After All, You Eat With Your Eyes Too.

(Special Guest Post by Morena Cuadra – author of a successful Peruvian food blog and a brand new cookbook coming out. This also oddly marks the 2nd post we’ve done on the Peruvian culture so far (remember the chicken parties?). Let me know if you like budget recipes like this and we’ll do more :))

To cook on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on good food. What it does mean, is that you will need to get your creative muscles working, and come up with good ideas to keep your family well fed and satisfied.

We marvel at the skill of home cooks who have enticing food on the table even when they don’t have much money to spare. In Peru we see this all the time. And some of the most delicious recipes of our culinary repertoire have been created out of pure necessity, using everything on hand to make tasty dishes that also look good. After all, you eat with your eyes too.

Arroz Tapado is one of those easy, delicious, and versatile dishes, that is also kind to your budget. To make things better, it’s the perfect meal to prepare with those veggies dying in the fridge too, saving you an extra grocery shopping spree (and saves on gas/bus/subway/etc).

Ground beef is the traditional filling, but chicken, canned tuna, canned salmon, vegetables (fresh or frozen), pork, or any other filling can be used. White fluffy rice is the usual base, or you may want to use brown rice, leftover quinoa, couscous or barley. You can also add green peas, corn, and finely diced red bell pepper to the rice to make it colorful.

This dish will surprise your palate and your wallet. And there will be enough for leftovers! And here’s a little trick: mix any leftover filling with tomato sauce, and you have an upgraded pasta sauce.

Arroz Tapado (Peruvian Meat-Filled Rice)

(Serves 4)

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot (optional)
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup sliced black olives
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 cups cooked white fluffy rice
  • Parsley for garnish

How To Prepare:

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, and sauté the onion and garlic, stirring a couple of times. When the onion is soft and translucent, add tomato paste and stir for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the ground beef. Cook for 15 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. If the mixture looks dry, add ½ cup water. It should be saucy.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, add the chopped carrot, and cook for 3 minutes. Then add raisins, olives, hard-boiled eggs, and parsley. Turn off the heat.
  4. In an oiled cup or ramekin, make a layer of rice, about 1/3 cup. Then put a layer of the beef mixture, and top with more rice. Put a plate over the ramekin and turn upside-down. Unmold, garnish with parsley, and serve with a nice green salad on the side.

For more cooking inspiration visit:
fresh green salad

Morena Cuadra and Morena Escardo are the mother/daughter team behind Peru Delights, a blog celebrating the food of their country. With both a traditional perspective and an open mind with a healthy twist, they join their passion for food and writing, on a mission to promote Peru’s increasingly popular food around the world. They are the authors of The Everything Peruvian Cookbook.

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  1. Lance @ Money Life and More December 6, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    That looks really good… I might have to try that sometime. I normally cook in bigger batches though and eat it through a few days. I’d probably switch out a few items too because I’m a picky eater sometimes… Ok a lot of times…

  2. Pauline December 6, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    It looks delicious and very simple. Usually I do fried rice with leftover veggies, will have to try that one.

  3. Michelle December 6, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    This looks super tasty! Will have to make this soon.

  4. Stephanie December 6, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Ooh, that looks delicious!! And pretty, too. :-)

    I’ve also found that lentils make a good ground meat substitute. My husband makes vegetarian shepherd’s pie with lentils instead of meat, and it’s sooooo good. And I just made a vegetarian lentil chili last night that came out really well.

  5. Trinnie December 6, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Looks amazing and gluten-free too (hopefully)! I will definitely be trying this soon!

  6. Randall December 6, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    This is awesome! Nice way to branch out J$!

  7. Brittany December 6, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    As soon as I clicked on your link in Google Reader my eyes lit up. This looks delicious! I’m going to Peru in June and am really looking forward to trying all of the food that I’ve been hearing about! Definitely looking forward to making this recipe.

  8. Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget December 6, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    Ay, que rico!

    Peruvian food is my favorite, hands down. Papa a la huancaina, arroz chaufa, cebiche… don’t get me started. I spent a couple years living near a Peruvian community, but never learned how to cook their food… better worded: I still don’t know how to cook ANY food.

    BUT, I’m going to give this one a shot. And hopefully win some points with the wife. Thanks, ladies!

  9. Morena December 6, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Thanks for the comments, guys! I´m glad you liked this recipe. As you can see, arroz tapado is very flexible and you can add veggies, herbs or lentils! (that´s a great idea) to suit your taste.
    Eating on a budget could be a very exciting experience when you are creative and love to try different cuisines. Peruvian cooking is a hidden treasure of low cost and very tasty meals.
    Have fun!

  10. Morena December 6, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Pauline, one of our most popular dishes is Arroz a la Cubana (Cuban-style rice): white fluffy rice, a fried egg on top, and fried sweet plantains by the side. We serve it with salsa criolla (onions, chili peppers, and lime juice), and it´s not only low-cost but delicious and fulfilling!

  11. Anne @ Unique Gifter December 6, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    That looks delicious! I’ll have to try it in the next few days :-)

  12. KK @ Student Debt Survivor December 6, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    Yum. I don’t eat ground beef, but suspect this would be just as tasty with ground turkey, or lentils like was mentioned above.

  13. Edward Antrobus December 6, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    This looks pretty interesting. I’ll admit I don’t spend much time plating. As a food blogger, I probably should get better at that!

  14. Matt @ December 6, 2012 at 11:11 PM

    I’m definitely going to have to try this one! I bet it tastes even better than it looks too!

  15. Morena December 7, 2012 at 12:26 AM

    Edward, this plating is the easiest thing ever as it is described in the recipe. Even the most humble of dishes benefits with a good plating, do you agree?
    KK, using ground turkey instead of beef for the filling is a great option too.

  16. daveM December 7, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    The way you have laid out this recipe…. I am pretty sure that I can prepare this… and that will be the most fancy dish I have prepared. lol
    I have looked at the details and I am positive that I can do this one, the only hesitation I have is not knowing the right size of pan. lol
    Thanks for this recipe.

  17. Morena December 7, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    Use a regular ramekin, daveM, or any other container. There is no standard portion size for this dish. Make it as small or as big as you want. And let us know how it works out!

  18. J. Money December 7, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Glad y’all liked this! And thanks SO MUCH Morena(s), for taking the time to put all this together! And for commenting back :) I’m glad it’s giving hope to those “non-cooks” out there like myself, haha… Easy = Tastier!

  19. Jerry December 10, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    That looks delicious! You certainly can cook on a budget. It’s insurance for your health to cook with whole foods and it leads to major savings. Good for you!