Wow. Is this really the final recipe of my 30-day March cooking challenge?  How the month flew by (actually, not really)! Despite some ups and downs along the way, the good news is that this challenge ended with a bang – a Peruvian bang, that is. It was also fitting to cook a Peruvian feast on Easter Sunday: you see, last year I lived in Peru and my host family cooked a 12-course potato-based Peruvian Easter feast. It was probably the most… memorable… meal I’ve ever had!

Thus, it was only appropriate to rejoice in being back in the states  commemorate that (now infamous) meal with some Peruvian food on this holiday. With lots of help from Mark, we decided to attempt to make three of our favorite Peruvian dishes: causa, ceviche, and ocopa.

Clockwise from the back - ceviche, causa, and ocopa dip

Clockwise from the back – ceviche, causa, and ocopa dip

The recipes:

  • Causa – this is a sculpted, chilled, yellow aji pepper-flavored mashed potato dish, stuffed with some type of creamy meat salad and topped with any combination of olives, avocados, and hard-boiled eggs. This is the recipe we used as our basis.
The causa without its potato topping

The causa without its potato topping

  • Ceviche – many people are familiar with this raw white fish ‘cooked’ in lime juice dish. The Peruvians serve it with sweet potatoes, corn, red onions, and cilantro over a bed of lettuce. This recipe more or less fit the bill.
This dish involved squeezing about 10 limes

This dish involved squeezing about 10 limes

  • Ocopa – this peanut sauce goes great with potatoes and chicken. It’s made with peanuts, crackers, milk, cheese, tomato, aji, garlic, cilantro, onion, and a Peruvian black mint called huacatay. We made this from memory.

Peru 3

Quick recap: I was THRILLED to find both aji amarillo (yellow spicy pepper) and huacatay (black mint) paste in Pike’s Place’s El Mercado Latino. We used sushi-grade cod for the ceviche — and first soaked it in salt water. For the causa filling, I made a chicken salad with greek yogurt (since I’m not a fan of mayo), mustard, salt and pepper.

Peruvian huacatay or  'black mint'

Peruvian huacatay or ‘black mint’

Peru 7

The verdict: With every bite, I had visions of llamas, alpacas, the high Andes Mountains and lots of potatoes. And I didn’t even need an antacid for this year’s Easter meal! The aji amarillo and the huacatay really made these dishes taste authentic.

From Ethiopian food to falafel to chicken tikka masala, this month has been quite the culinary journey and the Peruvian feast was a GREAT meal to end this challenging month-long cooking challenge!