If you hear Oktoberfest and think autumn – frothy litres flanked by hearty stews, falling leaves and thick jumpers – you could be forgiven.
But the name of beer’s biggest festival is misleading. Oktoberfest actually kicks off in September and winds down by the start of the following month. The event is really a celebration of summer’s end – and an excuse to savour the last of the season’s produce.
This time of year you’ll find me scarfing as many peak-ripe heirloom tomatoes as possible before the season ends. You’ll also find me tucking sweetcorn into almost everything. This month’s recipe, corn arepas with tomato feta salad, offers the ideal way to celebrate both.
If you’ve never had arepas before, there’s no time like the present. I’ve loved them ever since I lived in New York City, when I trekked out to Jackson Heights in Queens to seek out the Arepa Lady’s street cart. In crude terms, arepas could be described as Latin American corn pancakes, or thick tortillas, but neither is quite right, or gets at what’s so appealing about them. Sweet and salty, tender but durable, they are served in different ways from country to country, used as a vehicle for all manner of toppings, but also perfect on their own.
This time, I decided to make the non-traditional move of adding diced jalapeños to the dough and you’re welcome to riff, too. The only non-negotiable is masarepa – precooked cornmeal – as a base, which you might be able to find locally but can also be bought online.
However, the best thing about these arepas (and the accompanying salad) might be how well they pair with festbier. This St Mars of the Desert version has become a fast favourite. Richly golden with a meringue-like head of foam, it offers a slightly sticky, bready sweetness that resonates with the sweetcorn, while its drying, hoppy finish picks up the tomatoes’ savoury side. Untraditional as it may be, consider this pairing the ideal way to ring in Oktoberfest this year – no dirndl or lederhosen required.
Corn Arepas and Tomato Feta Salad
Loosely adapted from Mamas Latinas and NYT Cooking
Makes approximately 15-18 arepas
For the arepas:
325g fresh sweetcorn (from approximately 3 ears of corn)
285ml whole milk
2 small eggs, whisked
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 jalapeños, seeded
and finely diced
Butter, for frying
For the tomato salad:
3-4 medium heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
Flaky sea salt, to taste
½ teaspoon ground cloves, to taste
50ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Large bunch coriander, roughly chopped
Large bunch basil,
1. First, make the arepa batter. To a blender, add the sweetcorn, milk, eggs, sugar, salt and baking powder. Blend on high for roughly 30 seconds, or until well combined (the corn should be finely blended, although the mixture will not be entirely uniform).
2. In a large bowl, add the masarepa. Pour over the blended corn mixture and, using a wooden spoon, mix until fully combined. Add the jalapeños, if using, and mix through. Set aside for roughly 30 minutes, to allow the masarepa to fully absorb the liquid. The dough will be thick and somewhat sticky.
3. While the arepa dough is resting, prepare the salad. In a large bowl, add the tomatoes and season well with salt. Set aside for 10 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. Mix well and set aside.
4. To cook the arepas, place a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat. Once hot, add roughly ½ tablespoon butter. When it has melted, add roughly ¼ cup of arepa batter to the pan; press down with a spatula to flatten into a pancake shape. (If your dough is particularly thick and sticky, you can even roll it into golf-ball-sized spheres before gently flattening in your hands and pressing down further once placed in the pan). Repeat with several more arepas, being sure not to crowd the pan.
5. Cook the arepas for roughly 2-3 minutes, or until golden-brown (but not burned) on the bottom; adjust the heat if they’re browning too quickly or slowly. Flip and cook until the reverse is also golden-brown. Once cooked through, transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep them warm. Repeat with the remaining arepa dough.
6. Once all the arepas are made, divide between plates and top with the heirloom tomato salad. Serve right away, while still warm.
Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus expert tasting notes, with 10 world-class beers like this one every month.