Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Venezuelan Arepas Go International on 12 September

Come Join the Venezuelan Arepa Party at Cargo, Shoreditch, on 12 September 

On Saturday 12 September Venezuelans around the world will be flying their national flag, playing Venezuelan music, and gathering together in an act of gastronomic unity to enjoy the country's most emblematic national dish: arepas.

That's because the 12th of September has been christened World Arepa Day (El Dia Mundial de la Arepa), an international event that aims to spread the word about this scrumptious South American street food and turn on local foodies, adventurous eaters, and gastronauts to the joys of the arepa.

These cornflour patties, made from Harina PAN, can be eaten plain, or stuffed with delicious fillings like shredded beef, shredded chicken, black beans, grated cheese, fried plantains and dollops of goopy avocado sauce called guasacaca..

In London, the place to be for this culinary celebration is at the outdoor food area by Cargo, at 89 Rivington Street in Shoreditch, where the folks from the Guasacaca food stall will be cooking up a full spread of fillings to delight all tastes, including vegetarian options, from 12-8 pm (although under 18's can only stay until 4 pm).

One must-try arepa is the Reina Pepiada, a lip-smacking combination of shredded chicken, mashed avocado, mayonnaise and peas. Not surprisingly for Venezuela - famous for the stunning beauty of its lady folk - the Reina Pepiada is named after local lovely Susana Dujim, who won Miss World in 1955.

All the arepas cost £6 and you can mix and match any of the fillings on the menu.

According to David Gutierrez Aznar, who runs Guasacaca, it's a huge honour to create a little corner of Venezuela in London on such an important day.
Harina PAN goodie bags

"We really want to make Venezuelans in London feel like they are at home on 12 September, with traditional games, music and, of course, the traditional flavours of our arepas," says David.

"But we also want British people to come over and try our food because every year we do this the feedback is incredible and when people here try our arepas they really love them."

To set a party mood Chebeto Requena, a Venezuelan musician based in London will be providing traditional tunes throughout the afternoon, and Santa Teresa rum cocktails should warm things up if the weather turns cold.,

Guasacaca have also put together some Harina PAN goodie-bags with a kilo of flour, and a booklet of recipes showing how to make arepas. The bags will be raffled on the day.

For more information follow @guascacalondon on Twitter and the hashtags #WorldArepaDay, #DiaMundialDeLaArepa, and #ArepaLovers
The outdoor space at Cargo will be covered in the yellow, red, and blue of the Venezuelan flag on Saturday, 12 September, to celebrate World Arepa Day. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Arepas arrive in London's hipster-haven Brick Lane

All text and photographs copyright Russell Maddicks
Follow me on Twitter: @venezuelaguide

It's only fitting that one of East London's trendiest hipster hangouts now has a food truck selling this year's hottest new street food: arepas.

In Venezuela and Colombia these fluffy corn-dough pockets are stuffed with tasty savoury fillings like beef, chicken and cheese to make snacks you can eat anytime of the day.

Now Venezuelan expat Giacomo Tomaselli and his Polish partner Inga have brought their own twist on classic arepa recipes to the Brick Lane area.

It's not hard to find them: a massive sign announces "Arepa: Venezuelan Street Kitchen" and some very tropical multicoloured stripes decorate their shiny black Arepazos Bros food truck in Ely's Yard. This otherwise unremarkable car park round the back of the Old Truman Brewery (E1 6QL) comes alive from midday as the food trucks open up and the area fills with diners taking a break from browsing the market stalls, pop-up art galleries, vintage clothes shops, and racks of vinyl in the Rough Trade indie record store.

The menu features a choice of three arepa fillings: the traditional pabellon (shredded beef or chicken with plantain, black beans and cheese), the vegetarian domino (black beans, grated cheese, pico de gallo, and guacamole), and the Peruvian inspired ceviche (fish marinated in lemon juice).

Giacomo explained that after much experimentation he had decided to add a fresh-tasting Mexican-style pico de gallo sauce to his arepas made from roughly-chopped tomato, onion, and coriander.

He also serves a thick avocado guacamole, rather than the runnier Venezuelan sauce known as guasacaca.

The day I went I had the pabellon. The shredded beef was just right, the guacamole was thick and creamy, and the plantain fries were crispy.

A set of benches in front of the stall offers covered seating for customers. Five other food trucks sell a variety of burgers, chicken and pulled pork if there's somebody in your party who wants an alternative to arepas.

You can even bring your own booze if you want to wash down your arepas with a few cold beers bought from a local corner store (always a great way to save a few pennies).

Giacomo is originally from Caraballeda, a town on the Caribbean coast of Venezuela near the capital Caracas. His grandfather ran a famous ice-cream parlour called Helados Tomaselli near the old Macuto Sheraton. The food truck is Giacomo's very own creation, made from an old horse box.
If you come from Liverpool Street Tube station the route takes you past the old Spitalfield's Market and entry to Ely's Yard is from Hanbury Street, or Dray Walk if you're coming from Brick Lane.
Once you've eaten your arepas you can check out the Brick Lane clothes market and some of the street art in the area. 

