There is an astounding array of arepas (corn cakes) available across South America, from the Colombian versions, which are thinner and wider, cooked on a griddle and topped with a range of ingredients, to this Venezuelan version. It consists of thicker arepas, which are halved and then layered with fillings, in a similar way to a sandwich.
- 600 g beef skirt steak
- 5 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
- 3 garlic cloves, bruised
- 2 celery stalks, cut into 4 cm lengths
- 1 small red capsicum, quartered
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 L beef stock or water
- 400 g can black beans, rinsed, drained
- steamed white rice, sliced habanero chillies (see Note) and coriander leaves, to serve
- 440 g (4 cups) masa flour (corn flour) (see Note), sifted
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 long red chilies, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 small red capsicum, finely chopped
- 1 small yellow capsicum, finely chopped
- 1 vine-ripened tomato, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 60 ml (¼ cup) soy sauce
- ¼ cup roughly chopped coriander
- 2 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 20 minutes
Place beef, parsley, garlic, celery, capsicum, onion and stock in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low, cover and cook, skimming any impurities that rise to the surface, for 2½ hours or until beef is very tender. Transfer beef to a heatproof bowl and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using your hands, finely shred beef. Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve, reserving 125 ml.
Preheat oven to 180°C. To make arepas, place flour, 2 tsp salt and butter in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, gradually stir in 625 ml water until combined and a smooth dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Divide dough into 8 equal portions and, using damp hands, shape into 8 cm x 2 cm discs. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, cook arepas for 5 minutes on each side or until golden. Repeat with remaining 2 tbsp oil and arepas. Transfer arepas to oven trays lined with baking paper and bake for 15 minutes or until they sounds hollow when tapped. Cover with foil and keep warm until needed.
To make sofrito, heat oil in a large deep frying pan over high heat. Add garlic, chillies, onion, cumin, capsicums and tomato and cook for 5 minutes or until onion has softened. Stir in tomato paste, sugar, soy sauce, coriander and parsley with reserved cooking liquid and shredded beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until sofrito has thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Halve arepas and top bases with shredded beef, black beans and rice. Scatter with sliced chillies and coriander leaves, top with remaining bread halves and serve.
• Masa flour is a pre-cooked corn flour. It is available from South American and specialty food shops.
• Habanero chillies, available from select greengrocers, are very hot; wear latex gloves when handling. Substitute milder chillies, if desired.
Photography Chris Chen
As seen in Feast magazine, March 2014, Issue 29. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.