If hubby says after the first bite that this tastes exactly like in Colombia, you simply know that this is a winner. May I introduce Colombian mantecada aka pound cake (ponqué). The main difference between a regular pound cake and this one is that part of the flour is replaced with corn flour. This automatically makes the cake denser. However, nonetheless very delicious. In Colombia this cake is served for breakfast or as a snack. It is usually eaten plain without any glaze or other components, pure and simple.
Warning, these classic empanadas from Colombia are a labor of love. If you are going to make everything from scratch like I did, you will need a few hours. However, one of the good things about empanadas is that you can prepare a lot in advance. You may wish to make the filling and/or the dough one to two days prior and then “only” need to fill and fry the empanadas the following day. But before we get into the details, what are empanadas exactly? Empanadas are dumplings, each Latin American country has its own variation, heck, every region and city will be proud of their particular empanadas. Since I was born in Uruguay, I am used to empanadas made with wheat flour. The traditional filling in Uruguay is beef (duh) and they are usually baked in the oven. Yes, of course I have a recipe for Uruguayan empanadas on my blog. Colombian empanadas on the other hand are made with cornmeal, if using the right one, they will be gluten-free. Most of the time they are not baked in the oven, but deep-fried. The filling varies, some use a piece of meat that is later pulled apart, I simply decided to use already minced meat. One particularity of Colombia is the “guiso” or “hogao”, this is a thick sauce made of tomatoes, spring onions, onions and herbs that are typically mixed with the meat filling. This makes them Colombian.
Guys, can you believe it, I do have a full category with all Latin American recipes on this blog, but so far not a single Mexican recipe. That’s a shame, because the Mexican cuisine has so much to offer. My favorite Mexican food is tacos and for that reason we are going to make tacos from scratch, the whole thing. Because tacos are super basic, you need three ingredients: cornmeal, salt, and water. So for that reason tacos are gluten-free and also vegan. As always you will find a lot of tips below for your tacos to be successful from the start.
Tacos are as important in Mexico as are arepas in Colombia and Venezuela. However, true Mexican tacos are never “hard shell” as often suggested by the chain Taco Bell, tacos are eaten with your hands and are soft and flexible, they are a small tortilla after all. For that reason you will see them all flat on my pictures, this is how I learned to eat tacos from Mexicans. You only bend them in your hands. Tacos are usually made with cornmeal and not flour. As far as I know flour tacos are only known in the north of Mexico, but the rest of the country uses corn. Tacos are super popular in Mexico and are usually served with some spicy salsa or sauce. But now let’s get started.
Today I am introducing arepas with chicken and guacamole filling. Arepas are Colombian corn flatbread with no gluten and serve as the base for a hearty sandwich. I already introduced one filled arepa on this blog. Arepa boyacense is a popular arepa with cheese filling. Today I decided to make a plain version with a hearty filling. If prepared this way, arepas can serve as the main course, in this instance they are filled with crispy chicken pieces and the famouse avocado cream called guacamole. Many people instantly go to Mexico when they hear guacamole. However, I have learned that actually Colombians are the ones eating most avocados per capita. Every time I visited Colombia, I saw avocado being sold on the street, every bbq would have guacamole served with the rest. But rest assured, Colombian guacamole is much milder than the Mexican version, so this is not spicy at all.
Finally I am introducing the basic recipe for arepas on my blog! Arepas are a flatbread made from cornmeal. They are most popular in Colombia and Venezuela. As a German I have to say that these countries offer the same kind of varieties of arepas as breads are offered here. I already introduced arepas boyacenses, however, so far the basic recipe was missing. The reason being simple, I just felt I still didn’t know how to make perfect arepas even though it only consists of three ingredients, cornmeal, water, and salt. But now the waiting is finally over, below I am offering many tips. Hopefully they will make you confident enough so that your first arepas turn out great from the start. If making the very basic recipe, arepas are naturally gluten-free and vegan.
I had the opportunity to travel to the home country of my husband: Colombia and I feel in love with arepa boyacense. Let me tell you, this country has so much more to offer than only jungle. The mountain range the Andes come to mind, but it also has savannahs, a dessert, the Caribbean and the famous coffee region. The diversity of species is something to admire. Colombia has more than 100 (!) humming birds only. Even in the capital Bogotá with more than 10 million inhabitants you will encounter humming birds amazing you with their acrobatic movements. The variety of fruits is also astonishing. I ate fruits I had never seen or even heard of. For a penny you will get the juiciest and and sweetest fruits. The pictures I took barely capture the beauty of this country.
Colombia is a very colorful country. Maybe the huge variety of species and a general carefree attitude towards life are reasons why food is extremely important. One of the first questions I was asked during our holiday was how I liked the food. Yes, we had to explain what our travel plans were, but soon after that the conversation turned to food, inevitably. I usually replied with arepa! Arepas are as important to Colombians as bread is to Germans. Arepas are a simple corn bread and usually either fried, grilled or baked in the oven. They are served for breakfast, but you will also encounter them for lunch and dinner. Arepas come in all sizes, they are gluten free as they are made of corn flour and each region has its own variety.