I’ve loved plantains since I discovered them some 7 years ago and do not miss an opportunity to grab a few whenever I see them piled in a box by the till at my favourite greengrocer. Usually I turn them into plantain chips, served with an avo-pomegranate dip or occasionally drizzled with dark chocolate. 

Give me a recipe book with plantains in it and those will be the first recipes I make. As a West African and Carribean food, it’s no surprise they popped up in Sweet Salone, Maria Bardford’s new cookbook which is a collection of recipes from the heart of Sierra Leone. Sweet Salone is more than a collection of recipes, it is a collection of Sierra Leone culture with stories woven into each recipe. From street foods to starters, mains and desserts, this cookbook allows you to experience the rich culture of West Africa through your tastebuds.  

Maria, who now lives in the UK, grew up in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. When she first opened her catering business, creating African foods for dinner parties, her friends called her food Shwen Shwen – fancy, which became the name of her food business. 

Shwen Shwen is the perfect word to describe the plantain dish I’m sharing – it is fancy and the most deliciously unusual way I have enjoyed plantains. 

The plantains are rubbed in a West African spice blend before being oven roasted. Once cooked they’re served with a confit and feta that balances out the heat of the plantains with the smoothness of the confit and saltiness of the feta. 

Next time you see plantains, don’t pass them by – buy a few to whip this up!

Dietary Notes


The recipes are wide ranging, making this best suited for those without strict restrictions. That being said, there are plenty of plant-based and gluten free options throughout.

Best For


Those who love exploring cultures through food and love West African dishes or just different dishes packed with spice.

Level of Cooking



There is a mix between really easy recipes and ones that are more involved. But anyone with a good grasp of cooking would manage well.

Spiced Roasted Plantains

These oven roasted plantains pack a heat which is balanced by the smooth confit and salty feta
Course: Sides
Dietary: Gluten Free, No Added Sugar, Nut Free, Vegetarian, Wheat Free
Make This for: Lunch
Servings: 6


For the Confit Tomatoes and Shallots

  • 1 kg Mixed-colour cherry tomatoes
  • 6 Garlic cloves finely sliced
  • ¼ Scotch bonnet chilli finely chopped
  • 12 Baby shallots peeled and halved
  • 300 ml Olive oil
  • 8 Fresh thyme sprigs
  • 12 Basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Salt flakes
  • Ground black pepper

For the Spiced Plantains

  • 6 Yellow plantains peeled and sliced in half vertically
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
  • 1 ½ teaspoonS Cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Sweet paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon West African Pepper blend (see recipe below)
  • 6 tablespoons Olive oil 

West African Pepper Blend

  • 2 ½ teaspoons Grains of paradise
  • 2 tablespoons Black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons White peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoons Cubeb pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Allspice berries

To Serve

  • 250 grams Feta


West African Pepper blend

  • Toast all the peppercorns in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant.
  • Allow to cool then grind in a spice grinder, or pestle and mortar.
  • Store in an airtight jar. It will stay fresh for up to 3 months.

For the Spiced Plantains

  • Preheat the oven to 110C
  • Put the tomatoes in a large, deep baking tin, add the garlic, chilli and shallots, mix well and drizzle over the olive oil.
  • Season with sea salt flakes and black pepper, then top with herbs.
  • Roast for 2 hours or until the shallots have become soft and sweet and the tomatoes have browned on top.
  • Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • Turn up the oven to 200C
  • Put the sliced plantains in a roasting tin.
  • Grind the whole spices in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar, then mix with the ground paprika, West African Pepper blend and salt.
  • Rub the spices all over the plantains and drizzle over the olive oil.
  • Roast for 25-30 minutes until the plantain is tender.
  • To serve, divide the plantain among 6 plates and top with the confit tomatoes and shallots. Crumble over the feta.

Sweet Salone is published by Hardie Grant Books and distributed in South Africa by Jonathan Ball Publishers. It is available here

Recipe is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Images are by Nutreats Food Photography Studio.

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