If there is one thing guaranteed to pull me out of the depths of a cavernous hangover it is an arepa. They are manna from heaven – and lift your spirits no matter how much of a state you’re in! I recently discovered them while living in Las Vegas, where the hangover was as frequent as the 40ºC days. South American in origin from Venezuela and Columbia predominantly, they are a simple corn flat bread which sometimes come stuffed with all manner of delicious fillings. Favourites of mine include pulled pork or black beans with cheese and the hangover speciality – spicy eggs with chorizo. The corn breads use a special flour made from cooked maize called masarepa. It gives them a lovely crunch on the outside and a soft, spongy texture inside. In this recipe they act, much like a Greek Pita pocket to hold the stuffing. This pulled chicken is simple and works a treat. Spicy and so full of smoky flavours – be sure to reduce the sauce enough as a watery liquid is not great when stuffing arepas – they’ll fall apart. One other note – be sure to make the accompanying green sauce – it adds an extra dimension to the overall experience. Hopefully you’ll agree that these little taste sensations are something very special indeed! Viva Arepas! Viva hangover!
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small red onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
1 small bunch coriander (stems only, chopped)
1kg chicken thigh fillets (cut in half)
1 200g (7oz) can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
salt & pepper
AREPA GREEN SAUCE:
3 tablespoons whole egg mayonnaise
1 small bunch coriander (leaves only, chopped)
1 garlic clove (chopped)
1 lime (juice of)
1/2 avocado (sliced)
1 hot green chilli (chopped) (optional)
salt & pepper
2 1/2 cups masarepa flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
butter for cooking
Using a stick blender, blend the chipotles in sauce into a thick puree. Mix with about 150ml water. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat until hot. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5 minutes until soft. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes until light brown. Add the chipotle puree and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1 hour until the chicken is tender and the sauce is very thick and clings to the chicken. Remove from the heat and using two forks shred the chicken. Squeeze over the lime and season with salt & pepper. Set aside.
Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blend with about 3/4 cup water into a smooth creamy sauce (like the consistency of double cream) Decant to a bowl or squeezy bottle and refrigerate until needed.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt and then gradually pour in 2 1/2 cups of tap hot water (not boiling). Stir in the butter. Knead the dough briefly, which should be like play dough, to get rid of any lumps, then place into the bowl and cover. Leave for 15 minutes to rest.
Take out a pool ball sized ball of dough and roll in your hands. Between two pieces of plastic wrap, gently press down with a small saucepan base to create a patty about 4″ wide and about 1″ deep. Smooth the edges then place on a platter while you make the rest. You should get 8-10 arepas.
Preheat oven to 180ºC
Heat a large frying pan over a moderate heat. Add a little butter (about 1/2 tablespoon) and then place 3-4 arepas in the pan and cook for 5 minutes each side. Repeat with remaining arepas. As soon as they come out of the pan place on a baking tray and cook in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool slightly.
Carefully cut a slit through the arepa to make a pocket. Stuff generously with the chicken and serve.
Serve alongside hot chilli sauce and green sauce with fresh lime to squeeze over if you like.