Arepas are a common snack food or starter served at Venezuelan restaurants or street stalls, known as areperias. They are small round fried cornbreads, which can be stuffed with a variety of fillings, from simple cheeses to slow-cooked meats.
- 2 cups (360 g/12½ oz) masarepa (see Note)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- butter, for brushing
- 1½ cups (190 g/6½ oz) grated queso fresco or mozzarella cheese
- guasacaca, to serve
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.
Place the masarepa in a medium-sized bowl. Add the oil, salt and 1½ cups (375 ml/12½ fl oz) water and stir to combine. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead to form a smooth dough, adding a little more water if the dough is too dry.
Divide the dough into twelve even-sized portions and shape each portion into a ball. Flatten each ball to make a disc, about 1 cm (½ inch) thick all over.
Preheat a barbecue chargrill or hotplate to medium. Brush a little butter over the chargrill plate and cook the arepas, in batches, for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden.
When all of the arepas are cooked, cut them in half crosswise, being careful not to cut all the way through. Stuff with cheese and grill for a further 20 seconds on each side, or until the cheese has melted. Serve hot with the Guasacaca on the side or spread over the cheese.
• Masarepa is a pre-cooked corn flour and is available from Latin American food stores.
Recipe and image from South American Grill, Rachael Lane (Hardie Grant, $34.95, hbk)