Spicy olluco, oca, and beetroot. On my first trip to the beautiful city of Ayacucho, in the region of the same name, this spicy stew left a big impression on me. Big on color and flavor, 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.
PUKA PICANTE VEGETARIANO
For the potatoes:
1 cup purple potatoes or regular floury potatoes, thickly sliced (leave the skin on)
1 cup olluco potatoes or parsnips, unpeeled and cut into thick slices
1 cup oca potatoes or carrots, unpeeled and cut into thick slices
For the puka picante sauce:
½ cup cooked beetroot, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon amarillo chili paste
2 teaspoons panca chili paste
1 tablespoon peanut butter
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup single cream or evaporated milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the cream-cheese sauce:
1 cup smoked cream cheese or goat’s milk cream cheese
½ cup double cream
For the garnish:
1 golden baby beetroot, cooked and finely sliced
A few nasturtium, watercress, or basil leaves
1 teaspoon beetroot powder or paprika (optional)
Put all the potatoes (or alternatives) into a steamer and cook for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside to keep warm.
While the potatoes are cooking, make the puka picante sauce. Put the beetroot with ⅔ cup either the 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 low heat and add the onion. Sauté for about 10 minutes until the onion turns soft and translucent, then add the garlic, chili pastes, and peanut butter. Stir to combine and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the garlic is soft but hasn’t taken on any color. 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.
To make the cream cheese sauce, put the cream cheese and double cream in a bain marie (heated bath) or a bowl suspended over simmering water. Whisk continuously for about 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is silky smooth and thick.
To assemble the dish, divide the puka picante sauce between four bowls. Layer the cream cheese sauce and the cooked, drained potatoes (or alternatives). Decorate with the golden beetroot slices and the leaves. Finally, sprinkle the beetroot powder or paprika on top.
This recipe is excerpted with permission from Andina: The Heart of Peruvian Food by Martin Morales, published by Quadrille, 2017.