Papa rellena is one of my favorite Peruvian dishes. It’s satisfying, bursting with flavor, and you can have it as an appetizer or entrée, hot or cold, day & night, night & day, and fill it with whatever you want. I especially enjoy the fact that a lot of die-hard meat eaters, who go by the slogan of “if I don’t have meat in a meal I feel like I haven’t eaten at all”, are so easily fooled by this dish when it’s made with soy meat. In my house they have always made the regular, with meat, and a few portions on the side for me, with soy meat. Now that it’s just me and my dad, and I’m the nutritional dictator of our kitchen, everyone eats soy, and nobody complains. It really is as good when it’s karma-free.
But I’m not trying to convert you here. You can do the exact same recipe I’m gonna share here with minced beef instead of soy. This is just the way I eat it, definitely not the way 99.9% of Peruvians do. Whichever way you make it, you will be getting the real deal as there’s hardly any difference in taste and appearance between the two. If you want the original version, just pretend that what you see in these pictures is real meat, and replace accordingly.
Papa rellena means “stuffed potato”, and it basically is mashed potato stuffed with minced beef, raisins, olives, and hard-boiled egg, and pan fried untill it’s golden on the outside. Like most creolle dishes, it’s accompanied with salsa criolla, and although it was originally created as an appetizer, in most households it’s eaten as an entrée nowadays, with white rice on the side.
In the past, the mash had lard and eggs in it, and the stuffing included parsley, chili peppers, almonds, and even peanuts. It can be made either with Peruvian yellow potatoes, or with regular white potatoes, and some people add yucca to achieve that perfectly creamy-but-structured texture. The basic recipe is very flexible, as any kind of stuffing will work well with the potatoes. Some of the favorites stuffings are chicken, fish, seafood, vegetables and cheese.
Some say its origin (supposedly the Spanish Empanada) is really Arab, because Spain was influenced by that culture for 700 years. Spanish colonizers came to the New World with Arab cooks, wives, and lovers, along with their appetizing recipes of sweets -such as rice pudding-, and savory dishes, and these women were experts at stuffing all kinds of vegetables with juicy and tasty minced meat preparations. This didn’t change when they arrived in exotic lands; they just learned to stuff all the new ingredients they found, such as tomatoes, potatoes, rocotos, caiguas, etc.
This easy dish is very practical too. You can make it ahead and freeze it when it’s already fried. When you’re hungry or need a quick meal just take it out, heat it up a bit and you’re ready to go. The size is traditionally small (like in the pictures), but you can make them bigger, (even twice the size), for a very filling and succulent meal. A good potato to use for this is yukon, but any white potato that is not floury should do.
- 2 lbs potatoes
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 lb soy meat (or ground beef)
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon ají panca paste (panca chili pepper paste that you can find in many stores or online. Optional)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup black olives, sliced
- Salt, pepper
- Parsley, chopped
- All-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- Cook the potatoes in a saucepan with boiling water until they are tender (around 20 minutes, but it depends on the potato). Peel them while hot, as fast as you can. Pass them through the ricer at once. Add salt and pepper. Keep covered while you cook the filling.
- In a saucepan heat the oil over high heat, add the onion and garlic stirring, then the tomato paste and ají panca, if using. Add the soy meat (or ground beef), salt, pepper. Stir and cover the saucepan. Cook over low heat for around 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.
- Incorporate hard-boiled eggs, raisins, olives, and parsley. Turn off the heat.
- With floured hands, knead the potatoes for a few seconds. Take a portion of the potato dough and flatten it between your hands. With a spoon put a portion of the soy filling in the center of the potato round. Close it with some extra potato dough and form a little “football”.
- Put the flour in a bowl, and mix the 2 extra eggs in another bowl. Roll every roll in the eggs, then in the flour, shaking the excess, and fry in a hot pan with hot oil until the potato forms a thin golden a crusty layer. Move around every now and then to make sure every side becomes golden.
- Drain over paper towel and serve immediately, with Salsa Criolla or plain rice.