Best buys

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 March, 2001, 12:00am

I love bananas, but like many other fruits and vegetables that are in markets year-round, hardly ever notice them except when not much else is available. Although most people think only of eating them raw, straight out of the peel, they also make wonderful desserts. One of my favourites is the warm banana pudding with honeycomb ice-cream, at Thai Basil in Pacific Place.

Bananas go extremely well with rum and vanilla flavours. You can make an easy dessert by sauteing peeled bananas in butter and a sprinkling of soft brown sugar. Pour in a few tablespoons of dark rum, carefully set alight and, after the flames have died down, serve the hot bananas with vanilla ice-cream. I use the small variety of bananas (pictured), but if you can only find the common large bananas, slice them before using them in this dessert.

Bananas also make a great tart, an easy variation on tarte tatin. Start by thawing a sheet or two of puff pastry - use the kind made with butter, not vegetable shortening. Because the sheets are thin, they take only a few minutes to thaw. On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff dough very thin. Try to keep the sheet of dough as square as possible. Transfer to a flat pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes - this reduces shrinkage when the dough is baking.

While the dough is resting, mix together equal parts of soft brown sugar and unsalted butter, and smear a few tablespoons on the bottoms of individual tart pans (don't use the kind with removable bases, or else the mixture will run out). Layer in thin slices of bananas, which have been cut on the diagonal. Remove the dough from the fridge, and prick it well with a fork. Cut circles slightly larger than the size of the pans and drape over the bananas. Bake in preheated 190 degree Celsius oven for 10-15 minutes, or until dough is brown and crisp. Put a plate over each pan and carefully invert so the bananas are on top. Serve the tarts hot, with vanilla ice-cream.