I grew up in a Latin American home, with a Colombian mother who cooked Colombian foods and could dance the Salsa like no other. Although she wasn't the best of cooks, she did make some dishes which now, as an adult, I sometimes deeply crave. Her lentil soup with little cubed potatoes, her beef stews flavored with cumin and turmeric, that fabulously down-to-earth sopa de patacones (beef broth with thin, fried plantains) and of course, those Saturday morning arepas served with scrambled eggs and chorizo (on good days) or with liver (on bad days).
In their simplest form, arepas are very plain corn cakes. My mother used to make them with white cornflour, a little salt and some butter - nada mas. There are variations though, that are flavored with sweet corn or eggs, but personally, I preferred the plain kind. We also had them in a smaller, thicker form with some of our dishes. In that case, they were used to clean our plates, much like the French do with their bread.
Arepas, however, are not for everyone. In fact, the first time hubby tried them, he politely ate them but wasn't pleased. A few years ago I made a variation which went down well, but yesterday morning I decided to make something similar yet completely new. These aren't by any means authentic arepas. What are they then? Crisp, cheesy, golden corn fritters! Not the healthiest treat in the world, but pretty darn delicious. If you make them smaller and thinner, perhaps top them with some cured ham, a little crème fraîche and a sprinkle of chopped scallions, they could make fine appetizers this Christmas.
Here's the recipe:
Colombian Inspired Corn Fritters
220g coarse yellow cornmeal (used for polenta)
1 tsp salt
30g butter, cubed
185ml hot water
1 bal of mozzarella, chopped
2 tbsps ricotta
butter, for frying
Mix the cornmeal, salt and butter in a bowl. Add the hot water slowly and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the cheeses and stir again. Melt a knob of butter in a pan and spread thin, medium sized dollops of batter on the hot pan. Fry over a medium- high heat for 4-5 minutes per side (a little less for the second side). Serve warm!
Eager to try another Colombian recipe? Try this Ají Antioqueño!