Caribbean vibes against November blues

Last week we discussed the 50 most beautiful, finest, tastiest cookbooks that appeared in the past year. That is to say: published in Dutch. The book I want to cook with you today fell by the wayside because it is in English. But it was written and published by a Dutch.

Helmi Smeulders moved to Curaçao 20 years ago, there hung her job as a lawyer on the palm trees and started a catering company. In the beginning she mainly cooked Mediterranean dishes, flavors to which she was used. But along the way she discovered how much the island itself has to offer. Tropical fruit, native vegetables and fresh fish abound. Since then, she has focused on Caribbean cuisine, or rather reinventing it.

Island Vibes, The Joy of Caribbean Cooking, is Smulders’ second book. It is doing very well internationally. Only in the Netherlands hardly anyone knows it. Hence this piece. Because we could all use a little Caribbean vibes in these darkening days. Eat that, November blues!

What shall we make of it? Wild pigeon bitterballen perhaps? (There are many so-called Alablanca pigeons in Curaçao; you rarely see them on the menu of restaurants, but at home they do end up in the pans,) Johnny cakes with fried fish? (Johnnycakes are deep-fried sandwiches, a classic Curacao Sunday morning treat.) Goat burgers with papaya ketchup? (For those who visit the island: you can eat the best goat burgers at Toko Williwood in Sint Willibrordus.)

Or are we going for something sweet? Enough choice. Pina colada. mango cheesecake. coconut macaroons. Dulce de leche ice cream. Thick waffles with plantain in the batter. Pancakes with pumpkin. Ah, look, they had to be. Arepa de pampuna; when I once stayed on Curaçao for six weeks I couldn’t get enough of it. Smeulders makes them nice and spicy with allspice, cinnamon and ginger. According to her, raisins can also be added to the batter. And a tip from me: eat them with date syrup. It is a bit rins, like apple syrup, and gives some counterbalance to the heavy and sweet of the pancakes.

Arepa de pampuna

For about 16 pancakes

450 g pumpkin flesh, diced; 1 tbsp olive oil; 350 ml whole milk; 1 egg; 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted; 2 tbsp natural or white wine vinegar; 250 g flour, sifted; 60 g blond caster sugar; 2 tsp baking powder; 1 tsp baking soda; 2 tsp ground cinnamon; 1 tsp tsp ground allspice; 1 tsp ground ginger; ½ tsp salt; for frying: butter;

before serving: honey, powdered sugar or date syrup

Heat preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Toss the pumpkin cubes with olive oil, spread on a baking tray and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until soft. Puree to a smooth puree and let cool.

NS In a bowl, combine the pumpkin puree with the milk, egg, coconut oil and vinegar. In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.

Doe Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until smooth. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Melt a knob of butter and bake small, thick pancakes in it.

Behind them 2 to 3 minutes per side. and keep them warm under a tea towel while you bake the rest. Serve with honey and powdered sugar, and/or with date syrup.