Chef Lydia, who hails from Barbados but has lived in the Cayman Islands for many years, believes in the quality of locally grown foods and sees the “fine eating” potential of plantain which she says has been relegated to “side dish” status for far too long. With this premise, I set out on a mission to show the many starring roles a staple can play.
This point was underlined in the recent “Plantain Experience” held at the stunning meeting facilities at Jasmine Hospice on West Bay Road; It was comforting in this most beautiful farmhouse to the table setting that dined a variety of dishes in which bananas starred – and a very elegant part.
In addition to its historical importance as the world’s first fruit crop (along with bananas) that came to the Caribbean during slavery, but originated in Southeast Asia in 8000-5000 BC, the banana is a strategically important crop for the region. With their delicious flavour, soil-friendly agriculture, regional abundance, climate resistance, nutritional value and role in culinary culture, plantains have a great deal of potential as a player in Caribbean food security, but if they are to do so, their role must be promoted far beyond. Than just a side meal or snack.
“The Plantin Experience was my favorite song for this amazing under-appreciated product,” says Chef Lydia, who has been traveling the world for many years, perfecting her culinary skills in exotic locales. “It was an experience designed to give foodies, explorers and plantain lovers a whole new appreciation for the taste of bananas.”
And that’s what I did.
“Lydia and Pudder Monkey Gourmet Treats continue to test the limits of Cayman’s culinary offerings,” said Mark Ray, husband of Chef Lydia, Cayman Islands Education Director, who opened the evening with a touching and fun speech about Chef Lydia’s journey to the Plantin Experience.
The passionate husband of his wife’s culinary arts said:
It was a mixture of the recipes she had learned in Barbados, mixed with the dishes she had been exposed to in Cayman, all seasoned with the delicious cuisines she had tried on her travels as a teenager and young woman, which led to Lydia’s love of cooking, baking and a culinary experience, mad scientist style.
Well, the science behind Chef Lydia’s first banana-themed pop-up event has worked.
The 5-course menu started with Ghanaian Kelewele, a stir-fried dish of plantain with ginger, spices, onions and jalapenos, followed by green banana soup with a hearty mix of delicious plantain flakes and pieces of plantain topped with papaya seeds. The third course featured pizza with banana mashed moringa (with cashew cheese and a bami cassava version for vegetarians and gluten intolerance) and for the final talk, Chef Lydia showed that no part of the plantain should be wasted with a side of pickled banana skin with mahi mahi curry Bajan style on Jasmine rice with lemongrass. A hearty desert of banana flour waffles topped with ice cream and a sorrel reduction follows a lemony palate cleanse.
For a drink, guests enjoyed bagan maubi (made from the bark of the maubi tree with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves), fresh guava, and sorrel juice.. The Ultimate Spirit of Choice honored the legacy of Chef Lydia – Taylor Velvet Phalernum Rum, first created in 1890 From cane sugar, lime, almonds and cloves From the Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados.
The night’s biggest surprises? The use of papaya seeds in soups and pickled plantain peel is delicious. I couldn’t get enough of the delicious texture and flavor—not to mention the lack of waste behind the recipe.
Parting gifts included chef Lydia’s signature banana chips and homemade humus.
This beautiful night was delicious, eco-friendly and filled with a lot of passion and love. The personal anecdotes the Chef shared were the perfect complement to the family farm-to-table setting and everyone was delighted to hear that “Mad Scientist” plans to continue expanding its vision for Plantain with more shows and events.
So what’s the next step in Chef Lydia’s busy schedule? She will feed attendees at the upcoming Caribbean Women’s Leadership Retreat, in a powerful session on Mindful Eating. She herself and other local leaders such as Natalie Urquhart, Director of the Cayman Islands National Gallery, Jorge Ann Morgan, Music Therapist, Nikita Kesson, Controller at Republic Bank (Cayman) Ltd. And Angela Pretorius, Head of Audit HLB Berman Fisher, will delight and inspire all of the women at Rum Point Residences on May 16.
If you would like to get in touch with Chef Lydia, she can be reached at [email protected]