I have no idea how many arepas I have eaten in my life, at least one a day, I could risk to say.
I was 16 years old when I first left Colombia to live abroad. Since then, I have been away for a total of 9 years and if there is something I have truly missed and learned to appreciate... my daily arepa. I believe I was 20 years old when I first learned how to make them with my bare hands. It is funny because back in Colombia we are not used to making our own arepas, we just buy them from the store ready to cook on a pan. Ironically, it was someone from Venezuelan that taught me ( it is ironic because there is this massive rivalry between Colombia and Venezuela regarding who created the arepa) who taught me how to make them. Since, I have made it one of my missions in life to show as many people as people the magic of arepas.
Now, how do you make the perfect arepa? Or an Arepa alla SophieEaaaaats?
This is quite a tough task because I usually eye ball everything, but I will try my best to explain exactly my process of doing things.
You will need:
- A big bowl
- 2 cups of water
- Grated cheese (I prefer Parmesan or Grana Padano)
- Refined corn flour (I always find Harina Pan)
- Pre-heating the oven to 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees F.)
- Pre- heat a big pan in the stove at low-medium heat.
- Add the water into bowl, add salt (be generous).
- Add as much grated cheese as your heart desires, and mix in the water.
- Then slowly start adding the flour, and mix as you add. Dont be shy, use your hands. Try to smash any crumble of dough you touch.
- Keep adding flour until the dough can be formed into balls, but it is not dry. (I find that the more humid the arepa is, the better it will cook in the oven.)
- If it gets dry to the point of cracking, water your hands and hidrate it.
- Make balls and slowly presse them, fixing and molding the borders.
- Place in pan and let it sear on each side.
- Once the boarders of the arepa are cooked and crisp. Add the arepa in the oven while you sear the rest.
- Let them bake until the puff up, or until you cannot resist any more.
As for the stuffing of the arepa, options are endless.
Here are some of my staples:
This one is a Venezuelan staple. It consists of shredded chicken breast mixed with avocado, mayo, cilantro, and lime. It is the ultimate arepa, however, I felt it needed something sweet, fresh, spicy, and umami, to balance the mushy richness. That's when I tried it with my bell pepper sofrito. Diced onion, garlic, red bell pepper, tomatoes, and parsley. Cooked with a lot of oil, seasoned with soy sauce, cumin, red chili flakes, salt and pepper.
She is a killer, and my staple dish to impress anybody.
The Pesto Scramble
Arepas used to be more of a breakfast thing for me.
The best way to start the day, you know?
My dad would make me "Christmas Scrambles" all the time. They got this name because he would cook the eggs with diced tomatoes and green onions, which resemble the colors of Christmas, duh.
As I grew older, the green part of "Christmas Scrambles" needed more green. So, one day I decided to add pesto. One thing lead to another, and I even ended up adding fresh mozzarella pearls. As they melt, strings of cheese cover the scrambled eggs, making it game, life, and taste changing with arepas. I almost named them Caprese Scrambles, but it was too Italian and elegant for me 😂 These breakfast arepas are meant to be dirty, messy, juicy, full of flavor.
They will definitely leave you in "abbioco" mode.
After studying about Food Culture, Communication, and Marketing in Italy, I was introduced to the magic and power of gastronomy in a food-influenced country. Here in Italy, people live through food, they eat while talking about food, the sleep and dream about food, and I just love it. Never did I imagine a culture envisioned my own individual culture so much.
In order to honor all the delicious things I got to try here in Italy, I had to create its own version for breakfast (or brunch) and dinner, and we call it ItaliArepa.
The Brunch ItaliArepa
After discovering ricotta stuffed zucchini blossoms here in Italy, I became obsessed with using them, hence the inspiration for this dish.
Side Note: Here in Italy they do not do breakfast like in the Americas. Here, breakfast consists of a cappuccino with a sweet pastry. I am more into savory things in the morning, like the daily arepa, eggs someway, and coffee.
So...How did I try to convince an Italian into trying this for breakfast? I had to make it more Italian, and so, I made arepas stuffed with a Ricotta & Zucchini Blossom Frittata
The Dinner ItaliArepa
Inspired by my Italian sister and what her mom would make for her growing up.
Baked eggplant slices topped with passata, and mozzarella, just like little pizzas. We then played more with the idea and even tried with different pestos. Stuffed inside the arepa the synergy of Italy and Colombia was felt in every single bite.
With pickled veggies and creamy guacamole.
I have only made this type of filling once, but it was so good, it will definitely be a staple in my future areperia (tehee).
I had just moved back with my family in Colombia, after being abroad for two years, and I was craving cooking something for them. This cochinita recipe is something I learned from my Mexican friends living in Switzerland.
Cochinita Pibil, or simply Cochinita, is a pork stew once cooked by the Mayas, more specifically in the Yucatan Peninsula. In Yucatan you are going to find some of the most vibrant "Pueblos Magicos", the most beautiful beaches, and the richest food of the world. In 2017, I was able to go visit one of my little miracles, Karime, in her hometown Campeche, and although I did not try Cochinita that time (I was *trying* to be vegan😂 I know), I was able to try it and recreate it.
Of course, with them, we would enjoy the cochinita as a taco. And so I thought, why not enjoy it inside an arepa?
Traditionally, Cochinita Pibil is prepared underground, or in an earth over, hence the name Pib -- which means "to bury" in Mayan. They would wrap and cover the marinated pork and other vegetables in plantain leaves, and let it cook for hours.
Side note: If I had had the place to bury a hole and cook it, I would have, however, I was only able to find plantain leaves from the backyard plantain tree.