Saturday, November 06, 2004

Lola Ebeng's Mechado

I found these wonderful little fruits Thursday at my Asian store. They were a little brown in spots and cost much more than I'd ever spend on limes or lemons but it was the first time I saw these in our 'hood.
Yesterday my daughter and I squeezed the mini citrus into the jar to have a ready supply of juice and hopefully retard further spoilage.

avoid cutting the seeds by slicing the top off
I had been looking for a recipe to try out the pressure cooker and finally settled on my Lola's mechado (beef stew). Bloghopping all over the world from Amsterdam to England to all over the US and to the Philippines even, I have found that there are as many variations on each family dish as we have our islands. Comparing to other families my Lola's recipes are plain and unadorned. I don't recall her having any spice in her cupboard aside from peppercorns, sea salt and bay leaves. Occasionally she'd buy atsuete (annatto) but that was it. She was a working mother after all who went to market wearing her terno (native dress) after the whole day at the office so her dishes were very simple...
I tried to adapt her mechado to the new pot but added the twist of marinating the beef brisket in calamansi and Silver Swan soy sauce.
I didn't spend too much time reading the pressure cooker manual so I had to wing it a little bit.
Brown the marinated beef brisket (around 2 lbs.) in olive oil. Remove from pot and replace in marinade.

Saute 1 large onion, quartered, and 2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, until onions are translucent and tomatoes are soft. My lola called this "sangkucha" and she told me that tastiness hinged on the perfection of sangkucha...(I think the closest translation would be what I heard Lidia Bastianich refer to as "caramelization"??) Add big chunks of carrots and saute briefly.
Return beef brisket to the pressure cooker, add 1 tbsp. of red wine vinegar and 2 tbsp. of coconut vinegar(Datu Puti), enough water to cover the beef but not more than 1/3 up the pressure cooker, seasonings (salt, pepper, Maggi or soy sauce), peppercorns, bay leaf, and ground thyme.
Shut the pressure cooker lid tight according to manual directions and set the setting to high, on medium high heat. When the steam indicator pops up set the flame down to medium low and set the timer to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and release the steam and let sit. Depending on the model of cooker you have you will know when to open the lid, e.g. by the indicator pin. Check the beef for tenderness and adjust the seasonings if necessary. (I must have done something wrong, my beef was not as tender as I wanted it to be so I pressure cooked further. I should have read the manual...tee hee). Pan fry peeled, quartered red potatoes, drain in paper towels and add to your mechado.
Alternatively, simmer the stew until beef is tender, around 1 &1/2 to 2 hours.
Serve with sauteed bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). My kids praised lola's mechado (a little bit adorned)..aren't they sweet. This dish gets better and better as a leftover.