked a couple of chopped sprigs of that into the sauce at the start. And a pinch of caraway seeds, because I like them. I served it with some pickled fennel I made the other day that was looking like it might be putrescent by tomorrow, so it’s non-compulsory but if you have something zingy and crunchy lying around, it might be a nice accompaniment. (Not if it’s a zingy and crunchy lemon Calippo, ffs be sensible.)


1. Get the largest, heaviest-bottomed saucepan in your Airbnb, and put it on a medium heat with a spoonful of oil in it. Roughly dice two of the onions (or two thirds of one gigantic onion), and add them to the pan, stirring regularly. Add the garam masala, paprika, cumin, coriander seeds, grated garlic, ginger, tumeric, and a large pinch of salt (I used smoked flakes of salt); stir till the onion is covered in the spices, then keep stirring regularly until the onion is translucent. You’re not trying to brown it, just soften it.

2. Add the diced vegetables that you’re trying to use up before they turn to black slime in the bottom of the fridge. They’re really there to make up the numbers, rather than adding a great deal of interest in their own right. Stir till they’re softening too.

3. Mix in the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Half fill the tomato can with water, swill it to move the dregs of tomato out, and chuck that into the pan. Add the tomato puree and vinegar, and stir in well.

4. Put the lid on the pan and leave it on the lowest heat to simmer very gently for at least an hour. Give it a stir every time you go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, which is every 15 minutes if you’re me. Taste it, add more salt if your mouth says it needs it.

The sauce can then sit in the pan for several hours, until about 20 minutes before you want to eat. Then:

5. Turn the heat back on under the pan with the sauce, to heat it gently. Put the rice on to cook. Toast the cashews in a dry frying pan, then remove to a nearby plate; then heat a spoonful of oil in the frying pan; finely slice your remaining onion; fry it until brown and crispy, then remove to hang out with the cashews. Heat about 1cm of oil in the frying pan. Put a plate nearby with two sheets of paper towel on it.

6. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour with about the same quantity of water, vigorously stirring and adding more water until you’ve got a smooth runny batter the consistency of emulsion paint. Drop a droplet of batter into the oil; when it starts to brown quickly, the oil is ready for business.

7. Peel the bananas and slice into 2cm chunks. Drop the chunks into the batter and coat thoroughly. Fish them out with a fork and carefully deposit them into the hot oil frying pan so you don’t receive a hot oil splatter injury. Cook them in batches a couple of cm apart so your pan isn’t overcrowded; turn the pieces so that the batter on each side becomes brown. When the chunks are browned on all sides, remove them with tongs and place on the paper towel to drain, then put them into the sauce. Once you’ve cooked all the banana bits, drop teaspoonfuls of any remaining batter into the oil, flip them till they are brown on both sides, then send them off to drain on the paper towel. Add them to the curry pan just before serving.

8. Rice ready? Great! Time to dish up. Exquisitely dump rice and curry onto a plate, then top with the crispy onions, cashews, and coriander/microgreens/any peppery leaves if you have some around doing nothing. It might benefit from salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime; I don’t know your mouth.

9. Chase with a dessert of banana bread. Contemplate never buying bananas again.

All the food I cook is ugly, but here’s a picture. That’s the fennel off to the left. The yellow spongy-looking things to the right are the leftover blobs of batter.

2 Comments to “Banana curry”

  1. Courgettes: no cooking needed. Just rinse off any dust, dry them and bite in. Alternatively, cut them into chunky batons and dunk them in some hummus, or even a dollop of HP sauce.

  2. Courgettes: 1) like banana bread but with grated courgette instead of banana, 2) bread-bread w/ grated courgette (not the yeasty kind, just baking soda & some acid, baked flat on an oven tray), 3) again, grated courgette, mixed with eggs and feta and baked like muffins but only half-fill the cups.

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