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.
I have lost my appetite… There is something deeply wrong in my psyche when my kitchen becomes still and quiet. It looks so clean! And this is not just because Dan has been meticulously keeping the house beautifully tidy. My favourite room of the house has not been hosting my creative rants. For now: I have lost my ability to meditate over mouth-watering scents, aromas and flavours.
I am deeply affected to the core by what is happening in Greece. I am in a state of turmoil, sadness, awe, anger, anticipation, disappointment….all that and more at the same time. All I can think about is a persistent question: what have been the ingredients for Greece’s recipe for destruction?
There are moments when I want to run back to Greece to join the people I love and all these intelligent, affected people I am conversing with on the internet. I am not sure what more we can do or say: but I just want to be close to them. I feel a bit like a traitor being out here: 14 year of drifting into an ever growing diaspora.
I am left speechless by the quantity and quality of the analysis, discussion, written word that is flooding the blogosphere, the internet, twitter and Facebook. The wavelengths of the web are carrying a wealth of information and opinion in an age where citizens become valid journalists and reporters of their own reality and ideas. I am amazed by the guts of some of the Greek journalists who recently published a front page with a blank picture frame during this politically volatile week for Greece, in anticipation of a new prime minister, one who in reality was appointed by the Merkozy twins. At times I have been disappointed by the unnecessary and naïve nationalistic responses and statements of some and the attacks of Greeks on each other: a cancerous and unnecessary approach to coping with all of this.
I weep silently at work, in the street, at night lying awake and in my dreams. But I also have moments of pride and excitement to see such a high percentage of young Greeks produce such quality art, expression, views, blogs, parody, and see how they cope with this demise in a dignified way withstanding the unjustified attack of idiotic and naïve foreign voices that are looking for a new scapegoat in the international arena for politics (instead of finally comprehending there is a global shadow theatre of master puppeteers that we have ALL collectively been part of without our conscious choice and through pledging political indifference or ignorance). We will all be affected!
This week I have been gratefully and accurately informed by “When the Crisis hit fan” of Kostas Kallergis that Polukarpos Palainis pointed to me. I have laughed at the satirical commentary of Pitisirikos, a pioneer of blogging and satirical political commentary in Greece with a sharp sense of humour, going strong for a long time (I have known of him for the past 4 years). I have followed Ellinofreneia (Greek madness) and the fantastic Press Project as well as hundreds of other individuals and blogs. Thank you to all for sharing and keep it coming!
I discuss from a distance, remain deeply affected and think: ‘Is all this virtual stimulation and debate sufficient?’. And once you understand that the demise of a place and a society you love so much is not just the cumulative impact of individuals’ action or a handful of political decisions, political incompetency, mindless corruption, unjustified individualism and opportunism but also an indication of the failure of the global political and economic system that we have all supported with our consumerism and inaction: What do you do? Who do you blame? What change can you bring about and how?
What am I doing here? I take my hat off to my friend Katerina Georgantidou who left Cardiff to return to Greece this summer because of her need to be there and is teaching, organising hooping sessions and classes and giving back her own to contribute to the strengthening of the city’s psyche. I am sure the transition has not been easy.
In my dreams I have been instructing my subconscious to seek answers in discussions with Chomsky, Socrates and my granddad who was born at the turn of the last century and died in 1989. Some say I think too much: I think that I am perplexed and don’t know how to act. And I just miss being close to those I care about!
I have lost my appetite trying to understand what the foul ingredients of this recipe of destruction are: I find myself in a state of political depression and seek to understand what change I can make to my way of life first and fore most.
I know all this sounds very pessimistic but I do glimpse hope and it is in the same place as my dear friend Maria Sini sees it: in creativity, art and imagination that can perhaps help us reshape and regroup, change micro cultures we don’t like and maybe reinvent what now seems lost . Recently I have admired the street art of Bleeps. gr, listened to an interview he gave to Onair24.gr, which thankfully did not reveal his identity, and was inspired Rachel Donadio’s the references to a renaissance of art rising from the fumes of a Greece on fire in the New York Observer and New York Times on 14 October (I don’t have the reference), seen numerous clips and videos on youtube.
