Monday, November 05, 2007

Colombian Inspirations

A few weeks ago I got an awesome surprise. One of my culinary favorites, Patricia McCausland- Gallo, left a comment on my blog. My very first post was about my Colombian roots and in that post I mentioned her lovely book, The Secrets of Colombian Cooking. Actually, her recipe for arepas was the very first one I posted on my blog. I picked up the book again last week and began reading some more about my birth country, the one I left when I was just a baby. Although I did grow up with staples of Colombian food, I never really had anyone to teach me how to make those traditional dishes. My memories include looking over my mom's shoulder to see how she would make areaps or watching my aunt stirring natilla or frying batch after batch of buñuelos on Christmas eve, but that was about it. Thanks to Patricia's book, all those recipes are no longer a mystery.

Inspired by Patricia's stories and her flair with Colombian food, I decided to get into the kitchen and do a little experimenting of my own. The last time I had an arepa, was almost eight years ago when I visited my parents back in New Jersey. My mom prepared them for breakfast the way she traditionally would- grilled and served with cheese and scrambled eggs. I loved them and licked my plate clean, but Hans, on the other hand, had a bit of a hard time. I never held it against him though. Arepas are little corn cakes which can be a bit on the tasteless side, although there are many variations which have more flavor, like arepas de chocolo which have a delightfully sweet, roast corn flavor. I knew that if I was going to attempt serving Hans and Kirstie arepas, somewhat close to the ones I remembered having for breakfast, they should have a bit more taste. Still, I didn't want to go too far off track (well, maybe I did in the end) so I came up with the following recipe inspired by one I saw in Patricia's book. They were so incredibly good that at the end of the meal, Hans asked why I only made three- after he admitted that he was a bit worried when he saw what I was making!

Here's the recipe (and yes, I know it's not 100% Colombian!)

Arepas My Way

*220g fine yellow cornmeal (used for polenta)
*185ml hot water, but not so hot that you burn your fingers!

*30g soft butter

*1 tsp salt

*100g shredded mozzarella cheese

*1 tbsp butter, for frying

Mix the cornmeal, salt and butter in a bowl. Add the hot water slowly while mixing with your hands. Start kneading the mixture in the bowl and continue until it comes together. Add the cheese and continue to knead. Divide the dough into five balls and form each ball into a disc of about 9cm in diameter. Put the
arepas on a plate and refrigerate 30 minutes before frying them. When ready to fry, melt the butter in a pan and fry the arepas on a medium- high heat for 4-5 minutes per side. During the frying, press down on them every so often with the back of a spatula so that they brown nicely. Serve warm, alone or with scrambled eggs. I especially love them with eggs scrambled with spring onions and cherry tomatoes!
Makes 5


Patricia Scarpin said...

Paola, I have never heard of these, but one just can't go wrong with polenta!

Karen said...

Paola, these sound very similar to the arepas they sell at street fairs here in New York. I'm sure they're better though. What exactly is non-traditional about them?

Cedar said...

Those look so darn yummy!!

Paola said...

Patricia, there's always a big debate about where they originally come from, Venezuela or Colombia. I honestly don't know, but they do form a staple of the Colombian diet nonetheless...and they are delicious!

Karen, I had to use mozzarella cheese because I can't get Colombian queso blanco here. I also used yellow cornmeal instead of white, which is better for this particular variation. And I fried them, whereas I think these are traditionally grilled.

They were SO good though! :)


Paola said...

Hi Cedar!

Thanks for stopping by! Your blog looks awesome... and so does your new haircut!


Kitchen Goddess said...

Oooh these look delicious.

Maria alejandra said...

venezuela we call èm cachapas, very popular in corn harvest time, sweet with local white cheese
or just a litlle butter... my mouth starts to water..

Maria alejandra said...

venezuela we call èm cachapas, very popular in corn harvest time, sweet with local white cheese
or just a litlle butter... my mouth starts to water..

Kelly-Jane said...

They look great, and mozzarella too! :)

Gloria said...

Paola, this looks sooo yummy, I never make it, I will try, nice post!!! Gloria

Sandy said...

Paola, they look wonderful. I have a girlfriend who is Colombian, I will ask her if she knows about this book/author.

Beatriz said...

Great post. We are Colombian, and we just moved to Italy from the US. We haven't been able to find Masarepa, or anything similar and a friend sugested we used polenta. My husband (who is of "paisa" origins) did a search today and found your blog. We will try your recipe soon and I will let you know how they turn out. Great blog too.

Paola said...

Thank you, Beatriz! I'm glad you liked my blog and I hope the arepas please the both of you! As a 'paisa' I can tell you they're quite different than what our mothers made...but they ARE good! :)


PS: I'm in the Netherlands (also a US expat) and it can be tough finding Colombian products, or even American for that matter, but do have a search on internet for shops around your area. Good luck!

Luis Enrique said...

Thanks a lot Paola. As you must know, colombian and venezuelan are more than brothers. I am venezuelan and I cannot see any difference.
If you goggle "harina pan" you will have a special flour for preparing arepas. Thanks again for your recipe. I will try it. Luis