Recipe: Palta rellena

Also known as Palta a la reina, palta rellena is a classic Peruvian entrée. I do not know much about its origin but it’s a fairly popular dish, particularly in restaurants offering set menu weekday lunch deals (aka “menú”). My version is heavier on the filling, which means it makes a decent-sized lunch.

Palta rellena

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 small potato
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 small chicken breast, cooked and cooled (you can use leftover roast chicken in a pinch)
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used Primal Kitchen mayo)
  • salt and pepper
  • lettuce leaves, to serve

Directions

  1. Peel and dice potato and carrot. Steam until fully cooked, 5 to 7 minutes. Add peas and steam for 2 more minutes. Let vegetables cool down.
  2. Shred chicken with 2 forks.
  3. Once vegetables are cool, mix with chicken and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Split avocado in half, remove the seed, scoop each half out of its shell with a spoon and place on top of lettuce. Stuff with the chicken mixture and serve.

Recipe: Simple huancaína sauce

This is the quintessential Peruvian sauce, originally the main ingredient of papa a la huancaína (Huancayo-style potato), but nowadays used as a sauce to serve alongside pretty much anything. I like to serve it with cassava chips, made by boiling frozen cassava and then frying it in butter.

The original recipe has the following ingredients: ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli), queso fresco (Peruvian feta cheese), evaporated milk and soda crackers. I used to sautée the chillies with onion and garlic but this is optional. I now omit the crackers to make it gluten-free and lower carb and use ají amarillo paste because I can’t find fresh ones in Sydney. Also, Australian feta is closer in flavour to its Peruvian cousin than the Greek or Danish varieties.

Simple huancaína sauce
Yield: about 1 cup

Huancaína

Ingredients

  • 200g Australian feta
  • 1/2 cup cooking cream
  • 1 tsp ají amarillo paste

To serve – any or all of the following:

  • boiled potatoes
  • boiled and fried cassava
  • Peruvian corn kernels threaded in toothpics

Directions

  1. Blend all sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor to your desired level of chunkiness.
  2. Serve with starchy things to dip in sauce.

Recipe: Peruvian ceviche

Classic Peruvian ceviche (cebiche or seviche are the proper spellings that nobody uses anymore) consists of 4 ingredients: fish, lime juice, onions and chillies. It is normally served with sweet potato and choclo (Peruvian white corn). Less common accompaniments include potato, yuca (cassava), yuyo (seaweed), rice (!). Cancha is normally served as a snack, although some restaurants serve some as part of the dish. Buen provecho!

Peruvian ceviche
Yield: 5 servings as an entrée

Ceviche

Ingredients

  • 1/2 red onion
  • 500g white fish fillet, such as snapper
  • juice of 5-7 limes
  • red chillies, such as birdseye, sliced (optional)
  • salt, to taste

To serve

  • coriander
  • choclo (Peruvian white corn) or regular corn, cooked
  • sweet potato, cooked

Directions

  1. Finely slice onion and soak in cold water. You can do this step a few hours in advance. When ready to start preparing the fish, drain onions in a colander.
  2. Cube fish, mix with onions and place on a serving platter. Season with salt.
  3. Cover with lime juice. Serve immediately or reserve in the fridge if you like your fish more marinated.
  4. When ready to serve, check the seasoning and garnish with coriander. Serve choclo and sweet potato on the side.

Recipe: Huevo a la rusa (Russian-style egg salad)

Despite its name, this dish is a Peruvian classic. So much so that I’ve been told it’s called “huevos a la peruana” (Peruvian-style eggs) in Chile. It is basically a spin-off of the traditional Russian Olivier salad, with the addition of eggs and golf sauce. It’s always served as an entrée, usually in “menú” (affordable set menu) eateries.

