September 26, 2010

Project Food Blog: Challenge # 2 (A taste of Peru)

Papa Rellena

South America has always fascinated me. From Machu Picchu to the Galapagos Islands, there is so much of the mysterious continent that I want to explore. One of my favourite episodes of  “No Reservations” features Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Peru (check out the clip in my previous post). I love the quote at the beginning of the episode: “Don’t tell me what a man says; don’t tell me what a man knows; tell me where he has traveled.”

Bourdain reflects on the purpose of travel in this episode. He asks, does it make us smarter, wiser or more enlightened? I say yes to all of these things. In moments of travel, I have found happiness, excitement, adrenaline and sometimes panic. I have learned not just about far off lands, but also about myself. I grow with every plane ride I take and every “Departures” sign I pass.

We were thinking about a trip to South America this past summer; however, it is not the place to go for a weeklong getaway. South America is an adventure that takes time and patience. Like Bourdain said, there’s no better place to find enlightenment than Peru. For this challenge, I decided to, well, challenge myself. If a trip to South America has to be held off for another year or so, then why not prepare myself for the adventure now? 

I decided to try two classic Peruvian dishes. The first dish, "Ceviche," is the staple dish of Peru. Ceviche comes in many varieties in North America. In Peru, the dish consists mainly of raw fish marinated in citrus juice and seasonings. The acidity of the lemon and lime juices “cooks” the fish.

First of all, the selection of fresh fish in our area is rather limited. Secondly, I wasn't sure about the “cooking” process. The juice somehow alters the proteins of the fish giving it that raw, flavourful taste, but sometimes doesn’t rid the fish of all its bacteria. I didn’t want to risk making myself sick, so I decided to make a shrimp and mango ceviche using cooked shrimp. 

The second dish is “Papa Rellena” or “stuffed potatoes.” Potatoes originated in Peru around 2000 BC and were the principal food of the Inca Empire. Basically, Peruvians know their potatoes and how to cook them well. Papa Rellena consists of mashed potatoes stuffed with ground meat, spices and various other stuffings.

Papa Rellena

Papa Rellena (stuffed potatoes)

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped onion
5-8 yellow potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil (plus more for frying)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp cumin, paprika, cilantro
1 cup ground beef
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 egg
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook the potatoes until tender in a pot of boiling, salted water. When the potatoes are cooked, mash them thoroughly, season them with salt and pepper and let them chill in the fridge until cold. 

2. Soak raisins in one cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. 

3. Saute the onions and garlic in 1 tbsp of the olive oil until golden.
4. Add the seasoning (cumin, paprika, cilantro) to the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes more. 

5. Drain the raisins and add them to the onion mixture. Add the ground beef. 

6. Add the beef broth and simmer until the liquid has absorbed. 

7. Take the potatoes out of the fridge and add the egg and flour. Knead the dough with floured hands until smooth and soft. 

8. Place about a 1/2 cup portion (or your desired size) of the potatoes in the palm of your hand and make a well in the centre.

9. Place about 1 tbsp of the filling into the well and fold the potato over so none of the filling shows. 

10. Repeat step #9 until all of the potatoes and filling are gone. 

11. Fill the pan with about an inch of oil (or 2 depending on the size of the pan). Fry the Papa Rellena until golden brown for about 10 minutes. 

Shrimp and mango ceviche

Shrimp and Mango Ceviche:

1/3 cup olive oil
6-8 cooked shrimps
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped mango
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, plus one lime for garnish
1/3 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp hot sauce


1. Place the shrimp in a pot with 2 tbsp of lime juice. Bring them to a simmer.
2. Once the shrimp have warmed/defrosted, peel the shells off and place them in a bowl with 1/2 of the remaining lime juice. Chill in the fridge for about an hour.
3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl and add the shrimp. Serve with a lime wedge in a small bowl, shot glass or martini glass. 

My final thoughts:
Even though the Papa Rellena process was quite tedious, it was well worth the effort. They tasted light and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, which is a perfect combination in my books. I had two on my plate and I could barely finish one. Traditionally, Papa Rellenas are served with a type of salsa, so the tartness of the ceviche contrasted nicely. I can't wait to go to Peru and try the real thing.

Papa Rellena

For some of the recipes I used, check out thisthisthis, and this link.

