There’s a funny thing about Venezuelans and our food... we like to eat it whenever we want to, a plate that is supposed to be exclusive for breakfast can jump through time and become dinner, no need to change the recipe or the portion sizes, the plate remains the same. A brunch for us Venezuelans is simply a combination of the three meals of the day, and maybe a snack or two, some of the plates are from the region, others come from far away, but one thing is certain, there will be food and people!

Yes, this is another entry of SnackTAYku International, this brilliant idea for a series we started not so long ago, where I, will guide you on a tour through the different meals of my home country Venezuela, and yes there is someone else around here doing the same, Miss Zarnyx decided to become my rival in these foodie adventures, her take is the food on the island of Trinidad instead. Today she thought that an adventure on the beach can overcome my family reunion... heh! Sorry Zweety, but the Schwartzenbergs work like a mafia, and we will take you down! ;)

One week ago we had one of these so called brunches at La Maison Schwartzenberg, I took the role of director and mastermind behind this gathering, since it was me who suggested the idea, and also it was me who did all the dirty work (and you thought chefs didn’t work at all, eh?), oh well... so in preparation for this festival, I had to shred the chicken, puree the avocados, clean the dishes, set the tables, and take the kernels out of the corn cobs.

Getting my hands dirty, and not cutting my own fingers with the knife

But why all this hard work? Weren’t there others helping you? Yeah all my family helped, but three of the 4 dishes were proposed by me, and being a nit-picky bitch (read: careful) with the flavours, I didn’t let others get involved with my creations.

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So 4 dishes, well, technically there were three, and one of them had two different fillings. Where do we start? Why was I shredding the chicken into fine threads? There’s a plate around the central region of Venezuela, to be more specific the capital, Caracas, and actually it is not a plate, but the filling for an Arepa.

A peek to all the hard work in the kitchen

So first I should explain to you all... what is an arepa, basically you could define one of these as a fat corn tortilla, made with equal amounts of warm water and cornmeal and just a pinch of salt, they are kneaded relentlessly until they gain a smooth, yet grainy texture, when the kneading is done they are shaped into these discs of around two inches in diameter and half inch tall, later to be cooked over a medium high griddle for five minutes.

You could say that the arepa is the Venezuelan bread, so we cut them lengthwise to fill them with any kind of meat, cheese, salad, or just butter, on this occasion I prepared this cold salad, called Reina Pepiada or Voluptuous Queen, for the equivalent in English. Avocado and chicken is tossed with some salt, pepper, mayo, mustard, green peas, cilantro and in my version of the recipe some hot sauce.

A step-by-step guide on how it should be done, according to what I believe is the best Reina Pepiada...

The end result is a soft, creamy, sweet and spicy salad that will serve as the filling of the arepa, this one may be the most renowned version of the arepa.

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Moving on we have the Chachapa, a corn pancake, similar to the classic pancake it is made with the same basic ingredients plus some sweet corn. Throw it all in the blender or food processor, until you get a mix that resembles a lumpy pancake mix. Heat a griddle to medium-high temperature and cook until for a minute or two.

Bulky, lumpy, yellow = DAYUM!

These can be eaten with cheese and ham, or just cheese, or just butter. The texture can be unappealing, but it’s sweet taste, versatility and overall richness can conquer even the finest palates.

It’s funny, with the situation going on at the moment in Venezuela, that families can still gather around a table, and for a second forget all about the criminals, politics, lack of basic services...

Indeed, life is more difficult (and dangerous) nowadays, but there’s something magical about going out to hunt for all these ingredients, and spending hours preparing them, only to get those minutes of absolute happiness...

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This next plate needs no introduction, I’ve talked endlessly about it, of all the fried goodies (nasties) we have over here, it’s my all time favorite. Plantain, sugar, cheese, and jaggery, make up for a sweet cornmeal ring.

Raw delicious

Similar to the arepas they also need to be kneaded, the difference here is that this one needs to be kneaded in different stages, the first one being the mixing of jaggery and plantain. The jaggery is boiled with water to create a dark syrup, this syrup is mixed with the mashed ripe plantain, the second stage comes with the addition of cornmeal to the plantain mix, incessant kneading will result in a fragile dough, this dough is left to rest for a few minutes. The final part of the process comes with the addition of aged cheese and sugar, and obviously more kneading.

All this detailed preparation and I’ve forgotten about one last plate we had...

Yet another variation of the arepa, this one is filled with shredded skirt, black refried beans, and white cheese. Of course I also took photos of the result of our hard work...

Food induced coma has never been so tasty!

Here they are in all of their glory, the holy trinity of the brunch, to review we have on the upper part of the plate, the Cachapa, and on the bottom from left to right the Mandoca, and the Reina Pepiada arepa.

All hail the Queen!

It’s always fun being here surrounded by family, if only these being here in Venezuela wouldn’t be a hassle, hopefully a solution will emerge that will let me spend time with them, preparing delicious food, talking about our adventures, laughing and just relax, instead of thinking how to get out of here without being exposed to the state of decay that our country has fallen into.

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