Making Arepas with my Colombian Uncle

It is said G makes the best arepas in his whole family. Now, I’ve only ever tasted his, but I believe it because they are delicious! Arepas are a staple part of Colombian gastronomy, like our bread here. You could probably classify them as a flat bread made from maize. They eat them for breakfast and/or dinner with whatever you have to hand or like. Again, like bread. G likes his with fried eggs, my aunty likes hers with avocado and cheese. I have been nagging G to teach me to make them for sometime and this weekend he did!

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I was so excited and nervous (arepas are a big deal in this house) that I didn’t get many photos of the dough making.
Like many great things, the arepa comes from humble life and uses just two ingredients: maize flour and water.
As for the ratio, well G throws it together and its perfect. Unfortunately I only came up with my cunning plan to work out the ratios once the dough was sitting, all done, so that will be for another post or update here!
But for now, I would say you want about a cup of maize per person. Make a well and pour some boiling water into the flour. The boiling water helps disintegrate the maize, different brands of flour have different results, G is yet to find one as good as you get in Colombia. You can add some cornflour too.
You want just enough water to roughly bring the dough together. Remember its better to add more water later than have to add more flour. At this point it will be too hot to touch, leave it until its cool enough.

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Next you need to work it into a smooth dry dough. Have some water to hand, you’ll probably need to add more. In this picture its nearly there, you can see a few bits of flour about, at this stage G added about another tbs and it was enough.

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Divide the mixture into balls about the size of a fist, they can be any size you like really. Use wet hands to stop the dough sticking. Roll the ball around in your hands or on a surface, whatever works best for you. Slap it back and forth in your hands. The object is to have a totally uniform sphere, no cracks or lines.
With your thumbs and fingers make the ball as flat as you can in your hands.
G is way too speedy for my camera!
This will all be a bit of a lengthly process to start with, but practice makes perfect! In the time I made one G made four.

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You need a plastic sheet to work on, G makes his out of a new clean plastic bag but if you have a silicone board or something that will probably work fine. Have a cup of water to hand. Wet the sheet slightly and place the dough in the centre.
Use one of your hands to shape the sides, the other to rapidly press the dough into a flat circle with an even round edge. Your aiming for a disk about 1-2cm thick. Thicknesses vary throughout Colombia. Work out what you like best.

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Use all of your hand so that the arepa is a uniform height. The idea is to spread the dough to your desired size and then compact it into a perfectly round, flat edged disk.

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Turn the arepa over and repeat the process. This side will be the ‘face’ and needs to be totally smooth.
Turn over again, so its ‘face’ down. Continue the patting the arepa, this will be flattening the ‘face’ on the otherside. Turn it back to ‘face up’ it should be pretty flat.

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Dip your fingers in water and smooth the whole surface of the arepa ‘face’, you don’t want any bumps or dents, it must be uniform. Smooth the edges and corners too.

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Heat a frying pan to a medium heat and very lightly brush it with oil, or dribble oil into the pan and wipe it with a paper towel that can be used to oil the other pans if using (G does four at a time!) or the pan in use before the next arepa goes in.
Gently place the arepa into the pan ‘face’ down, you should hear a gentle sizzle as it first touches the surface.
Here is a finished ‘face’.

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Turn the arepa over as soon as all the moisture has left the ‘face’ side. Now let it cook away for a good 10 mins or so.
To turn the arepa, slowly turn the pan onto its side and gently catch the arepa on your palm and slid it the desired side back into the pan. Try not to burn yourself too much 😉 you could probably use a oven glove actually…

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Until there are golden spots then turn it back onto the ‘face’.

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A perfect arepa will puff up! Cook until there are golden spots on the ‘face’ side and your done!

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To serve: slide a knife into the arepa at the top, where the ‘lid’ has puffed up, with the knife pointed towards the ‘lid’, slice nearly all the way around. You could also cut them in half and fill pitta bread style.
Fill the arepa with anything of your choice. They are very filling, one is a meal!
I actually totally forgot to take a picture of the final thing as it was in my stomach before I remembered.

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6 thoughts on “Making Arepas with my Colombian Uncle

  1. They look beautiful! Thank you for reminding me to make them again (I’m going to a Venezuelan restaurant this weekend, so I’ll be able to check out the competition ;-))
    Ginger x

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