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 peanuts instead.
- 500 g papa seca (dried potatoes) or regular potatoes (Tasmanian pink eye recommended)
- 1 tbsp lard or ghee
- 1 kg pork belly
- 1 large red onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 100 g ají panca (Peruvian red chilli) or other red chilli paste
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 6 6 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 litres chicken or pork broth
- salt and pepper
- 100 g peanuts
- 20 g 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 peanuts 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.
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