This is very weird. I have hated this dish for most of my life. My mum and aunties are so nice that they actually cooked a different dish for me whenever they made carapulcra. When I went to cooking school my friends really trusted my palate and made me test their version before presenting them to the instructor for marking. I knew they were really well made but I still hated them. Last year Alvaro, Gladys, Vicky and I went to a Peruvian festival and I tried their carapulcra. I liked it. A lot. I liked it so much that I bought a bag of papa seca (dried potatoes, the main ingredient in carapulcra) online.
Carapulcra is a dish that hails from Chincha, a town South of Lima that received a big African migration. In Chincha they make it with fresh potatoes but somehow when the dish arrived Lima (and became extremely popular) the dried potatoes took over. I guess it was someone from the highlands who adapted it, since drying potatoes is a common preservation method in the Andes.
Anyway, apart from the potatoes, the other main ingredients in this stew are pork and peanuts. It also has a couple of flavour enhancers added at the end of the cooking process: chocolate and port. I’ve heard some people in Chincha add in a Sublime (milk chocolate with peanuts) but I prefer using dark chocolate and ground cashews instead of peanuts (what is wrong with peanuts? apart from being highly allergenic, they contain high amounts of phytates and are often contaminated with aflatoxins.)
Yield: 8-10 servings
- 500g papa seca (dried potatoes) or regular potatoes (Tasmanian pink eye recommended)
- 1 tablespoon lard or ghee
- 1 kg pork belly
- 1 large red onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 100g ají panca (Peruvian red chilli) or other red chilli paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 6 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 litres chicken or pork broth
- salt and pepper
- 100g cashews
- 20g dark chocolate (85% or higher recommended)
- 1/4 cup port
- The night before: toast the papa seca in a dry pan for a few minutes until fragrant. Rinse and soak in a container with twice its volume of water overnight. Skip this step if you’re using regular potatoes.
- If you’re using regular potatoes, cut them in 1-cm cubes. Reserve in a bowl, covered with cold water.
- Cut the pork belly in bite-size pieces. Chop onion and mince garlic.
- Melt lard/ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot at high heat and sear the pork (be careful, it spits). Reserve.
- Lower the heat, let pot cool down a bit and add the onion, garlic and chilli paste. Cook for 10-15 minutes.
- Add cumin, cloves and cinnamon stick, stir. Add pork and drained potatoes, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper, mix well.
- Add broth, cover and cook for 1 hour.
- Grind cashews in a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle. Grate chocolate. Add both to the pot.
- Add port, turn heat off, discard cinnamon stick and adjust seasoning.
- Serve with cauliflower rice.