A Meal as Old as the Incas

We might find it difficult to name a food that dates back 3,000 years in our culture, however that’s not so for the owners of Fiery Deli.

Arepas, the flat round pockets of maize meal that form a core menu item in the Venezuelan-born Perez family’s Robina restaurant, date back to the first use of corn in South American civilization.

“Arepas are a staple food in Venezuela, served everywhere, from streetside stalls to elegant restaurants,” Kevin tells us. “They can be eaten at any meal, in many ways.”

Arepas are naturally gluten free, with no preservatives or additives. With your choice of filling, an arepa is a food which fits neatly into the Gold Coast lifestyle: adaptable to our diet and easy to eat on the go with fillings suitable for vegans, vegetarians, meat lovers or those with food intolerances.

Kevin was taught to make arepas by his mother when he was ten years old. It’s easy, he says, but takes practice. Here is his recipe:

Arepas

About 2 cups pre-cooked white corn meal (Harina P.A.N. is available from Fiery Deli)

lukewarm water (about 2 – 2 ½ cups)

Place lukewarm water in a bowl, filling the bowl to halfway. With a whisk, slowly add corn meal dropping it onto the whisk, beating as you go, taking care not to let any lumps form. Add in a little salt.

Keep whisking and adding flour until mixture forms a soft, moist, malleable dough, not too mushy or too dry, with no stickiness.

Stop when the mixture is getting thick to allow the water to soak into every molecule of the flour. Divide the dough into eight golf ball-sized balls and pat into a patty about 1cm thick. Let rest again to hydrate.

Heat a little oil on a grill or barbeque over medium heat. Working in batches, cook corn patties until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. You can crisp arepas a little more in a hot oven, then split each arepa to form a pita pocket. Scoop out the soft part in the middle to make more room for the filling.

Fill with your choice of shredded beef or free-range chicken, locally-sourced salad vegetables, onion, rice, black beans, scrambled organic eggs and bacon, capsicum, avocado, fresh herbs and spices or any combination of the above. There you have it: a healthy, flavour-packed, filling meal which is easy to grab in two hands.

Fiery Deli, Upstairs in The Kitchens, Robina and Westfield Chermside.

NOTE: This article was published in The Sun community newspaper on November 5, 2018.

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