AMY FOTHERGILL | getting corny with the family chef


I decided to experiment a little bit and see what someone unfamiliar with Venezuelan cuisine and arepas wold come up with for an arepa filling.  I invited Chef Amy Fothergill (The Family Chef) to Pica Pica to cook with me.  I taught her how to make an arepa and she taught me how to make one of her favorite vegetarian dishes, a sweet potato and black bean chili.

I thought of Amy because she has been a supporter of Pica Pica Maize Kitchen for a long time.  In particular, since Pica Pica is a 100 percent gluten-free restaurant, our menu offerings dovetail with one of Amy’s professional and personal culinary focuses.  As ‘The Family Chef” she teaches and counsels people about easy and delicious cooking that is also 100 percent gluten free.  Being corn-based, the arepa  is a perfect vessel for a lot of her recipes. We made arepas from scratch, using HARINA P.A.N, the white corn meal we use at Pica Pica to make arepas (among other things).  This same flour so widely used in Venezuela, in areperas as well as households, is the basis of our delicious daily bread.  

For the benefit of our gluten-intolerant readers, I would like to mention that Pica Pica has had HARINA P.A.N flour independently tested (as it is an imported product) to check for any traces of gluten.  The lab results confirmed the flour as five parts per million, which for most people works as a gluten free item.The arepa is a corn flour bread that has been eaten in Venezuela for centuries, originally by a variety of indigenous tribes across the region and now in every Venezuelan household nationwide.  To learn more about the arepa, its origins and how it is made, check out this post: The History of the Arepa. Amy’s recipe for her vegetarian chili used some very simple core ingredients and was enhanced by a delicious combination of spices.  Basically the recipe has onions, sweet potatoes, black beans, diced tomatoes, cilantro, queso fresco and spices.She used cumin, coriander, black pepper and paprika bring out the flavors of the key ingredients.  The combination of spices made for a very aromatic chili.The sweet potatoes should be cooked prior to mixing into the pan (microwaved or boiled, either works).
It was great fun showing her how the arepa, after being sealed and cooked on the grill for about 10 minutes, is ready to be cut and filled.  It is important to cut the arepa only half way in order to create a ‘pocket’ that will hold the filling well, particularly a chili mixture.We proceeded to stuff the arepas with her filling…… the colors were amazing: red, orange, black, green, white.  Really appetizing and aromatic!  I really didn’t know what to expect, as I am used to serving the arepa with our more traditional Venezuelan recipes.  But I have to tell you, the experiment worked!  It was really very, very good! And not as messy as I thought it would be!  The ingredients held together really well.

The idea was to show Amy how versatile the Venezuelan arepa is.  And I think we proved it!  Go ahead, try the recipe below at home and let me know how it goes! 

Amy Fothergill writes a wonderful blog.  Check out her links below.  On her blog she shares secrets with you about how to juggle cooking with any busy lifestyle. She is available to conduct cooking classes or parties in your home as well as meal consultations. She can teach you everything from cooking basics to shopping strategies and will provide you with multiple recipes and useful kitchen tips.    


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Amy’s Recipe

What do you think? What would you like in your Arepa? Maybe we’ll make it into one of our specials…


PONDERING MY ROOTS - [...] was rich, flavorful and not overly starchy (and of course gluten-free!). Take a look at my post here and check out the recipe she demonstrated during one of her visits to Pica Pica last [...]

Arepa - After reading and watching this pictures my interest of making arepa is more developed.

Adriana Lopez - Think of the arepa as a very neutral bread that you can use as a vehicle for any invention. There was a time in Caracas when people ate it with caviar! But seriously, try it with lox and cream cheese, or something like that and you will see what I mean. Enjoy exploring!

Rosalba Acevedo - Fascinante, como se puede variar la manera de comer nuestras arepas, las felicito y aprenderemos mucho de Uds., en Antioquia, Colombia las comemos con todo lo que se nos atraviese…con frijoles, chicharron, queso, mantequilla, calentados(frituras de la comida la noche anterior), es mas si vas a un restaurant colombiano, a casi todo plato le adornan con una arepita, es algo muy especial; he probado las venezolanas, y tienen un sabor exquicito. en Antioquia, (Col.) se comen a diario, y no importa la hora, desayuno, almuerzo, comida, entre comidas, y tambien en la merienda. Toma una arepita sencilla, colocale un chorizo caliente, doblala….y que cosa tan rica. Buen apetitio. Muy importante informacion para la salud.

Sue Seward - Is the corn you use NON GMO? I am highly allergic to gluten/wheat and have been on a GFree diet for over five years and corn seems to upset my system as well if I eat too much too often and usually it’s because the corn we buy is GMO. Because we know that corn is one of the products that is most genetically modified.

Looking forward to trying your recipes! Would love to see your restaurant here in Austin Texas!

Thank you!
Sue Seward

Adriana Lopez - Hi Sue, we are in the process of changing over to non-GMO corn for the Cachapas and sweet corn arepas. The white corn arepas we make with pre-cooked corn flour and I don’t know for sure if they use non-GMO corn. When you come to Pica Pica, there are a few things you can order without corn, like our platos, which is the great fillings that we use in our arepas, but with rice and beans, salads, yuca, etc. Also, the salads are delicious and you can ask for the Bululu without corn. I hope this helps and stay tuned to our changes :)

How to make Arepas | - [...] went very well with the crunchy on the outside-soft on the inside corn pocket. Watch the video here. I only made arepas once since then and decided recently I needed to try them again; practice makes [...]

Carol Z - I tried arepas while visiting in Cleveland and loved them! I’m going to try making arepas for my family using your recipe. I don’t have a kitchen scale though, could you tell me approximately how many cups are in 1 pound of arepa flour? Thanks!

Manu - I would like to hear if you find any flour that has similar taste to the PAN yellow corn flour that is not GMO. I tried one by Bob’s Red Mill and its flavor doesn’t compare to PAN’s flour.

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