Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
I couldn’t write about Colombian football with talking about two of the most famous players to play for the country during the golden years of the early 1990s. I am sure every Colombian reading this will immediately think Carlos Valderama and René Higuita; you’d be absolutely right.
Carlos was unmistakable with the big blond afro that used to grace a football field. He was the lynchpin of that great Colombian side and I distinctly remember him excelling in the playmaker role with the number 10 emblazoned on the back of his shirt. He had an incredible footballing brain that was matched by his unerring ability to accurately pass the ball, often creating goal scoring chances. There are some players that just have that ability to make the game look effortless and he did it in spades.
The second player René was the ultimate footballing character. Although a great goalkeeper, his nickname was El Loco (the Mad Man) after a risky and ultimately costly bit of play in Italia 90 where he dribbled the ball to the half way line and was then tackled by Roger Milla of Cameroon, who consequently went on to score and knock Colombia out of the cup. I will always remember him for his entertainment value and eccentricity on the pitch. The most famous being in a friendly against England at Wembley when the ball was hit looping and long towards his goal and he scorpion kicked it out (imagine standing facing the ball, allowing the ball to go over your head and then flipping your body forwards so that the back of your heels kick the ball). He also scored 41 goals for Colombia as the set-piece specialist.
Colombia is flying in this World Cup with 4 straight wins and for me looking favourites to beat Brazil in the quarter-finals. It really seems to be playing as a solid unit and who can believe how brilliant the Monaco player, James Rodríguez is. The young lad seems to have everything in his game; speed on the wing, playmaking skills akin to a certain Mr Valderama and a deadly finish. The goal against Uruguay is up there with Tim Cahill’s for Australia.
The variety of food from Colombia is staggering, ranging from the classic corn pancakes (arepas) to marinated meat, punchy salsas and sauces and delicious seafood. Given its location it is clear to understand why food here is so eclectic. In the Pacific coast region the cooking is more pure with influences from Africa and includes many fried and dough based foods; the Andean region is more influenced by the flamboyant preparations of Spain; and the Caribbean coastal areas are awash with great seafood, and as a result of passing trade the cuisine is influenced by the rest of the world. So, what to choose for this dish?
I have a Colombian friend in Australia and she very kindly bought me a Colombian cook book – the recipes are straight from the heart of Colombia. Having cooked French for her on a previous occasion, the real test the next time she came round for dinner was how good my Colombian cooking skills were. In reality we ended up making arepas together and she gave me some tips on how they make them in Colombian homes. The dish I (we) cooked that night is the one I have cooked for this World Cup project; carne asada sobre arepas – steak and arepas. The meat is marinated overnight, a similar preparation to what is sold in the asaderos all around Colombia. It is served with the classic chimichurri, a sauce prevalent throughout Latin America.
Carne Asada Sobre Arepas (Steak and Arepas) - ColombiaPrint
- For the Steak:
- ■ 1kg beef steak | Ideally flank steak or fillet.
- ■ 2 tbsp. red wine |
- ■ 2 large garlic cloves | Crushed.
- ■ 1 tsp. dijon mustard |
- ■ pinch ground black pepper |
- ■ pinch sea salt |
- ■ grapeseed oil for frying | Or any other suitable oil.
- For the Arepas:
- ■ 240g pre-cooked white corn meal |
- ■ 20g unsalted butter |
- ■ 500ml warm water |
- ■ good pinch sea salt |
- ■ 4 tbsp. butter | For frying.
- For the Chimichurri:
- ■ 2 large garlic cloves | Roughly chopped.
- ■ 5 spring onions | Sliced - white and green parts.
- ■ 2 handfuls flat leaf parsley | Roughly torn.
- ■ 1 handful coriander | Roughly torn.
- ■ ½ lime - juice of |
- ■ 1 tbsp. cider vinegar | Or red wine vinegar.
- ■ 1 pinch sea salt |
- ■ 1 pinch ground black pepper |
- ■ 130g grapeseed oil | Or other non-flavoured oil.
- ■ 1 medium ripe tomato | Finely diced.
For the steak: Cut the steak in to 4 portions. Combine the wine, garlic, mustard, pepper and salt in a bowl and mix well. Rub the marinade over each piece of beef then put the beef in the bowl. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.
For the chimichurri: Add the garlic, spring onions, parsley and coriander to a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add the lime juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and oil and process until smooth, but the herbs are not puréed.
Put the chimichurri in to a non-reactive bowl and gently mix in the diced tomato. Set aside.
To cook the steak put a heavy based frying pan or griddle pan on high heat. Add a little oil and cook each steak piece, flipping every 20 seconds to ensure even cooking. The cooking times depend on how rare or well-done you like your steak; approximately 4 minutes for medium-rare and up to 8-10 minutes for well-done. When cooked put a on a wire rack over a tray to rest and cover with foil to keep warm.
For the arepas: to a bowl add the corn meal, butter, water and salt and mix with your hands until an even paste is formed. Leave the paste to rest for 5 minutes and then bring it together and knead it in to a dough. Melt the butter in a heavy based frying pan over medium heat. Form thin 15 cm diameter discs with the cornmeal dough (you should get about 8 arepas) and fry both sides until golden – about 2-3 minutes each side.
Slice each portion of steak and serve with the hot arepas and lashings of chimichurri.