Hey causa! Hope you are doing great! So, after my last post “More Peruvian than a Potato: A Causa History”, and now that we know a little more about Peruvian Causa, I will explain how to prepare it. Causa Rellena or Stuffed Causa is one of my favorite Peruvian dishes. I really enjoy the entire process, starting from the preparation and of course, eating it and sharing it with my family and friends, maybe enjoying a beer too! (Cooking it is hard work indeed, so, we deserve a cold and delicious beer to pair our awesome causa for sure!). I used to make it with my best friend, as she loved it! We used to talk and have a beer while enjoying causa in the summer (or the whole year!), that’s how I know it goes so well with a bubbly blond cold one!
Causa is perfect for summer as it’s a light, main dish that’s served cold. Because it’s so versatile it can be filled with tuna, seafood, chicken or you can even make it with just veggies. Mayo is typically used in the filling, but in this occasion, I’m not going to use it, opting instead for a healthier version.
There are different ways to do it (you can roll it, do it by layers or even make small individual portions with a round or square shape). I usually roll it for the following reasons:
- You can use less mashed potato and more filling (which is great to reduce a high intake of carbs per meal), and making it a lil’ bit lighter.
- It’s versatile, as you can make a bigger option for a main dish or do smaller cute ones in a sushi roll, causa style for a small appetizer.
- I think it’s the easiest way to pull it off in a beautiful way.
For the Mashed potatoes preparation:
- 1 kg of Peruvian yellow potatoes (Yukon gold or another that has a good consistency when doing mashed potatoes ).
- 1/4 cup of lime juice (the most acidic lime you can find).
- 2 spoons of Peruvian yellow pepper paste (Aji Amarillo – I will put other options below, if you can’t find this ingredient).
- 2 spoons of vegetable oil (a non-flavored one like canola, sunflower or soy oil can be used).
- Salt and pepper.
For the filling:
- 2 Cans of tuna in water.
- 3 Medium size tomatoes.
- 1 Small onion.
- 2 Stalks of celery
- 1/4 cup of lime juice
- 2 spoons of olive oil
- 1/4 cup of lime juice
- Salt and pepper
- 1 ripe avocado.
- 2 boiled eggs.
- Chopped cilantro or bell pepper (optional).
For the Mashed potatoes:
- Boil the potatoes in a large pot with water and salt. Once they are ready, remove them and cool them off with cold water.
- While they are still warm, but not scalding hot, carefully peel them and mash them until you obtain uniform and smooth mashed potatoes. Let the mass cool.
- Mix the lime juice, pepper and salt.
- Once they are cold, mix the mashed potatoes with the yellow pepper paste (you can use a spatula, but I prefer my hands. It’s like playing play-doh for adults! And if want to try it with the little ones in the house it’s great as well!). Mix the paste well and little by little add the lime mix. until you find the perfect balance. If necessary, add more salt directly (I leave the acid level to you, so personalize it to your taste).
- Finally, slowly add the oil and mix all until it’s uniform. The oil will help to give the mass a little more manageability, making it more workable and flexible.
- Cover it with plastic wrap at let it rest in the fridge for about 30 min.
For the filling
- Chop the tomatoes (cut in quarters, remove the center, then dice them), Celery and onions. Onions, must be chopped and then let them rest in water with salt, Press them with your hands and rinse with cold water to remove the salty flavor and then stir the water and mix with the others.
- Drain the tuna cans and add the tuna to the mix.
- Mix the lime juice, olive oil, pepper and salt. Season the filling with this mix. Check if the salt and pepper level is ok, if not, add more until desired level.
- Let the preparation rest, and after 5 min, remove the remaining liquid (the filling must be as dry as possible, to avoid making the mashed potatoes soggy).
How to assemble the causa
Roll method (Picture below)
- Take a clean and dry chopping board. Put film wrap on top (enough to cover the board and even a little more). If the film width it’s not big enough, use a clean, unused transparent plastic bag and cut both one side and the bottom and place it on the board.
- Take the cold potato mass and spread it evenly all over the film-covered board, trying to have around 1 cm (0.4 inches) of thickness. Use the bag to level the borders by folding them towards the center (2).
