The Baker’s Passport – Aruba

by Jeanne

               Treearuba

Most of the Caribbean Islands are, or were European colonies. Aruba, a small island located off the coast of Venezuela was originally colonized by the Spaniards and later ruled by the Dutch; as it is today an independent state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The food of Aruba includes cala (bean fritters), ayacas (leaf-wrapped meat rolls), and the white, sweet, mild-tasting fish grouper commonly found in the form of a sandwich.  Dutch influences can be found in many dishes but one of the most so is keshi yena (filled cheese shell).  A soupy concoction that combining Gouda cheese, spices, and meat or seafood in a thick brown sauce. This dish is sometimes served with funchi, a cornmeal pancake, or pan bati, a corn pudding. Savory and filling this traditional dish, is today more often found during Christmas.  Essentially the cheese shell is scooped out, filled with spicy chicken or beef, baked in the oven or steamed in the top of a double boiler. In a more dramatic version the filled Edam, with the red wax intact, is. tied in cheese cloth and suspended in boiling water for twenty minutes. The wax melts away in the hot water, leaving a delicate pink blush on the cheese.   

Sweets include banana breads, coconut cakes, flans , tert, cocada (which seems to come via Brazil),  and a homemade version of ponche crema  a creamy rum-based drink somewhat similar to eggnog.  Also I’m not sure how native this muffin recipe called Aruba Duba Do is but I thought I’d capture the link here as it’s interesting–sweet potato, mango and papaya!

Recipe research for this effort is turning into recipe development and refinement.  It was naive of me to assume that all recipes are written in the same manner as is done here in the States. Many recipes are written as if from your favorite aunt.  You know that aunt, the one that doesn’t fuss much with amounts, cooking times or sequences. In some instances I’ve taken the essence–the ingredients and forms and applied some methodology for easy doing.

Pastechis

Makes 4 Dozen

These empanada-like pastries are ideal to serve at a cocktail party. They can be filled with either meat, shrimp or ground chicken. These snacks appear throughout the ABC islands -Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao,  all night coffee shops, teas, beach parties and at fancy dining events.

Filling

3 tomatoes, chopped and peeled

2 onions, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup sliced olives

1 tblspn parsley

½ habanero chile, seeds and stem removed, minced (or more to taste)

½ cup raisins

1 tblspn tomato paste

2 tspns hot sauce

2 tblspns ketchup

2 tblspns mustard

2 pounds shredded chicken or other ground meat

½ cup vegetable oil

5 eggs

Salt and pepper

Dough

6 cups flour, sifted in separate bowl

Cream together:
3 generous tblspns butter
3 generous tblspns shortening
1 1/2 tblspns salt
1 large egg

Measure out two cups of the sifted flour. Place in large mixing bowl with the butter- shortening mixture. Combine together. 

Add 1 cup water a small bit at a time while continuing to add two cups flour at a time until it is in blended. When the dough is pliable, knead well. Roll the dough into a very thin sheet; cut out circles about three inches in diameter.

Place one tablespoon filling in the center of one pastry circle. Top it with a second circle. Lightly moisten edges and press the circles together. Fold or roll the edges over slightly and flute them as pie crust.

Bring a pot with cooking oil to a temperature of 350 degrees and fry the pastechis until golden brown. Can be prepared in advance and heated in the oven just before serving.

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