Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
My memory of the first Costa Rican to make it big in the English Premiership is of Paulo Wanchope, a tall gangly player that often looked awkward, but had a devastating finish. I remember his debut for Derby County against Manchester United at Old Trafford back in 1997 – or I remember him for a single incident on that debut. From the halfway line he belted up the pitch taking on 3 or 4 Manchester United players, before opening up his body and from the edge of the box slotting past the then best keeper in the world, Peter Schmeichel. It was devastating football against the then best team in England, and he was only 20 years old at the time. As a local radio commentator put it
Wanchope treated Manchester United’s defence … with absolute contempt
Italia 1990 put Costa Rica on the map. Not only was it their first ever time qualifying for the World Cup, but they defeated Scotland and Sweden to progress to the last 16. This time round the bad news for the opposition is that Wanchope is the assistant coach and has instilled in Costa Rica that they can beat anyone – Uruguay, England or Italy. Watch out for Bryan Ruiz as the creative centre forward along with the speed of Joel Campbell and the wise head of Álvaro Saborio. Costa Rica conceded the least goals in their qualifying group and will need to be resolute in defence again against potentially lethal opposition in their group.
For this dish I have used two of the most important ingredients in Costa Rican cuisine: plantains and black beans.
Plantains are a species of banana, usually reserved for a particular type which is specially grown for its virtues as a vegetable. The word plantain also usually denotes a green unripe banana, which I found out after a failed first attempt at this dish. The unripe plantain shows little of the sweet and banana characteristics of the ripened version, and must be cooked prior to eating. Costa Ricans love to deep fry plantains in to fritters known as patacones. In my first attempt I tried to deep fry a ripened plantain which ended up as a splodge of sweet browned banana. The green version worked an absolute treat though.
Costa Ricans love their black beans and a black bean dip can be found in many restaurants throughout the country. I have made a version which stays true to the Costa Rican version and is devastatingly wicked with the crispy and soft patacones. This is a perfect football snack.
Patacones and Black Bean Dip - Costa RicaPrint
- For the Black Bean Dip:
- ■ 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil |
- ■ 1 red onion | Diced.
- ■ 4 cloves garlic | Peeled and halved.
- ■ 2 jalapeño peppers | Deseeded and diced. Leave the seeds in if you want a hot one.
- ■ 1 lime - juice of |
- ■ ½ tsp. ground cumin |
- ■ handful coriander | Roughly torn.
- ■ 439g black beans | Drained. I used the Goya brand; the weight indicated on the tin is 439g.
- ■ seasoning of sea salt and black pepper |
- For the Patacones:
- ■ 3 green plantains |
- ■ oil for deep frying | Grapeseed, canola or groundnut are good.
For the black bean dip: put a medium-sized frying pan over a low heat and add the oil. When warm add the red onion, garlic halves and jalapeño pepper and cook for about 10 minutes until all have softened. Put them in a food processor along with the lime juice, cumin, coriander, black beans and seasoning, and process until smooth. Adjust the seasoning at the end if required.
The plantain fritters are double fried; firstly to soften them and secondly to crisp and brown them.
Cut the green plantains in to 2cm pieces. The skin is difficult to peel off so either soak the plantain pieces in salt water for half an hour after which the skins should be easier to remove, or using a paring knife to peel off the skins.
Heat the frying oil to 140°C (285°F). In batches so as not to over-crowd your pan, drop in the pieces of peeled plantain and gently fry until the plantain becomes softish with an ever so slight brown tinge to the outer. Remove them from the oil, drain on kitchen paper and then cover each one with cling film and press to flatten them. I used a coffee tamper which worked perfectly. You should see the centre of the plantain stay intact and the soft outer spread out to form broken edges. The discs should be about 1cm in thickness.
Increase the heat of the oil to 180°C (355°F). Again in batches, drop the pressed plantain discs in to the oil and fry until golden brown and crispy on the outside (about 3-5 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper.
The plantain will be crispy on the outside and like mashed potato inside. Serve them with the black bean dip.