In the name of seeing behind walls, of drawing closer to and finding each other, and of feeling more, as Walter Mitty creator, James Thurber described the purpose of life, we travel… But rather than merely passing through, we linger longer, and let ourselves melt into the landscape, trying to absorb all the elements of a place. Its whole spirit. One of the best ways to do this is through food, through eating the different dishes of a new land, yes, but even better, learning to cook with and like the local people. Whether in Rome or Cape Town, Zambia or the Caribbean, cooking unites us through taste. Through our mutual love of good food. And sometimes, merely, weird food.
At Anjajavy le Lodge in Madagascar, we discovered even more about the country, the land and people, through their Malagasy cooking class. First on the menu: a little something called Mofo Ravina, Malagasy for “bread to the leaf”, a dish served to us each morning at breakfast. It is also, waiter Dominic said, a dish that he remembers clearly from childhood; one given, traditionally, to Malagasy children as a snack because it is so high in energy.
250 g rice flour
3 large ripe bananas
1 vanilla bean
2 tbsp sugar
Peel and crush the bananas with a fork.
Split the vanilla bean and scrape with a knife to collect the pulp.
Add the sugar and vanilla pulp to the crushed bananas, and finally the sifted flour. Mix thoroughly to obtain a thick paste.
To prepare the banana leaves, drift the shiny side over an open flame to make the leaf more supple.
Next, cut the banana leaves into 20 x 15 cm rectangles. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the middle of the rectangle. Fold the edges of the sheet to the right, then left, fold the top and then the bottom. If you like you can tie a string around it (like wrapping a gift) to keep it in place.
Place the packages in a steam cooker and cook for 12 minutes. If they are larger than 2 cm thick and 6 cm long, increase the cooking time. (It is the cooking in the banana leaf that gives all the flavour to this snack.)
Remove the mofo ravina from the banana leaves and enjoy warm.