The Caigua (pronounced kai-wa) is a vine grown for its small fruit, used as a vegetable. It is also known as Caigua, Achocha, slipper gourd or lady’s slipper. Likely domesticated in the Andes, the Caigua is now grown many parts of Central America and South America, as well as parts of the Eastern Hemisphere tropics. The fruit is an elliptic or oblong berry, flattened, hollow, with a curved base; 10 to 20 cm long and 5 to 8 cm wide; the surface is irregular, with longitudinal striations and soft spines; its color varies from dark to light green; the central cavity contains square, black, and rugose seeds that are attached to the ovary wall. It’s actually being used to prepare a very popular Creole meal named as “Guiso Caigua” or “Caigua Rellena” in Peru. The Moche culture had a fascination with agriculture and displayed this veggie in their art. Caiguas were often depicted in their ceramics.
It’s say that Achocha doesn’t have a very distinctive flavor but does add a satisfying crunch to your vegetarian dishes. Over the years, a series of clinical studies began to appear indicating that this seed and generate a rich in nutritional value, it has several properties that are very beneficial to our health. It has been shown that Caigua helps to achieve regulated cholesterol levels and even has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. The Caigua contains a sitosterol mixture that is attributed with having the effect of reducing the increase of LDL cholesterol and at the same time increasing the HDL cholesterol, which is extremely important in cases of arteriosclerosis and after a heart attack.
I’ve never tried Cyclantera pedata (aka Caiguas) before but I would love to try it one day. There are probably many ancient vegetables I never tried though! I am going to look around for Latin or Asian grocery markets, for some I never had, and buy it, then try it. I like to experiment with different vegetables from time to time, to get the best out of them. This is a basic recipe to make stuffed meaty Caiguas, but if you want to eliminate the meat, you can use chopped carrots, potatoes, broccoli, pecans, walnuts, cheese, sautéed mushrooms or let your imagination go wild!.
10 small caiguas
500g osso bucco – 2 pieces
2 white potatoes
500ml black beer
25 leaves of huacatay (peruvian black mint)
1 red onion
Salt y pepper
Marinate the osso bucco in beer with onions in large dice and huacatay. Leave overnight.
Remove the osso bucco and pat them dry.
Seal the osso bucco, caramelizing nicely on both sides.
Braise slowly in the marinate with onions and huacatay until tender.
Remove the osso bucco and allow it to cool enough to chop into rough dice
Cook diced potato in the braising liquid
Reduce liquid to a jus and mix combine with potato and meat.
Remove the ends of the caiguas and take out the vein and seeds.
Blanch them in salted water for a couple of minutes.
Stuff them with the mixture and pass through an oven when ready to serve.
Serve on top of an ‘aioli de rocoto’ and top with ‘pangrattato de huacatay’.
PANGRATTATO DE HUACATAY
5 2 day old french bread rolls
1 clove of garlic
10 leaves of huacatay (peruvian black mint)
40ml extra virgin olive oil
Remove the crusts from the bread and roughly chop by hand or food processor.
Grate the clove of garlic into a saute pan with the oil, heat until the garlic starts to fry.
Add the bread crumbs and toss them to spread the garlic and oil around.
Saute the crumbs on a moderate heat as to not burn them.
Add the salt and chopped huacatay when the crumbs are starting to crisp.
Remove from the fire and pour the crumbs onto a plate lined with paper towel until ready to use.
AIOLI DE ROCOTO
4 rocotos (may substitute with 3 red capsicums and 1 chilli)
100ml sunflower oil/light olive oil
Slice the flesh from the outside of the rocotos, being very careful not to go too deep because you don’t want to include the veins and seeds.
Place the rocotos in a saucepan with a touch of oil and put a lid on them. Cook them over a slow flame for about half an hour until the mixture is reduced and thick. Remember to keep checking every 5 minutes to make sure you are not burning them.
Take the rough paste you now have and put it in the blender with the juice of one lime.
Blend and add oil at the same time as you would with a mayonnaise.
Season the aioli and add more lime if desired.
Pass through a tamis to ensure a smooth cream and cool in the fridge, ready for use.