One thing I love about living here in Peru is seeing all the incredible foods that are available – especially the ones I have never seen nor eaten before! Caigua is one such vegetable!
Caigua (pronounced kai-wa) is a vine in which a gourd like vegetable grows. It is known as caihua, slipper’s gourd and stuffing cucumber, among other names. According to Wikipedia, it was likely domesticated in the Andes but now grows in parts of South and Central America. Some of the nutritional benefits include cholesterol control, weight reduction, and metabolism regulation.
Here in Peru, a common meal is Stuffed Caigua. And boy is it delicious! If you cannot find caigua, I imagine you could stuff bell peppers in a similar fashion. But then they would not be “Caihua Rellena” but “Pimenton Relleno!” Mind you, most have their personal preference for the stuffing of caigua, and this is mine. I don’t include raisins or olives but do include aji panca, cinnamon and a touch of peanut butter.
Yield: Serves 4
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup of minced onion
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup of fresh green peas
- 1/2 cup of diced carrot
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of aji panca
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup of beef broth
- 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- 4 large caiguas, veins and seeds removed
- In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add minced onion. Saute until browned then add ground beef and garlic. Cook mixture until beef turns brown (don’t overcook). Add peas and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Add aji panca, wine and beef broth. Lower heat to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, adding water if necessary. Add cinnamon and peanut butter; stirring to combine. Then, add chopped egg, stir and check seasoning once more. Note: Mixture should not dry out, nor be watery. If it is dry, add a bit of water. If it is watery, add breadcrumbs by the tablespoon.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Boil caiguas in a large pot of water for 5 minutes. Remove and drain the caiguas, discarding the water. Fill the caiguas with ground beef mixture. Add them to a square baking dish, coated with cooking spray. Fill the gaps with any remaining beef mixture. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until warmed through. Serve with rice.