Baked Bananas Stuffed with tamarind-Flavored Coconut
NARIYAL BHARA KELA

-Recipe from Yamuna mataji

               Bananas are native to India and are one of the most popular fruits of the nation. There are said to be staggering 400 varieties of bananas. Even so, they are divided into only two categories: eating and cooking. In this dish, a small, very sweet eating banana, either yellow or red-skinned, is preferred. Known as lady fingers or golden fingers, they are often available in Mexican or Indian grocery stores. Though they are traditionally baked in softened banana leaf wrappers on a coal-fed oven, I find that they bake wonderfully in any oven and in almost any type of baking dish.

Preparation time (after assembling ingredients): 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes: 8 side dish servings

2 table spoons (30 ml) instant tamarind concentrate (available at Indian groceries)
1 table spoon (22 ml) water
1 table spoon (15 ml) minced fresh mint or teaspoon (2 ml) dried mint
1/8 teaspoon (0.5 ml) cayenne pepper or teaspoon (1 ml) paprika
3 table spoons (45 ml) grated fresh or dried coconut
1 teaspoon (5 ml) garam masala
teaspoon (2 ml) ajwain seeds or fennel seeds, crushed
teaspoon (1 ml) salt
8 small firm ripe bananas, no more than 6-7 inches (15-18.5 cm) long, preferably “finger” bananas, red or yellow, 4-5 inches (10-12.5 cm) long
3 table spoons (455 ml) slivered almonds
cup (120 ml) maple syrup
2 table spoons (30 ml) finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 table spoon (15 ml) ach lime and orange juice
2 table spoons (30 ml) melted butter

1.    Combine the tamarind concentrate with water and whisk with a fork until blended. Add the mint, cayenne or paprika, coconut, garam masala, ajwaini or fennel seeds and salt, and toss to mix.
2.    Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Peel the bananas and, using a sharp paring knife, cut a slit about two-thirds through the flesh lengthwise, leaving inch (6 mm) uncut at each end. Very carefully ease the tamarind-coconut mixture evenly into the slits. Arrange in a single layer in a baking dish and scatter slivered almonds over the bananas.
3.    Combine the maple syrup, crystallized ginger, lime and orange juice and butter in a bowl and stir until blended. Pour the syrup over the bananas and blake for about 20 minutes, basting occasionally to keep them moist. Serve with a drizzle of the thickened syrup, either warm or at room temperature.