I've been lightly obsessed with arepas since ordering some in the first lockdown from our local Columbian street food delivery service, the amazing Tayrona and have wanted to have a go at making them ever since. They're really simple but it's the texture as well as the flavour that makes me love them so much - crunchy on the outside and soft and yielding in the centre.
The only really essential element is using the right cornmeal, masarepa which is precooked and can't be substituted successfully for any other type of ground corn such as polenta. Some recipes include baking powder, others finish them off them in the oven but I kept it as simple as possible just adding water and salt and shallow frying them gently until cooked through.
I need to get another delivery to see how close I got to the real deal but we really enjoyed them stuffed with slow-cooked shredded brisket, avocado and pico de gallo.
Prepare: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
1 cup / mug of masarepa (I used P.A.N.)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups / mugs warm water
oil, for shallow frying
Mix together the masarepa, salt and water and knead lightly, don't worry if it feels a little wet at first, the water will soon be absorbed.
Heat a little oil in a large, nonstick frying pan. Shape the mixture into 4 patties, just under 1cm in thickness. The dough will be a little sticky so don't worry too much about trying to make the perfect shape.
Fry gently for 5 - 10 minutes on each side until really crunchy and golden on the outside but still quite soft and moist in the centre. Split open and stuff with your choice of filling.