One of the most appealing and attractive Peruvian classics is Causa Rellena : a medium-sized appetizer made from layers of potato (of course!), avocado and various fillings. It’s a simple and tasty dish, that you will often find in a delicatessen-style café and on Peruvian menus.
There are many variations of Causa, with vegetarian, tuna or chicken the most common. It is a very versatile dish, served cold and topped with extravagant garnishes. They would make a great party buffet treat, as they are colourful and exciting! There are many different recipes to make this, but I started simple…as always!
Causa Rellena con pollo (chicken):
- 800g of potatoes, peeled
- 175g of cooked skinless chicken breast
- ½ tsp of Saffron
- ½ tsp of mild chilli powder
- 1 lemon
- 1 small red onion
- Olive oil
- 1 tbsp of light mayonnaise
- Salt and Pepper
For the garnish:
- Iceberg lettuce, shredded (for garnish)
- Black olives
- 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
- Lemon juice
- Smoked Paprika
To start out, it’s pretty simple. Mash up the potatoes in a big bowl (with a little butter for creaminess), until all the lumps have gone, add the juice of half the lemon, and you have a thick smooth paste. If it’s not quite pastey enough, then add a splash of olive oil to hold it together. Normally, traditional causa would have those elusive aji amarillo peppers mixed in the with the potato, to add spice and a gorgeous yellow hue. However, minus Peruvian peppers, I had to improvise; adding a little saffron gives the potato colour, whilst the mild chilli powder gives it a kick! Hey, it worked, but feel free to attempt your own improvements…
Leave the potato on the side, and move on to your filling. Mix the chicken with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, a bit of chilli powder and seasoning, until at a suitable consistency. Then marinade the red onion in lemon juice, well seasoned.
Then comes the hard part: the assembly!
It really depends on what utensils you have at your disposal, and how much patience you have! I layered the ingredients up individually, after using a pastry cutter to mould the potato into discs. I pressed each ingredient down as firmly as I could without squashing it, but in hindsight there could be a better method.
What I will do next time, is line a tray with foil, and layer the ingredients out to fill it. Make sure each ingredient is pressed down firmly; potato, onion, chicken, potato. Then I would leave to refrigerate for an hour until cold and firm.
Then I would use a deep pastry cutter to cut out the cylinders individually. It should work well, with the right utensils!
Instead, I made the towers by hand – time-consuming and messy. It still worked out, but I’ll go for option two next time!
Whilst, your causa is refrigerating, make up some lemony mayo for the garnish, and chop up the black olives. As you may have noticed, lemon is a key ingredient in all stages of the causa, as it gives a refreshing and light flavour to an otherwise stodgy appetizer.
So there you have my take on causa rellena. It can be a bit of a fiddle, but it’s a simple enough dish to get right. Try out different fillings, vegetarian or seafood. If I had ripe avocados at the time, I would have added a thin layer of those too, to make it extra Peruvian!
Causa is a great party piece: a crowd pleaser for sure…