My cooking has been heavily influenced by American cuisine. From the great New York restaurants to the Napa valley in California and the Floridian style cuisine of Miami. Of course living in the UK I haven't been able to visit all these places and try the food myself - I don't have the time or budget to do this. Instead I have had to rely on books. And not vegetarian books at that. In the early 90's they still had a long way to come before they could inspire an ambitious vegetarian chef.
The first American book I bought was called "A taste of New York" and the elaborate, colourful and inventive dishes I found there blew my mind. It completely changed the way I started to present my food at the Gate in London. I started moving away from a classical style and started to use more bright colours, zig zags of sauces, towers and stacks of food and later, more importantly, I found myself mixing styles of cuisine.
The following recipe comes from a book called "Miami spice" published in 1993 written by Steven Raichlen and is an example of how you can successfully mix styles of cooking. The dish combines caribbean ingredients like plantain and chillies with more European ingredients such as olives and white wine - in his own words a combination of the Latin and caribbean cooking. In honour of the book I called the dish Miami fritters.
The original recipe included capers and pine nuts in the olive stuffing but I'll leave it up to you and you can include them if you want. I have been experimenting over the past few weeks and I have found that half ripe plantain are the best to use and make the smoothest puree. That means that they will need to be yellow with balck specks - not green or totally black. But if you can't find the perfect plantain as I have successfully all levels of ripeness.
4 to 6 plantain
A little mixed spice
salt and pepper
About 20 pitted green queen olives
handful of sultanas
Vegetable oil for frying
By "Queen olives" I mean the large green olives. If you can't find big olives just use any pitted olives.
First of all pour some hot water over the sultanas to soften them up. Peel the plantain by chopping off one end, cutting the skin down its length and then peeling off the tough skin. Chop the plantain into rounds and place them in a large pan. Cover them with water and bring the pan to the boil.
Boil for about 12 minutes until the plantain is soft.
Drain the plantain and allow it to cool a for about 20 minutes. Unfortunately you will need a food processor as the plantain needs to be a smooth puree. Borrow one from a neighbour if you don't have one. The plantain needs to be pureed while warm so if you forget and it goes cold warm it up again. Place the plantain in the food processor with some salt and pepper and a little mixed spice. Whizz up until you have a puree. It may need to be done in two batches so as to not overload the processor.
Stuff the olives with the sultanas and anything else you want to use. Take a blob of the plantain and flatten it in your hand. Place the olive in the centre and then roll it up. You will need to wash your hands regularly while you do this. Roll all the plantain.
Heat some vegetable oil to 200°C or 390°F. A deep fat fryer would be best but you could use a deep pan with oil or a deep wok. Fry the fritters until they are golden brown.
The fritters until this point are vegan so you could serve them with some salad and a spicy ketchup or chilli sauce.
Jalapeno cream sauce
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
2 to 4 red chillies, sliced
50g (2oz) butter
1 small glass of white wine
5ooml whipping or double (heavy) cream
salt and pepper
a little vinegar
Finely chop the onion and crush the garlic. Heat the butter in a saucepan and saute the onions, chillies and garlic over a medium heat until soft and starting to brown. Add the white wine and simmer until most of the wine has reduced out. Add the cream and simmer slowly for about ten minutes. Season with the salt and pepper and add a little vinegar to help cut through the fattiness of the sauce. The sauce can be made in advance and reheated when required. This sauce does not freeze.