“Venezuelans and Colombians eat arepas as their everyday bread, much as Mexicans and Central Americans eat tortillas and Salvadorians eat pupusas. Arepas are magical little pockets of deliciousness, made from a special white cornmeal, and are slightly crispy on the outside and soft and hollow-y on the inside. They are often grilled, but can also be baked, boiled or fried. You can stuff them with whatever you like. Among the more popular arepa stuffings in Venezuela are la peluda (shredded beef and shredded yellow cheese), la reina pepiada (chicken avocado salad) and jamón y queso (ham and cheese).” – Grace Ramirez
Reproduced with permission from La Latina, by Grace Ramirez. Published by Random House (NZ). Text copyright ©Grace Ramirez, 2015. Photographs copyright ©Garth Badger, 2015. Click here to purchase your own copy.
- 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups pre-cooked white cornmeal (I use Harina P.A.N brand)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or rice bran oil for brushing the pan
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Pour warm water into a large bowl, add salt and mix. Slowly start adding and mixing the cornmeal with your hands, until the mixture comes together and is smooth and without lumps. Once combined, let the dough rest for about 5 minutes (no need to cover it).
- Meanwhile, heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan or flat grill plate over a medium-high heat and brush with oil.
- Knead the dough again until smooth, about 3 minutes, until it doesn’t stick to the bowl or your fingers. If it’s too dry, add 1/2 tablespoon of water at a time as you knead. Divide dough into eight even-sized balls and form each ball into a flat, round disc of even thickness. They should be about 10 centimeters in diameter and 2 centimeters thick.
- On the stovetop, grill batches of arepas, as many as will fit into your pan, for about 3 minutes on each side or until they form a golden-brown crust. Place arepas on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, and place in oven for about 7–10 minutes, or until arepas sound hollow when lightly tapped. You can also put the arepas directly onto the oven shelf.
- To stuff arepas, split them open like a pita bread, not all the way through but just enough to get some of the hot, soft insides out. True arepa eaters put the insides on the side of the plate, mix them with butter and/or cheese and eat them separately.