If you enjoyed this post, then don't forget to vote for me for Round 2 starting tomorrow. 


  1. Fabulous trip to Peru you have taken us on here Laura! Love your reasoning behind the post and I also love that you love Bourdain. I saw him speak last week in Toronto and have a little crush on him... Good luck. This is a winning dish!

  2. Good job on the papas rellenos but don't be afraid of ceviche -- the acid in the citrus really does 'cook' the seafood.

  3. Omg I LOVE papas rellenas! Yours look so good and I'll definitely be trying your recipe. Good luck in the competition, you have one of my votes.

  4. @FOODalogue Thank you for the reassurance! I had never made these recipes before, so I was definitely out of my comfort zone. I don't think the ceviche would have worked with frozen fish fillets (which was all I had, lol). I would love to try it with fresh fish sometimes though!

    Thanks everyone for the wonderful comments :)

  5. Another person doing South American pictures! I love it. You got my vote!

  6. Wow, that all looks sooo good! I love ceviche :) Good luck in the next round... I definitely voted for you! :)

  7. Those look really good. I've never heard of those before.

  8. I'm voting for you -- The Papa Rellenas, a dish I've never heard of, looks like it turned out perfect!

    Shelly, Nibbles of Tidbits

  9. Your stuffed "potatoes" look so fun and I LOVE ceviche. I never knew that ceviche was so popular in Peru, who'd have thunk it? You get my vote :D

    Oh and if you like, pop over to my blog too ;)

  10. Both the stuffed potatoes and the ceviche looked fabulous. Good luck with the contest. You got my vote!
    ~Margaret, The Irish Mother

  11. Nice! I love papas rellenas and these look awesome. You got my vote. Nice work.

  12. Both of these dishes looks so delicious and they certainly do Peru proud!

  13. Peru - good choice...nice blog post...
    You got my vote! Good luck to us both.

  14. Great post! Looks delicious. Great step by step photos, too. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at :

  15. Mmmm, this is good. Guess rellenos isn't just for chiles.

  16. this looks delicious :) Good luck with project food and you got my vote for this one! Feel free to drop by :) Good luck and best wishes for making to the top !! WOOHOO

    jen @

  17. What an amazing dish! You are right on the money with this challenge. You have my vote. I am reading Nasty Bits right now and I couldn't agree more about traveling.

  18. Oh, wow! Those stuffed potatoes look awesome! Best of luck!

  19. Great dish! Best of luck with round 2

  20. Brava! Both look great. I'm a fan of Tony's too!
    YAY for Peru! Buena Suerte!

  21. I have never had a Peruvian dish. Love the stuff potato idea :)

    You have got my VOTE!

    I would love it if you checked out my entry for this challenge :)

  22. Wow, thank you for all of the wonderful comments and overwhelming support! The Peruvian food was so much fun to make and I loved doing this challenge. I am learning so much about classic cuisines from all of the posts too. Good luck everyone!

  23. love this idea! voting :) check out my post too!

  24. Both dishes look and sound fantastic! Definitely have my vote with this one!

  25. Ceviche looks delish but you had me at Anthony Bordain!

  26. I just ate dinner and you made me hungry again. Nice job! You have my vote!

  27. YUMMY! I have never tried Peruvian food, but I definitely want to give these two dishes a try. I'm a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain and he was the inspiration for my PFB challenge. You have my vote and I look forward to seeing what you offer in the next challenge. Great luck to you for future PFB challenges!

  28. I love how such a wide diversity of cuisines has been represented in Challenge #2. I believe you are the only one who I have seen with a Peruvian dish. It looks like you did a great job with it. You have my vote :)

    Here’s my post for Challenge #2:

  29. You definitely have my vote. Great job!

    Platanos, Mangoes and Me!

  30. This looks so good! I am definitely going to try it!

  31. What a great post! Thanks for the introduction to the Peruvian stuffed potatotes. So cool!

  32. Your stuffed potatoes look insanely delicious! And can you believe I've never had ceviche? I don't know why not! Good luck in this round!

  33. I've never tried Peruvian cuisine, but would love to try those stuffed potatoes! Looks like you did a great job with this challenge! Good luck!

  34. Your stuffed potatoes look madly scrumptious! What's more, would you be able to accept I've never had ceviche? I don't know why not! Good fortunes in this round! Food Truck


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