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Causa


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Causa is a unique Peruvian dish made of potatoes (shocker, I know) that are mashed and seasoned with key lime, onion, chili, and oil.  The mashed potatoes are then layered with a variety of stuffings, such as avocado, chicken, canned tuna, or shellfish.  This potato salad “cake” is usually served cold.  Causa is very popular in Lima; its specially named causa limeña is usually served with hard boiled eggs and olives.

Regarding the origins of the dish’s name, one of my tour guides in Cusco relayed that during the war with Chile, Peruvian women would make these stuffed potato salad cakes to give to the soldiers “for the cause”, hence the name causa.  Another explanation would be that the name comes from the Incan Quechuan word kausaq, which means “that which gives life.”

This is one of my favorite Peruvian snacks.  At a restaurant in Ollayantambo, I tried a variety of causitas (mini causas) with different fillings.  There was a yellow potato mash topped with guacamole and spinach-potato mash topped with aji de gallina.  My favorite was a sweet potato mash topped with grilled trout and an onion-mint salad… yum!

We made causas with avocado and chicken during my Peruvian Cooking Class – Dinner.  When selecting potatoes to use for this dish, it is best to get any type that is dry and starchy.  If you happen to have access to the 3,800 potatoes in Peru, the best combination for causa is a mix of papa amarilla and papa blanca potatoes.  If you are struggling to find very dry potatoes, you can cheat a little bit and use some instant potato mix!

Another handy ingredient to have on hand is a bag of yellow chili paste.  You can make it yourself, like we did in most of my Southeast Asian cooking classes (Penang Cooking Class, Balinese Cooking Class), but this pre-made mixture is such a  time-saver!

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Causa (recipe courtesy of Sky Kitchen)

Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 800 grams potatoes (best is a mix of papa amarilla and papa blanca for those with access… or any type that is dry and starchy)
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil (oil that is neutral in taste, no olive oil)
  • 3-4 key limes
  • 3 T “aji Amarillo molido” (yellow chili paste)
  • 180 grams chicken breast
  • 4 T mayonnaise
  • 1 avocado
  • salt & pepper to taste

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of a small onion
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 1-2 T fresh aji Amarillo paste
  • 1 tsp fresh chili, minced
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the potatoes in little water for about 30 minutes.

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Cook the chicken in water with salt until it’s done (about 20 minutes).

Peel the still warm potatoes and pass them through a potato ricer.

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Shred the cooked chicken into a separate bowl, add the mayonnaise. Salt and pepper to taste. This and the avocado will be the stuffing.

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Squeeze the key limes and filter the received juice. Put into the smashed potatoes. Per serving portion this should be between half and one lime (depending on the size of the lime; if in doubt, better take half a lime).

Add the vegetable oil (2 tbs. per portion) and the chili puree to the mashed potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir.

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Now it is time to build the layers!

Use a metal ring of about 10cm in diameter and 6cm in height and put it on the plate. Form a 1.5cm layer of the potato mash within the ring for the bottom layer.

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Next, add a layer of avocado slices. Try to make sure the avocado touches the ring so the layer can be seen from the outside.

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Add a 1cm layer of the chicken-mayonnaise.

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Then add another avocado layer and finish the form with potato mash.
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Remove the metal ring and garnish the dish as you like: mayonnaise, olives, avocado, chili slice, parsley, or chili sauce (directions below).

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We can make an accompanying sauce to add a bit more flavor.  Mince half an onion and some fresh yellow chili. Add the yellow chili paste, lime juice, white vinegar, vegetable oil, salt & pepper to taste and mix well.

Serve with the causa or use to garnish as well. Enjoy!

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For other serving options, instead of making individual portions, you can use a rectangle pan (as for a lasagna) and build up the layers there. Then you just use a spatula to cut and serve square-shaped servings.

Another idea is to make causa the same way you make sushi maki rolls. Place the layers on a plastic wrap-covered bamboo mat and roll it like sushi. Then slice the roll and serve!

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Comments
2 Responses to “Causa”
  1. I made my causa with three potatoes, blue, white and sweet then I stuffed with steak tartare. It was for a cooking challenge. Yours is so pretty and delicious looking…

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