There's at least one Banksy painted on a wall in Brick Lane. The street is famous for its Bangladeshi curry houses, although if you come on a Sunday when the local markets are in full swing, be ready to to wade through the hordes of hipsters in skinny jeans and Doc Martin boots that fill the streets.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Venezuelan Bollito - A Boiled Cornflour Snack

For a typical Venezuelan breakfast, when you are short of time, try boiling your cornflour dough instead of making arepas. The resulting submarine-shaped "bollos" are ready in just 15 minutes. (photo copyright Russell Maddicks)

That white submarine at the back of the plate is a bollo (pronounced: bo-jyo), also known as a bollito (pronounced: bo-jyito).
They are made from the same dough used to make arepas, from pre-cooked corn flour.
Like many Venezuelans I use Harina Pan to make my arepas and bollos.
All you need to do is add water and knead the dough until you can shape it easily and it isn't too dry to form cracks.
Instead of forming the dough into flying saucer shapes and frying or baking your arepas, bollos are roughly shaped into submarines and boiled in water for about 15 minutes. You know they are ready when they float to the surface.
It's a really quick way to get your daily cornbread fix.
For breakfast I like to serve bollitos with perico (eggs scrambled with onions and tomatoes) and grated yellow cheese.
In some places in Venezuela, you find bollo pelon, which are bollos stuffed with minced beef or shredded chicken cooked in a sauce.
In Colombia, the bollo limpio is slightly different as the corn dough submarines are wrapped in a corn husk before being boiled.
In Venezuela this kind of bollo is called an hallaquita.
Just to confuse matters further, in Ecuador and some other Andean countries, there is a very similar corn dish called humita. These are typically made from fresh ground corn which is wrapped in corn husks and steamed, often with cheese mixed into the dough.
The ultimate bollo is the hallaca, a cornmeal-dough pocket stuffed with a host of tasty ingredients, wrapped in a plantain leaf, which is eaten at Christmas.

Related recipes:
How to Make Arepas
How to Make Perico
How to Make Hallacas 

#Venezuelan #food #bollos #hallaquitas #arepas

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Venezuelan Christmas Bazaar, Westminster Hall, 7 Dec

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without all the usual Venezuelan festive foods so the Venezuelan community in London has organized a Christmas Bazaar at Westminster Cathedral Hall on Saturday, 7 December. There will be stalls selling all the seasonal treats you need for a feliz navidad Venezuelan style, as well as rum cocktails, traditional music, and a raffle.

Festive favourites on sale include:

Hallacas - A stew of chicken, beef, olives and capers that is stuffed into a maize dough pocket, wrapped in a banana leaf, tied with string and boiled.

Pan de Jamon - A soft bread with ham and raisins inside.

Ensalada de Gallina - A chicken and potato salad.

Pernil - Roast pork.

Ponche Crema - A creamy Christmas tipple made with condensed milk and rum.

Quesillo - Creme caramel, sometimes known as flan.

There will also be face painting and a bouncy castle for the kids to enjoy while you pick up all your Christmas-dinner essentials.

How to get there: Westminster Cathedral Hall is part of the famous Westminster Cathedral (SW1P 1QH). The entrance to the hall is in Ambrosden Avenue, which is reached from Victoria Street or Francis Street.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ordering Venezuelan Xmas Food in London

Anybody living in London or the surrounding area who is looking to find Venezuelan Christmas dishes made to order should contact Luisa Chavez.

A Venezuelan woman with a talent for making exceptional cakes, Luisa has been providing homesick Venezuelans with all the food they need for a festive Christmas for many years now.

Her specialities include:

Hallacas - Essential to Christmas and New Year festivities, hallacas are a Venezuelan form of the tamale, a stew of pork, beef, chicken, raisins, capers, and other ingredients that is stuffed into a maize dough pocket, wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled. Hallacas are delicious and although essentially a Chritmas dish are eaten in Venezuela from November through January.

Pan de Jamon - Another unmissable dish on the Christmas table, pan de jamon is a soft bread rolled up with ham and raisins inside. Luisa goes the extra mile with her pan de jamon and even personalizes it with your name if you ask her nicely,

Ponche Crema - A form of creamy eggnog made with condensed milk and Venezuelan rum, ponche crema is a great Christmas spirit way to get in the festive mood.

To pre-order ponche crema, hallacas, pan de jamon and tortas call Luisa Chavez on 07985239852, or 01784 241565.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Venezuela Guide on Instagram - FITVen2013


In October 2013 I was invited to travel around Venezuela on a Press Trip organized by the Tourism Ministry (MinTur) in the run up to the FITVen2013 International Tourism Fair.

As I lost my laptop and camera en route to Venezuela I was forced to improvise. Armed only with an HTC One S mobile phone with an 8 megapixel camera, I decided to document my trip on Instagram.

Through trial and error, I learnt how to get the most out of a single shot and train my eye to find images that would work in a square. The filters I just responded to depending on my mood that day. The feedback on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter has been really encouraging.

I am pleased with the results.

