In the August issue of MEGA, I wrote about South American cuisine, zooming in on Brazilian, Chilean and Peruvian food. My research for the article led me to portals and e-books featuring a variety of exciting recipes to try.
Among the ones I've experimented with thus far, the Peruvian Papas Rellenas proved to be a standout. It's an exotically scrumptious albeit uncomplicated dish. Save for the cilantro, the ingredients were very easy to find in Manila. As I wrote in the feature, they are "deep fried mashed potatoes stuffed with ground beef, hard-boiled eggs, olives, raisins, and tomatoes mixed with onion, garlic, parsley and cilantro." They are "crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, with a mildly spicy filling that tastes robust without overpowering the palate." The olives lend a tinge of saltiness while the raisins add some sweetness, creating the perfect balance of flavors.
So without further ado, here is the recipe I got from Yanuq, a website on authentic Peruvian cooking, with notes on the modifications I made:
Papas Rellenas (Peruvian dish)
- One (1) kilo white potatoes
- Four (4) eggs (1 fresh and 3 hard-boiled)
- Six (6) tablespoons oil
- Half (1/2) kg ground beef
- One (1) cup chopped onion
- One (1) garlic clove, minced
- One (1) teaspoon paprika
- Six (6) seeded black olives, cut in four
- Half (1/2) cup tomato, diced, peeled and seeded
- One (1) teaspoon minced parsley
- One (1) teaspoon minced cilantro Note: I had to do away with this because I didn't have any in the kitchen, but my "taste testers" thought the end product was already great as it is. But of course, I bet it would be even better with cilantro!
- Quarter (1/4) cup raisins
- Wash potatoes and place them in a medium size pan with salted water. Bring to a boil. Cook until soft. Remove from heat. Peel.
- Force potatoes through a strainer or a potato masher. Cool. Add an egg and knead dough until smooth and soft.
- Pour two or three tablespoons oil in a large size skillet. Cook onion and garlic until golden.
- Add ground beef. Add tomatoes and cook for five minutes. Add parsley, cilantro, olives, hardboiled eggs and raisins. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
- Flour hands and take a portion (about half a cup) of potato mixture. Place it in the palm of your hand. Flatten it and place one tablespoon of filling (approximately) in the center.
- Fold it and close by pressing ends. It must have an oval shape. Flour croquettes and set them aside. Repeat this process with the rest of potato mixture.
- Heat oil in a medium size pan and fry each papa rellena until golden.
- Papas Rellenas are served with white rice and onion Creole sauce.
The first time I made Papas Rellenas, I only served them with rice, thinking the onion Creole sauce was unnecessary because of how flavorful the dish already was. When I tried to make some just for fun the second time I whipped up the potato dish, I was taken aback. I made some ingredient replacements but the result was a delightfully tangy and spicy accompaniment.
That said, you cannot truly enjoy Papas Rellenas without an onion Creole sauce. This is the recipe with notes on the ingredient alternatives:
Salsa Criolla (Onion Creole Sauce)
- Two (2) medium size red onions (finely sliced)
- One to two (1-2) ají amarillo fresco/fresh yellow aji (chili), seeded, deveined, julienned Note: I went with five green chili peppers. I chopped them up and kept the seeds.
- Juice of three (3) key limes Note: I juiced one whole lemon. I've also tried using calamansi juice, which also worked quite well.
- Vegetable oil Note: The amount was not specified. I only went with a tablespoon after discovering online that other recipes for the sauce did not require it. I suppose it makes a difference in terms of the sauce's consistency.
- Cilantro or parsley, minced Note: I went with the parsley.
- Soak the sliced onions in a bowl of water and mix well. Drain and let them dry.
- Place onions in a bowl and season to taste.
- Pour key lime (or lemon) juice, vegetable oil, and ají (or alternative). Mix well.
- Correct seasoning.
What I like about the onion Creole sauce is that you can tweak it to your liking, but the mix of the heat and the tang always makes it a winner.