Huevo a la rusa (Russian-style egg salad)
Yield: 3 servings

Huevo a la rusa

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup (preferably homemade)
  • lettuce leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Boil or steam the eggs to your liking (I steam mine for 10 minutes). Cool down with tap water. Peel, halve and reserve.
  2. Peel, cube and steam potatoes and carrots.
  3. Blanch or steam peas.
  4. Once vegetables have cooled down, mix them with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise.
  5. Mix the other tablespoon of mayonnaise with the ketchup.
  6. Arrange lettuce leaves on 3 plates, place vegetable mix on top. Top with one halved egg and the mayo/ketchup sauce.

Recipe: Pimiento relleno (Peruvian-style stuffed capsicum)

Full disclaimer: this in not an authentic Peruvian recipe. The traditional dish is called rocoto relleno, rocoto being a special type of Peruvian really really REALLY hot chilli that I haven’t been able to find fresh in Australia. You can find them jarred but IMO it’s not the same. They jarred version is wet and soggy, characteristics that are particularly unappealing when talking about vegetables you’re about to stuff.

*Real* Peruvians (i.e. not my husband) like their food spicy, so they don’t mind their rocoto relleno to have a bit of a kick. Wimps and kids might prefer to have their rocoto boiled multiple times in water, vinegar and sugar to minimise the heat or have pimiento (capsicum) instead of rocoto.

Rocoto relleno is a dish typical to Arequipa, the white city. The filling is the almighty Peruvian filling based on beef mince, onion, garlic and chilli. The cheese in traditional recipes is paria, a salty fresh cheese. The closest substitution I’ve found here in Australia is sheep and/or goat haloumi. Rocoto relleno is commonly served with a side of pastel de papa, basically a potato bake. I recommend serving it with a leafy green salad instead.

Pimiento relleno (Peruvian-style stuffed capsicum)
Yield: 4 servings

Pimiento relleno

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ghee or oil
  • 250g beef mince
  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 tbsp ají panca (Peruvian red chilli paste – you can sub any chilli paste)
  • 4 large capsicums
  • 4 olives, pitted
  • 2 boiled eggs, halved
  • 8 slices (about 240g) sheep and/or goat haloumi cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to a moderate-high temperature (180-200°C)
  2. Heat the ghee or oil in a saucepan. Add meat and brown.
  3. Add onion, garlic and ají panca. Cook until meat is fully cooked and onions are soft.
  4. Cut the top off each capsicum and carefully remove the internal membranes and seeds.
  5. Fill each capsicum halfway with meat, add 1 olive, 1/2 boiled egg and cover with more meat.
  6. Top filling with 2 slices of cheese and cover with the capsicum “lid”.
  7. Pop in the oven until the capsicum is soft but not soggy and the cheese has started melting. Serve with a green salad.

Recipe: Vegan causa

Yes, vegan. Before you think I’m crazy for bastardising one of my national dishes, let me explain. I made this version for an assignment for which I had to modify a recipe for social (i.e. religious, ethical, etc.) reasons. I thought of causa because I know people make vegetarian versions all the time (not me, I love it with seafood) but I have never seen a vegan version out there. Not only I had to ditch the main protein, but also the eggs used as garnish and in the mayo. I combined a few vegan soy-free mayonnaise recipes I found online and the result was awesome! Also so much easier to make than regular mayo. I served this vegan causa to a bunch of friends and everyone (including Alvaro) liked it.

Vegan causa
Yield: 8 servings

Vegan causa

Ingredients

  • 8 (1500g) floury potatoes
  • 4 Tbsp (60ml) ají amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli) paste
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 4 Tbsp (60ml) macadamia oil
  • 1/2 cup (80g) finely chopped red onion
  • 500g white mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) olive oil
  • vegan mayonnaise (see below)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 4g salt
  • 8 (20g) black (preferably botija) olives
  • 1 (65g) heart of palm

Vegan mayonnaise

  • 3/8 cup (50g) raw cashews
  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) avocado oil
  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) water
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 tsp (4ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp (1g) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1g) mustard powder

