The cuisine of Mozambique, one of the tastiest cuisines in Africa, offers an excellent cake made from cashews that we are going to discover today: the bolo polana.
Mozambique is a state in southeastern Africa. It is bordered on the north by Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, on the east by the Mozambique Channel separating it from Madagascar, on the South by South Africa and on the West by Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
This country was discovered by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 and colonized by Portugal in 1505, paving the way for nearly 500 years of Portuguese rule. Mozambique gained independence in 1975, becoming a little later the People’s Republic of Mozambique.
The influences of Mozambique cuisine
The Portuguese colonial heritage is undeniably the most important in Mozambican cuisine, as Portuguese ingredients and techniques are an integral part of the Mozambican cuisine.
Portugal is not the only country to have influenced Mozambican cuisine. The country also has one of the largest indigenous populations in Africa, largely because of the ties created between Mozambique and the Indian state of Goa, both of which were part of the Portuguese empire. The chamussas, for example, are small triangular and savory delicacies inspired by the famous Indian samosa. In Mozambique, the stuffing varies from meat to fish, but also from potatoes to cheese. They are different by their unique blend of Mozambican spices.
The nearly 5 centuries of Portuguese colonization have left their Lusitanian imprint, which can be seen in almost all the Mozambican dishes, colored and enriched by a stronger and more intense note offered by Africa as well as a strong influence of Indian cuisine that is very present on all the east coast of the African continent. So, in addition to the hot pepper, you will find notes of fresh cilantro, curry, green mango chutney and coconut milk.
The cuisine of Mozambique
Among all the agricultural products of Mozambican cuisine, you will find the white maize that provides the omnipresent polenta that is also popular in neighboring Tanzania, ugali, used as accompaniment when there is no pilaf rice. You will also find potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, and legumes (chickpeas, lichinga beans, peanuts). Tomatoes, cabbages, onions and aubergines come next, along with various salads and a very small variety of fruits such as mango, papaya, avocado, apple, guava and oranges, in addition to of course, bananas of all kinds, that are ubiquitous.
The miles of endless coastline lead to a very rich fish and seafood-based cuisine. All are very easy to find, but the highlight is undoubtedly the Mozambican shrimps (camarões), which often reach incredible sizes and are usually grilled and topped with this must-have mozambican sauce called piri-piri. The creation of this piri-piri sauce is attributed to the first Portuguese settlers. It is a spicy sauce whose name means “peppercorns”, that is flavored with lemon, garlic, vinegar and paprika, plus the capsicum chinense, which is nothing more than habanero pepper or similar.
Another Portuguese classic reinvented with a mozambican touch are the sopas (soups) among which the tasty sopa de mariscos and the feijoada, similar to that of the Brazilian cuisine. As for fish, bacalao (cod) dishes are mastered in various ways, whether fried, simmered, baked, or grilled.
As I already mentioned, crustaceans are the richest part of the Mozambican cuisine: grilled shrimp (camarões grelhados), but also mussels, lobster, grilled pulpo (octopus), or the famous rissóis de camarãoes (shrimp cakes).
Chicken is also one of the most consumed meats in Mozambique. For example, galinha asada (roasted chicken), which in Mozambique is more often grilled, or roasted over bonfires on the side of the roads. A staple food for Mozambicans, it can be prepared in different ways. The most famous is obviously piri-piri chicken. Galinha à zambeziana, no less known, is a special variant of the Zambézia province where chicken is marinated in freshly grated coconut milk.
What is bolo polana?
And for dessert, there is finally our polana bolo!
Named in honor of the suburb of Maputo, Polana, it is a traditional dessert often served for special occasions. It is made of mashed potato and ground cashew, creating a unique, smooth texture and a rich nutty taste that is deliciously enhanced by citrus zest and vanilla essence.
What is the origin of cashew?
Cashew is native to northeastern Brazil and the name itself derives from the Portuguese word caju. Cashew nut is actually the product of the cashew tree. The other product of this tree is the fruit itself called cashew apple, which is mainly known in the tropics where this tree grows as it is not really exported. The word Anacardium has an interesting origin. The Latin experts will recognize the words ana (upwards) and cardium (heart). In fact, the fruit of the cashew tree looks like an inverted heart.
In the 70s, Mozambique was the largest producer of cashew nuts in the world (more than 40% of the world production). The independence, civil war and disastrous economic policies have led to a dramatic drop in production. Coincidentally, the United States announced last week that they were providing an aid of $15M to help with the redevelopment of this industry in Mozambique.
Cashew was imported by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century but its commercialization only started in the twentieth century. Cashew nut is used in many Mozambican dishes, both sweet and savory. The nut contains more starch than other nuts (about 10%) and thus it is often used to thicken sauces like in Indian cuisine.
This bolo polana with an unusual combination of ingredients was an overwhelming success at home. The texture given by the potato is definitely unique. Eggs provide a lighter side. Aromas of lemon, orange and vanilla are exquisite and perfectly complement the cashew nuts.
- 12 tablespoons butter
- 1½ cup flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs , separated
- 1 potato , peeled, boiled and mashed
- 1 cup cashew nuts , ground
- Zest of a lemon
- Zest of an orange
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon butter (to grease springform pan)
- 4 tablespoons flour , for dusting
Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
Prepare a springform pan by spreading 1 tablespoon (15g) of butter over bottom and sides of pan. Then sprinkle 4 tablespoons of flour and tilt pan so the flour covers all sides.
- In a large bowl, mix the butter, adding the sugar a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add egg yolks, one at a time, while mixing.
- Stir in mashed potatoes, cashew nuts, cashews, lemon and orange zests, heavy cream and vanilla. Mix well.
- Add flour gradually while continuing to mix.
- In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
- Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
- Pour the mixture into the cake pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. At the end of baking, poke cake with a toothpick to make sure it is fully baked. The toothpick should come out dry.
- Wait 10 minutes before unmolding and cutting.