To the uninitiated, arepas are best described as if English muffins and pita bread had a baby and it was made of cornmeal. These are popular throughout South America, particularly in Colombia, where they make up the bread component of most meals. This pork, queso and mojo combo is a winner. So simple, so delicious.


For the arepa dough

  • 400g white cornmeal

  • 1½ teaspoons salt

  • 900ml water

  • Olive oil

For the pork

  • 1kg pork belly

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 2 fresh bay leaves

  • 1 stick cinnamon

  • 6 cloves

  • 2 star anise

  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 125ml olive oil

  • 4 sprigs thyme

  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

For the cilantro mojo

  • 2 cups mint leaves

  • 2 cups coriander leaves

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 small jalapeño chilli

  • 160ml extra virgin olive oil

  • 30ml sherry vinegar

  • 15ml lemon juice

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum


1. To make the arepa dough

Mix ingredients until dough thickens and rest 5-10 minutes. Divide dough into 15 portions, roll each portion into a ball and flatten into discs. Brush a pan or griddle with oil, cook arepas over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes a side, until a golden crust has developed. Transfer to a 180°c oven, bake until puffed and a little darker in colour. Much like a pita, the arepas will form a pocket as they cook. Rest for 5-10 minutes before filling.

2. To make the pork and chicharron

Add the pork, 4 cloves of smashed garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, brown sugar and salt to a saucepan, add enough water to cover the pork, bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes skin side up, turning over for the final 20 minutes. Remove and place on a rack to cool.

Finely chop the remaining garlic and combine with the olive oil, thyme and smoked paprika, season to taste. This will be the marinade for the pork.

Trim the fat cap and skin from the cooled pork, set aside (this will become the chicharron), portion the pork and combine with the marinade. Refrigerate until required.

Thinly slice the trimmed fat/skin and set aside. When ready to serve, deep fry until crisp and golden then season. Finish the pork slices in a medium hot pan until they have a golden crust. This can also be done to order.

3. To make the cilantro mojo

Blitz all the ingredients together in a food processor and refrigerate. Before using, process with an immersion blender, this thickens the mojo and gives it a mayonnaise-like texture.

4. To serve

Split open arepa, add pork, cilantro mojo, queso fresca and top with herbs and chicharron.

Chef's notes

  • If your dough is cracking a lot, round the edges when you flatten into discs. The dough may also need a little more hydration.
  • Getting the arepas cooked to perfection is the only tricky part of this recipe, while finishing in the oven doesn’t appear to be the most common instruction, it helps finish cooking the centre without overcooking the outside.
  • The queso fresco is a fetta-like cheese made from either cow or goats milk, mild and salty, with a crumbly texture. Play with the cheese component as you like as many cheeses will sit happily in its place; Persian feta, goats curd, buffalo mozzarella, stracchino or even scamorza.

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