To serve

  • cherry tomatoes
  • lettuce

Directions

  1. Blend the mayonnaise ingredients.
  2. Place the chopped onion in a small bowl with the juice of 1 lime and season lightly with salt. Set aside to marinate while the potatoes cook.
  3. Cook and mash the potatoes, let cool down. Mix with chilli paste, juice of 3 limes, macadamia oil and salt.
  4. Slice mushrooms and sautée in olive oil. Let cool down, mix with mayonnaise (method below).
  5. Oil a ring mold. Press half of the mashed potato mixture into the bottom of the pan. Cover with the mushroom mixture in a smooth layer. Top with slices of avocado. Layer the other half of the potato mixture on top and smooth the potatoes with the back of a spoon. Top with slices of hard-boiled eggs and olives.
  6. Serve chilled with lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes.

Recipe: Chicken heart anticuchos

This is a tasty way to get more offal in your diet. Heart is a great source of iron, vitamin B12, zinc, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is fundamental for the electron transport chain of mitochondria (the energy-producing cells in your body). Get chicken hearts from pastured chickens if possible (Feather and Bone is a great source) and fire up your grill for this twist on classic Peruvian street food (the original version uses cow’s heart). If you’re not keen on eating heart you can try this version with kangaroo.

Chicken heart anticuchos
Yield: 2 servings

Chicken heart anticuchos

Ingredients

  • 500g chicken hearts

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ají panca paste (Peruvian red chilli
  • paste, or substitute with your favourite)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

To serve

  • 1 large piece cassava (approximately 125g)
  • ghee or butter
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Remove the thin membrane that surrounds the hearts and trim the upper fatty/vascular part. Slice them horizontally (you’ll end up with donut-shaped slices).
  2. Mix the marinade ingredients pour over hearts in a ziplock bag and marinate for at least 6 hours.
  3. Boil cassava for 20-30 minutes until soft.
  4. In the meantime, turn on your BBQ (you’ll be using the flat part) or heat up a stovetop grill pan.
  5. Drain cassava, discard hard bit in the middle, cut in pieces and fry in ghee or butter. Season with salt.
  6. Cook marinated hearts (no need to drain the marinade) for ~10 minutes, flipping them occasionally. Season with salt.
  7. Serve with fried cassava, salad and your favourite condiment (I served it with Peruvian chilli mayo).

Recipe: Palta rellena con camarones (stuffed avocado with prawns)

A few weeks ago my Facebook status reflected how I missed avocados from back home, after opening one I bought for $1 at Woolworths that was horrible inside. A few Peruvian friends chimed in, including Victor who lives in Spain and can buy Peruvian avos there, and Gino who lives in the Central Coast and mentioned palta rellena con camarones (stuffed avocado with prawns). The craving was on.

Palta rellena is a great warm weather entrée. It’s basically a mayo-bound salad served in a half avocado. The most popular protein of choice in the filling is pulled chicken (chicken breast that has been boiled and pulled in strips with a fork). It’s usually mixed with peas and/or carrots and/or corn and/or potatoes. After ditching the legume, grain and nightshade I was left with carrots. I figured out celery and broccolini stalks would be nice additions thanks to their crunchiness, freshness and mayo-affinity.

Palta rellena con camarones (stuffed avocado with prawns)
Yield: 6 servings as an entrée

Palta rellena con camarones

Ingredients

  • 3 avocados
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 bunch broccolini stalks (use the florets in another dish) or asparagus, chopped
  • 15 – 18 medium prawns, peeled and cleaned
  • 2 teaspoons ghee or butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I make my own, following this recipe)
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Steam carrots and broccolini stalks or asparagus separately. Let cool.
  2. Heat ghee or butter, add garlic and prawns. When cooked, let cool down.
  3. Reserve 6 prawns and chop the rest.
  4. Mix vegetables and prawns, add mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper.
  5. Split avocados in half, remove the seed, scoop each half out of its shell with a spoon and place on a plate. Stuff with the prawn mixture and top with a whole prawn.