Today, we are headed to Peru for the delicious recipe of papa rellena !
From the Andes to heavenly beaches, the cuisine of the country is considered one of the most varied and richest in the world and it’s why some people say that Peruvian cuisine is the El Dorado of Latin America. Peru was also named “best gastronomic destination by the The World Travel Awards in 2015 and for the fourth consecutive year! Lima, the capital, is considered the gastronomic capital of South America.
The richness and diversity of its traditional dishes that a few young creative chefs have been able to revisit have finally placed Peruvian cuisine on the map. We can’t talk about Peruvian cuisine without mentioning Gastón Acurio, the great chef whom Morena talked about. He is also an award winning author who helped make Peruvian cuisine known throughout South America initially and now all over the world thanks to his many restaurants.
The origins of Peruvian cuisine lie in the migrations that took place in the past 500 years: Spanish, Japanese, Chinese or African. With 491 traditional dishes, this cuisine is also #1 in the world when it comes to variety! Of those 491, more than a hundred are traditional soups.
Did you know that Peru is considered “granary of the world” due to its great biodiversity? Indeed, the country which is divided into three distinct climatic zones, is very rich thanks to 3 cooking styles with different influences:
The cuisine of the Andes, where potatoes, cereals and meat are the main ingredients.
The cuisine of the coast, which is rich in fish and seafood with a Chinese touch.
And finally, the lesser known but no less interesting cuisine of the jungle, which uses some of the most amazing and unique ingredients. Fried ants? Grilled alligator? A turtle or monkey stew? Uh … How can I say it? I will leave those recipes to Mike!
Today, I am taking you to the Andes with one of the greatest classic ingredients of this region: potato!
It is rather difficult to pick the best and most traditional Peruvian dishes. There is however one recipe that can we couldn’t have skipped: papa rellena.
Papa rellena is a stuffed potato fritter. The potatoes are first mashed and then stuffed with deliciousness, like ground beef, onions, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, raisins and black olives, before being fried.
It was born in the Andes at the border between Bolivia and Peru, where it grew wild. The first traces of potato culture date back 7000 years ago. At the time, there were already nearly 200 wild species of potatoes, but farmers have gradually improved those species.
Today, in the Andes, there are still 7 species and more than 5,000 varieties of all colors and shapes.
What is the origin of papa rellena?
The story goes that during the Pacific War, the armed conflict between Chile on one side, Peru and Bolivia on the other side, that lasted between 1879 and 1884,
During these trips, the soldiers had to take their food in pouches because there were no bags and no way to refrigerate. Thus, with a lot of imagination, they had the idea to cook the meat (ground or chopped), then season it and make a kind of dough with blanched potatoes. They kept the meat inside and finally fried them immediately. They were then wrapped in a tissue as large as a handkerchief. When lunch time approached, they took them out of their little packages and ate them.
The preparation and presentation of papas rellenas vary from country to country. They are also consumed in US cities with a large population of Cubans such as Miami and Tampa. The Cuban version consists of potato balls seasoned and stuffed with picadillo, a minced meat preparation famous in Latin-America and Spain.
In Puerto Rico, where this dish is called relleno de papa, they are stuffed with cheese and ground beef. Papas are then covered with raw egg and rolled in corn flour before being fried.
I am a stickler when it comes to the right choice of potato. They are classified by family and not all potatoes are suitable for all recipes.
To make papas rellenas, the choice is crucial. You need to choose potatoes that are used for mashed potatoes, and preferably with a yellow flesh.
I prepared these papas for a dinner with Tunisian friends and we enjoyed them as an appetizer. You can also eat papas rellenas as a main course. They are most often served with salsa criolla on the side, as well as white rice. Salsa criolla consists of sliced red onion, sliced aji amarillo, and cilantro leaves with lime juice.
Of course, my friends compared my papas rellenas to the famous Tunisian banatages. Sorry, but I disagree ! No offense to the chauvinists or the lovers their Tunisian mom’s cooking, I found that papas rellenas were much tastier than their Tunisian cousins, which are prepared with very few ingredients. No hard feelings!
- 1½ lb mashed potatoes (Bintje, Charlotte, or Manon varieties)
- 1½ tablespoon flour (optional, depending on potatoes)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef (or finely chopped beef)
- 2 green onions , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and diced
- 2 hard boiled eggs , diced
- ½ teaspoon ground chili pepper
- 10 black olives , coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano , chopped
- 1 cup flour or fine breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs , beaten
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
Cook the potatoes with their skin in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Peel the potatoes while still hot, and mash them immediately. Add 1½ tablespoon of flour and mix well with your hands. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat in a Dutch oven. Sauté the onions for a minute and then add the garlic. Sauté over low heat for 1 minute.
Stir in tomatoes, cumin, ground chili pepper and oregano and cook gently over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add ground meat and cook covered on low to medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Finally add the eggs, raisins and olives and simmer over low to medium heat, covered for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
Dust the palm of your hands with flour. Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of mashed potato and form a ball within the palms of your hands. Flatten this ball and form the shape of a circle.
In the center of the flattened potato dough, place a teaspoon of stuffing. Enclose the stuffing and give an oval or torpedo shape. If it is difficult to close the papa rellena, add some mashed potato evenly on all sides to help close it.
Repeat the process until all the ingredients are used.
Heat a large pot with vegetable oil.
Gently roll each papa rellena in the flour and then in the beaten eggs. Fry for a few minutes on all sides until golden.
Serve hot, warm or cold.