Puka Picante Vegetariano

Puka Picante Vegetariano
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On my first trip to the beautiful city of Ayacucho, in the region of the same name, this dish left a big impression on me. Big on colour and flavour, it’s popular during Easter in the Andes, as well as for special occasions such as birthdays and weddings. It’s also much-loved at Casita Andina, where we think every day is a special occasion. — Martin Morales, author of Andina
  • 1/2 pound purple potatoes or regular floury potatoes, skin on and cut into thick slices
  • 1/2 pound olluco potatoes or parsnips, unpeeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1/2 pound oca potatoes or carrots, unpeeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1 cooked golden baby beetroot, finely sliced, to serve
  • a few nasturtium, watercress or basil leaves, to decorate
  • 1 teaspoon beetroot powder or paprika, to decorate (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounce (about 1 cup) cooked beetroot, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon amarillo chilli paste (see below)
  • 2 teaspoon panca chilli paste (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon single cream or evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 amarillo chillies, or 2 medium-heat red chillies and 1/2 yellow pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 dried panca chillies
  • 4 ounce smoked cream cheese or goat’s milk cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup double cream
  1. Put all the potatoes (or alternatives) into a steamer and cook for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside to keep warm.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, make the puka picante sauce. Put the beetroot with 150ml of either beetroot cooking water or fresh water in a food processor or blender and blitz to a purée. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat and add the onion. Sauté for about 10 minutes until the onion turns soft and translucent, then add the garlic, chilli pastes and peanut butter. Stir to combine and cook for a further 2–3 minutes until the garlic is soft but hasn’t taken on any colour. Add the puréed beetroot to the frying pan, along with the cumin and the single cream or evaporated milk. Season with salt and pepper, then simmer until everything is well combined and heated through. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. This recipe makes about 1/2 cup of the paste.
  4. While the panca chillies are soaking, make the amarillo chilli paste. Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a low–medium heat. Fry the onion for 7–8 minutes until soft, but not browned, then add the garlic and chilli (or alternative) and fry for 2–3 minutes more to soften. Season with salt to taste, then allow to cool completely. When cool, blitz to a smooth paste, then set aside until needed. (You can store any leftover in an airtight container the fridge for up to 1 week.)
  5. This recipe makes about 2 tablespoons of the paste.
  6. First, make the chilli pastes. For the panca chilli paste, cover the dried chillies in water and soak for 2 hours. Drain, then blitz with a stick blender, add salt to taste and set aside until needed.
  7. Make the cream cheese sauce. Put the cream cheese and double cream in a bain marie or a bowl suspended over simmering water. Whisk continuously for about 4–5 minutes until the mixture is silky smooth and thick.
  8. To assemble the dish, divide the puka picante sauce between 4 bowls, then layer on the cream cheese sauce, and then the cooked, drained potatoes (or alternatives). Decorate with the golden beetroot slices and the leaves. Finally, sprinkle over the beetroot powder or paprika, if using.
  9. Recipes excerpted with permission from Andina: The Heart of Peruvian Food by Martin Morales (Quadrille November 2017)