By Sandy Leibowitz
I MUST have been about six or seven years old and I remember being
eye level to my grandmother’s stove.
I saw these white, round things frying in oil. What I vividly remember
was the distinct hole on the edge of these round patties and wondering
what they were.
Just then, I watched my grandmother take a fork and use the hole
as an anchor to flip what I would later learn were her arepas (Colombian
The oil would make the dough puff up into a small balloon and
it was always such a treat to see and, of course, taste.
My grandmother recently confirmed that this is the way they did
it in Colombia when frying arepas, since the hole is needed to safely
Although these arepas were fried in oil, they had a light and
airy quality to them and a sweetness that came through from the
corn. They were golden brown pillows of joy!
Arepas are essentially griddle cakes made from pre-cooked cornmeal.
The beauty of this is that arepas can be prepared in a myriad
of ways: grilled, fried or sauteed in oil.
In addition they can be stuffed, topped with ingredients — or
extra ingredients can even be mixed into the dough. They also can
be made on the sweet side (my grandmother would put a little sugar
in the dough), but they are more commonly served as a savoury dish.
Arepas are a popular staple in Colombian and Venezuelan cuisines.
My Mami Lucy (she never liked being called grandmother because
it made her sound old) was born in Colombia, but told me that Venezuelans
are known for making more elaborate arepas, and that Colombians
keep them pretty simple.
These spiced lamb arepas with hummus are definitely not your traditional
arepa, but the flavours work so well together with the mild corn
flavour in the masa (dough).
I sauteed them to achieve a char on the outside, which creates
a delightful crunch that is met by the creaminess of the hummus.
Spiced ground lamb then coats your tongue, and the sweet tomatoes,
mint and pine nuts just bring the whole thing together.
For the arepas:
Mix the corn meal, water and salt in a bowl until well combined.
Let stand for a few minutes until the mixture sticks together. Separately,
in another bowl, season ground lamb with all the spices.
Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Cook lamb
until fully browned. Keep warm (covered) until ready to serve.
Form arepa patties about 3 to 4 inches across and ½ inch in thickness
Coat a saute pan with olive oil and cook arepas until brown (or
charred, depending on preference) on both sides. Both sides should
Allow to cool and then slice the arepa lengthwise without cutting
all the way through.
Spread hummus on the top and bottom flap of the arepa. Add the
spiced lamb mixture and top with diced tomato, diced pepper (if
using) pine nuts and mint. Serve immediately at room temperature.
Makes 8 arepas.