When you think of Colombian cuisine really, what springs to mind? Spice? the endless consumption of coffee? (which is all totally fabulous by the way) or you know, that famous Colombian dish everyone raves about… The Burrito.
Okay, okay, so whilst Colombian dishes aren’t exactly the same as Mexican there is still plenty in the way of flavour. Bursting with a Caribbean influence and the freshest ingredients, Colombian cuisine has just a little bit of everything that you could ask for in the perfect dish.
With that in mind we’d like to share the recipe for what is arguably one of the most popular foods in Colombia – The Arepa. There’s no way you will miss out on spotting these classic cornmeal cakes in their different variations on a trip to Colombia. They’re just about anywhere from a restaurant or coffee shop to being sold by local street food vendors. Best of all, they’re super easy to make!
A typical Colombian kitchen will contain the key ingredient that goes into making the perfect Arepa which is cornmeal flour (also known as ‘Masarepa’). Stock up on this, and you’re already halfway to making a truly tasty Colombian dish.
For the dough (Makes approx 4 Arepas):
2 cups of Masarepa (cornmeal flour)
½ cup of feta cheese (note that queso fresco, a traditionally white crumbly cheese is used to make Arepas in Colombia, but feta is the recommended alternative).
½ a tablespoon of soft melted butter
1 ½ cups of warm water
½ a teaspoon of salt
- Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl along with the soft butter and cheese.
2. Warm up the water in a pan. Once warm (but not boiling) gradually pour into the cornmeal flour mixture until mixed well and a soft dough consistency is formed.
3. Continue to knead the dough until soft.
4. Separate the dough into small balls and flatten between your palms to form a thick patty (thickness can also vary to taste).
5. Heat up a large non-stick skillet over a medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil until simmering.
6. To get that perfect crunchy texture, fry the Arepas on both sides until golden brown (it normally takes between 8-10 minutes to fry). TIP: For an extra buttery flavour, spread a teaspoon of butter over the top of each Arepa when frying in the skillet.
Arepas can also be sliced in half and filled with anything that your heart desires. Common fillings you’ll find in Colombia are melted cheese and shredded beef (take me back already!). Almost every region across the country has its own take on the Arepa, from the Arepa de huevo which is filled with a fried egg inside to the Arepa de choclo which has a slightly sweeter taste.
They say a recipe has no soul because you as the cook must bring the soul into the recipe, and that’s definitely the Colombian approach to cooking. They don’t serve up big portions for nothing 😉