On Monday night, we cooked Aruba. It was a little strange planning food for a warm, Caribbean island as the snow falls and wind whips around the house!
Aruba was one of the more challenging countries so far to select recipes. Most of my online research led me to beach resorts and restaurant reviews. There are some Dutch influences on the food, having been under Dutch rule since the 1600s and remaining an independent country of the Kingdom of Netherlands today.
Keshi Yena: This is one of the most common foods that came up in my research, and it originally was a way to use the outside rind of a wheel of Edam cheese. It would be stuffed with a meat mixture and baked. I didn’t think we could get our hands on this much cheese (nor could we eat all but the rind in a reasonable amount of time), so we made a modernized version which makes a crust of cheese in a pie pan with sliced Edam.
Pan Bati: These are pretty simple–essentially, they are pancakes made with cornmeal instead of flour. This was a nice, simple side dish for this weeknight dinner.
Cashew cake: With all of the tourism in Aruba, I found a wide variety of desserts, but “traditional” is a relative term here. I read that cashews are grown in Aruba, so I selected this delicious looking cashew cake.
To make the keshi yena, we started by cooking the ground beef, onion, garlic, and pepper. To this we added the capers, raisins, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and relish (we used a bell pepper relish because neither of us like pickles). Then the eggs and parsley were mixed in.
I lined a glass pie dish with the Edam cheese slices. We didn’t have quite enough, so there were some gaps. Then I poured in the mixture and topped with more cheese. Again, there wasn’t enough, so I added some grated cheddar cheese that we had in the fridge (I am sure that’s not authentic!).
The finished product:
I didn’t take many photos to document the pan bati, but it was very similar to making pancakes. The main difference I noticed is that as I cooked them, even if the bottom appeared to be solidified/cooked, it would stick to the pan until it was ready to be flipped. I thought I had ruined the first batch when they were stuck to the pan, but after another minute or so they flipped over easily and were perfectly browned.
Baking the cashew cake was pretty normal compared to other cakes I have made (other than the two cups of ground cashews that went in!). I didn’t take any before and after pictures, but it looked wonderful when it came out of the oven. We found that it needed longer than the recommended cooking time for the center not come out goopy.
The frosting was more of a challenge. I was nervous to sign up for raw egg white frosting, so I did some research and followed a method similar to 7-minute frosting. I mixed the egg whites and sugar over a pan of boiling water with a handheld electric mixer until the mixture was hot–this took a lot longer than 7 minutes… My goal was to reach 160°F, which is the temperature eggs should reach to ensure you don’t get salmonella. This was very tedious. After this process, I transferred the egg/sugar combination to the stand mixture and added the remaining ingredients. The result was a frosting that is fluffy, but somewhat heavy.
The recipe recommended garnishing with lime zest, and we happened to have a small lime that was getting old and needed to be used up!
This meal turned out to be a lot of work for a weeknight, so we ate pretty late and were exhausted by the time it was all done. The keshi yena and pan bati were good, although not spectacular. The cheese crust of the keshi yena was a unique touch that I enjoyed. The filling seemed very familiar to me, but I’m not sure what I recognize it from. The closest comparison I can think of is that it seemed like some kind of cheeseburger casserole. The pan bati was very good–I enjoyed that it had a little bit of sweetness, and it was a nice contrast to the keshi yena.
The cashew cake was amazing!! I would definitely make this again. The cashew and almond extract gave it a great flavor, and there was a slight saltiness to the frosting to compliment the cake. I would, however, scale back the salt in the frosting next time to 1/2 or 3/4 of a teaspoon instead of the full teaspoon. I think we will be making this cake again, although I might find a less labor intensive substitute for the frosting. 🙂