- Place the filling as displayed in the picture, in almost the center (if desire, can also add here sliced eggs or cut avocado in 4A or 4B).
- Start Rolling the mass as showed in picture 5,6 ,7 and 8 (with the plastic wrap help). If there’s a lot of mass, remove it with a butter knife (You can use it later for snacks).
As you can see in the pictures, there are different ways to decorate and present your causa. In the top row, you can see 3 different presentation they use in restaurants or even in a buffet. The second row has the causas I’ve made (all rolled), either eaten alone or with salad as a fresh lunch or light dinner. You can put avocado or shredded boiled eggs on top and sprinkle some chopped cilantro for the final touch!
- When boiling the water to cook the potatoes, add salt into the water to avoid their cracking and opening.
- If don’t have much time to boil the potatoes by using the traditional way, put up to 5 medium size potatoes in a transparent plastic bag, tie a knot and a poke couple of holes with a knife. Set the timer for 8-10 min in the microwave, the power level should be in between medium and high and check from time to time if they are ready (be careful as there’s vapor coming out of the bag). Set additional time until they are ready.
- If using a mold, use a film wrap first or spray oil to make it easier to remove and serve.
- Do not use too much lime juice, as it will make the mass soggy and will be hard to assemble. If the mass Is already soggy, I don’t recommend rolling it, as it will be very messy. Instead you can do it in layers or do a causa stuffed ball (like Japanese rice balls).You can also add a some instant mashed potatoes mix (a flavorless one) if you really think it can help.
- Try to prepare only what you are going to eat in the moment, as this dish will only be good for the day. By keeping the mass and filling separate, it can however, be used to make another causa the next day. If so, keep the mashed potatoes without seasoning it and add the lime juice and other ingredients when plan to eat it.
Whether you can’t find the ingredients or want to try your own take on causa, I’m leaving other suggestions below for you to try. Some of which I have done, others are just ideas that came to my mind. There are no limits here, so don’t be afraid to try something new!
- Yellow potato: Yukon gold potato, mashed yuca (50% yuca & 50%regular potato).
- Peruvian yellow pepper: This is a tough one, as it gives the causa a truly distinctive flavor. I would say it may not be replaceable, but a variation could be using Rocoto Paste (another kind of Peruvian pepper ).I once used wasabi and sesame oil as a variation and it was tasty! Other options might include a cilantro, spinach or basil-garlic paste as well!
Filling Ideas (or even toppings)
- CHICKEN SALAD: Shredded chicken, onion, celery, assorted veggies (corn, peas, carrots), light mayo or milk mayo.
- VEGETARIAN: Avocado, tomato, lime, cilantro, onion, artichoke hearts, assorted veggies (optional), dressing of your choice.
- AJILLO: Shrimp, olive oil, minced garlic, mushrooms, asparagus.
- OLIVE & OCTOPUS: dark olives and mayo paste, octopus, shallots, asparagus, desired veggies.
- HAWAIIAN SALMON POKE: Raw fresh fish (Salmon, tuna, Hamachi), sesame oil, mirin, soy sauce, scallions, avocado, tomatoes, lime juice, cucumber.
The combinations are endless! You can get a different outcome every time, So it’s important that you choose your toppings and fillings based on what you like and have on hand! The fun lies in the exploration of new combinations! Enjoy!
I hope you try many varieties and tell me how they turn out! If you have any questions or suggestions please don’t be shy, ask me or leave a comment! I’ll finish this post with this meme a very close friend of mine did a couple of years ago when I performed a Japanese dance in Peru. She couldn’t help it and had to make the comparison!
Well, I guess it may be true, we are what we eat! Lol BTW, We have called each other causa since then!
See you next time!
Additional information: Nutrition Facts:
Although I don’t really like to eat my food based on counting calories, I prepared an approximate value of the nutritional facts for this dish, either when eaten as a main dish (by dividing this preparation in 4) or as an appetizer (when divided by 10). This way you have an idea of the components it contains (not only the calories). If eaten as a main dish, it can provide the 40% of the required protein our body needs per day (based on a 2000 Cal diet). I will talk further about this theme in a future post 😀