This is a very special recipe shared with us by Ana & Juan, two siblings born in Colombia and now living in different parts of the world. Sharing and making recipes, such as these sweetcorn arepas (arepas de choclo), from places we call home help us feel closer to each other when we are too far to hug. Thank you Ana Maria Millan and Juan for sharing a tasty treat and transporting us to your Mum’s Colombian Kitchen table, in that flat that was bought precisely because it could fit a table large enough to gather friends and family as its focal point of togetherness. Much love and respect to Ana’s wonderful Colombian Mama and all the Mamas many of us miss from afar! Thank you to Ana who shared this recipe and her words, which make up most of this post. Ana was born in Colombia and has been living in the UK for nearly 20 years.
Arepas are a traditional food of Latin America, and they come in many varieties. Some are made with different types of corn (e.g masa harina) or rice flour. They are eaten as part of a meal or as a meal itself. This recipe is made with young sweetcorn (choclo) and a mix of flours.
Ana says, ‘I like it because it is sweet, and also because it helps me bring together some of the components of my multi-cultural family: a Colombian recipe with Dutch cheese. My husband is Dutch so we try to make the most of both worlds. Although I only started making arepas after moving to the UK, this recipe takes me home, to my mum’s kitchen. The ideal way to have these is with Colombian hot chocolate, with cheese inside (but that’s another story).’
‘For us sharing food is very important. Growing up we always had dinner together – it was the time of the day when we would sit together and talk about our day and anything that was happening. And, that is something that I do with my family too – dinnertime is family time.’
What (feeds 2)
- 2 cups or 340g sweet corn kernels (use defrosted or tinned + drained)
- ½ cup or 110g flour – use either masa harina OR gluten free flour OR a mix of gluten free and fine cornmeal ground furtner in a stone pestle or mortar
- 1 teaspoon of softened butter or coconut oil
- 4 Tbsp. or around 60ml milk (dairy or vegetable)
- Pinch of sugar
- Place the sweetcorn in a food processor until it is mushy, but not smooth. Some kernels should be visible.
- Heat the milk and melt the butter of choice.
- Add the flours and sugar to the blender and blend till smooth.
- The batter should look like thick porridge but it should not be too stodgy. If it is too thick, dilute it with some more milk.
- Use a large non-stick pan to fit many small pancakes or a smaller to make 2-4 large ones.
- Heat a little bit of butter until melted. Pour the mixture in small or larger circle shapes. Flatten to about 1cm thickness (not too thin but a little bit more like an American or blueberry pancake).
- Cook on low heat until it is nice and golden for about 3-5 minutes.
- Flip over carefully so it doesn’t break. Put the sliced or grated cheese on top and cook for another 3-4 minutes. You can fold in half and flip over to melt cheese further.
- Serve and enjoy.
- My perfect Ana & Juan arepas used a mix of gluten free flour and fine cornmeal (used for cornbread) ground down further in a stone pestle and mortar.
- Gluten free flour arepas were the second best.
- Heating up the milk to melt the butter worked really well.
- After my third attempt, I realised that the best way to blend the mix well was to add all the ingredients to the blender after first blending the corn kernels
- I used round metal moulds/cooking rings to make my round arepas. It helped my shape them and spread them thinner but they were mostly 2cm thick. I made mine about 10cm wide so the recipe quantity yielded between 8-10 small arepas.
- I LOVED using oat milk and coconut oil in my arepas. Ana is right it enhances the arepa sweetness
- I LOVED Ana’s Colombian/Dutch family tradition of using Edam cheese for the filling. It’s saltiness counterbalanced the arepa sweetness perfectly.
- Torn shreds of mozzarella was the second best cheese to use.
- I didn’t always fold the arepa as mine were mostly small.
- I loved serving with vegan or crisped up real bacon. Yum!
- Yes, I did the full Colombian thing and had chocolate with those. However, sweetened milky coffee was amazing too.
An alternative to scrambled eggs. It’s nice to imagine recipes for ingredients you did not know how to cook with. Scrambu has made Tofu part of our regular diet easily.
Serves up to 4
350gr Tofu, plain or smoked
1 onion finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika, plain or smoked
½ tsp salt
2 tsp mustard seeds
100gr baby plum or cherry tomatoes (handful)
100gr grated cheddar cheese
1 small bunch of fresh coriander or basil
Garam massala spices (optional if you are using coriander)
Sauté the onion in a bit of oil until translucent. Season with a pinch of salt.
Add the mustard seeds until they start popping.
Add the tomatoes sliced in half or quarters and cook for a few minutes until softened.
Crumble the tofu with your hands into the mixture.
Add the turmeric and paprika and stir with a wooden spoon. Add as much turmeric as you need to make the tofu look like scramble eggs.
Cook the tofu with your spices for about five minutes. Season with the rest of your salt and pepper.
Turn the heat off and add the grated cheese. Toss until the cheese it melts nicely.
Taste and season more if required, tofu is very bland and might need more salt than you thought it does.
Be creative with your spices in tofu. You can make Indian, Thai or Italian flavoured scrambu as we do or make your own version. Coriander goes really well with garam massala spices and you can add a chilli pepper too. But the basil and tomato version is very tasty too with a pinch of cinnamon or pimento berries.
Enjoy on warm buttered toast.