The restrictions of Instagram forced me to be more creative and think carefully before taking each shot, which helped me to see Venezuela in a different way.

I came home with some great new images of Caracas, the islands of Margarita, Coche and Cubagua, rafting in Barinas, paragliding in Mérida and the folk festivals of the Pueblos del Sur, remote villages in the Andean mountains south of Merida.

To see more of my Instagram images follow me at @Venezuelaguide -

Street Theatre: In the area around Plaza el Venezolano and Plaza Bolivar in the centre of Caracas, actors recreate key scenes from Venezuela's history by bringing to life famous characters from the past who tell the story of their time. Here, the dictator Juan Vicente Gomez takes a stroll with Independence hero Francisco de Miranda.  

Whitewater Rafting: On the Rio Acequias in Barinas, adventure tour company Arassari Trek took us on a bumpy, adrenaline-pumping ride down a Grade 3 stretch of foaming rapids. It helps if everybody rows together.

For more details of rafting in Barinas contact Arassari Trek

Remote Andean Villages: Just outside San Jose de Acequias, one of the so-called Pueblos del Sur, we came across this tiny chapel dedicated to San Isidro Labrador, the patron sain of farmers. 

Vibrant Folk Festivals: The Locainas de Santa Rita are gentlemen who dress like ladies for a day during the festivities in honor of San Isidro, as Santa Rita in popular lore is the wife of the saint. As their name suggests, these ladies can get quite "loco" during the festivities held on 21-22 May, and after dancing with their sticks they try to liven up the festive mood by flirting with the men in the crowd.

Paragliding in Merida: Tierra Negra, close to the Andean city of Merida, is one of the best paragliding spots in Venezuela. Jose Albarran of Fanny Tours is one of the pioneers of paragliding in Venezuela and a great pilot for a tandem flight. Known to his friends as "Piojo" (Flea), due to his uncanny ability to scale sheer rock faces, Jose is one of the founders of the paragliding school in the nearby village of Las Gonzales, close to the landing site, where youngsters are being trained to become the paragliding champions of the future. Watch a video of me paragliding with Piojo here.

For more details of paragliding in Merida contact Jose at Fanny Tours Tierra Negra

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Celebrate World Arepa Day, London, 14 September

Saturday, 14 September is Arepazo Mundial - World Arepa Day - and food stalls and restaurants all over the world will be celebrating the staple food of Venezuela by cooking up arepas (cornbread buns) of all shapes and sizes, stuffed with all manner of tasty fillings.
              The Arepazo Mundial brings together all Venezuelans - wherever they may be - in an act of gastronomic unity, and this year is no exception. If you want to join in the celebrations in London, head for the Guasacaca food stall in London's Acklam Village Market, off Portobello Road (W10), which will be serving a full spread of arepas to delight all tastes from 11 am to 6 pm.

The guys at Guasacaca have also organized a special day of Latin music and dancing, courtesy of London radio station Latina Network, that will include live music, salsa classes and other surprises.

For those new to the arepa, these disc-shaped cornbread buns are big enough to hold in two hands and can be eaten plain or with butter. More typically, they are opened up like a pocket and stuffed with savoury fillings, such as shredded beef, black beans, grated cheese, avocado and chicken, or any combination that takes your fancy.

The must-try arepa filling they sell at Guasacaca is the Reina Pepiada, a lip-smacking combination of shredded chicken, mashed avocado, mayonnaise and peas.

Not surprisingly for Venezuela - famous for the stunning beauty of its lady folk - the Reina Pepiada is named after local lovely Susana Dujim, who won Miss World in 1955.

The Reina Pepiada is popular with Venezuelan party-goers who like to end a big night out with something sticky, savoury and filling (a sort of South American version of the donor kebab).

But whatever filling you try, don't forget to add the final flourish, a dollop of tasty guasaca sauce, made with avocados, or a spicy splash of picante hot sauce.

All arepas cost £5 and you can mix and match any of the fillings on the menu.

For the young Venezuelans who run the stall, David Gutierrez, Irua Dugarte, Andrea Villalba and Andres Gonzalez, the Arepazo Mundial is an excellent opportunity to spread the word about Venezuelan food and convert more people to the flavours of their homeland.

Acklam Village Market (W10 5TY) is one of the coolest street food markets in London, a place to feed your face after a morning browsing the antique stalls and vintage clothes shops of Portobello Road. A recent visitor to the stall is none other than British Prime Minister David Cameron (see photo below).

The Guasacaca stall is in front of a laid back bar with tables and sofas where you can sip a beer and listen to live music while tucking into the international street food on offer from the various stalls. On Saturday, expect live music and dancing events organized by Latina Network, a London-based radio station that broadcasts news and music for the Latin American community.

How to get there: Take the Tube to Ladbroke Grove on the Hammersmith and City or Circle Lines and then cross the street and walk straight on until you get to the market entrance. Alternatively go to Notting Hill Gate on the Central Line and make your way down Portobello Road to Acklam Road.

To find out more about the arepazo in London go on Twitter - #ArepazoMundial #DíaInternacionalDeLaArepa @GUASACACALONDON @latinanetwork