Have you got a glimpse of hope to share with me and each other?
If yes contact me here or on twitter: @moutselia
But tonight is special as Hannah’s boyfriend, Trevor, is added to our company. Hannah and I join forces in the kitchen to cook up a feast. Hannah and Trevor love the flavours of the orient, so I decide to prepare Amok fish, the Cambodian curry that stole the culinary limelight during my recent stay in Siem Reap. And Hannah is making a chocolate and pear tart for desert (for which she credit’s Jamie Oliver).
Focaccia and humus are spread on the table to silence our rumbling bellies, whilst we cook and savour every moment of the easy atmosphere and effortless interaction.
While Dan and Trevor fill the house with music and chatter, Hannah’s preparation of the tart distracts my senses with the aroma of melting chocolate, butter and eggs (and is that almond? Yum!). She lays and precooks the short crust pastry in a silicon cake tin (because we have not tart tin), and then she prepares the sauce skilfully.
In the other corner, ginger, chillies, lemongrass, lime rind, kaffir lime leaves and garlic are chopped and blitzed into amok curry paste together with fish sauce, shrimp paste, sesame oil, paprika, turmeric and peanuts. I mix a bit of the paste with a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk to marinate the chunky pieces of river cobbler in preparation of the dish. Next I put on the Thai fragrant rice to slowly shimmer to its sticky consistency. And after that I partly boil some curly kale for the curry. Finally, I prepare the curry sauce. I decide to add to the flavour by frying an onion in sesame oil and then adding the well strained kale. Before I let the sauce simmer, I add the rest of the curry paste and coconut milk and cream. My secret ingredients are Campot pepper and an amok fish curry powder that I brought back from Cambodia. I think it mainly consists of turmeric and dried galangal.
Whilst the sauce simmers on low heat, I cook the marinated cobbler in a non stick pan for no more than 4 minutes and remove from heat. The heat of the pan continues to cook the fish and I don’t want the fish to flake when I add it to the curry sauce.
I love mixing up the spices into a familiar concoction, whilst listening to the conversation around the table. Trevor’s design project, Dan’s Big Little City, Hannah’s stories of old mariners and barges.
At the same time I travel back to the moment that I taste the best amok fish curry cooked by Auntie Pow at the Arun restaurant in Siem Riep. I close my eyes to bring up the memory of its flavour and then dip a spoon in the sauce to test the match. I add some fresh organic spinach to change its consistency and some more paprika and turmeric to adjust the flavour. Mission accomplished: the flavour is a match.
Dan’s kiss lures me out of the creative bliss. He then whips two eggs and stirs them in the sauce to thicken and complete it. As I add the pre cooked fish we gently stir, cover and remove from the heat.
Hannah’s pear and chocolate tart looks beautifully spread. Slices of pear adorn the chocolate sauce. As we are ready to tuck into our main course, the tart enters the oven for 45 minutes.
Good conversation and new friends broaden our horizons and confirm that the world is a wonderful place to live in. I look at those two unexpected strangers that share their stories and time with us at our intimate gathering. I admire their ventures. I will not reveal anything about Trevor’s design project but I am sure it will be a big and much sought after success. Don’t forget that I would love to test it on my bicycle Trevor!
Hannah’s current job is to interview people and through documenting the lives and work to trace the living history of places. Her work in various interesting documentaries and programmes fascinates me and so does her anthropology background and past work with women with HIV in Africa. Her genuine interest in sustainability, arts and the world makes me hopeful and inspired. And I have not even started on her warmth that wins you over instantaneously.
Dan’s Big Little City project joins our conversation and together with his contagious authenticity and enthusiasm it adds to the recipe of a good night.
Between conversations and stories, we clean up our main course and devour our slices of chocolate and pear tart. We indulge in good food and company and feed on the positive energy. And hoping that our quartet meets again, we part to dream wonderful dreams.