Picadillo, a Spanish-inspired stew, has long been popular as a main dish here in the Philippines. It is a rich, thick mix of ground meat, native sausage (the savory de recado rather than the sweetish hamonado fried up for many local breakfasts), potatoes, & carrots in a well-seasoned tomato sauce. It is a heavenly sort of hash best served ladled over a generous mound of steaming rice on a cold, stormy night – another of which we are experiencing tonight.
My mother is a regular champ at making picadillo. Hers is an incredibly flavorful sort made hearty by the combination of beef & pork. It was the sort of dish I despaired of getting right until, finally, trial & error finally paid off.
My version of the dish features just pork augmented by the addition of smoked ham or turkey. The addition of this bit of smokiness keeps the richness in check & has the additional virtue of making the dish meatier, more substantial. Also, I add a bit of sweet paprika (pimenton dulce) along with the bay leaf traditionally used to flavor the dish, as well as a handful of raisins to add a hint of sweetness to balance the sharpness of the tomato in the dish.
Here in the Philippines, picadillo is best served over rice, though some families of Spanish descent also use it to fill warmed rolls. I daresay it would also work a treat spooned generously over steaming-hot baked potatoes or even a mound of creamy mash.
- 1/2 kilo lean ground pork
- 1/2 cup smoked ham or turkey, coarsely chopped
- 1 chorizo de Bilbao or frankfurter, diced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled & diced
- 1 large potato, peeled & diced
- 1 eggplant, peeled & diced (Note: use an Asian eggplant; it’s less bitter)
- 1 medium red onion, finely minced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 chicken or pork bouillon cubes
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/8 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 dried bay leaf
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons raisins
Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter & oil. When the butter has melted, add the onion & cook till softened. Add the garlic; cook till browned & fragrant. Add one of the bouillon cubes, crushing it as you mix it with the aromatics. Put in all the vegetables, & cook till tender. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool for a while.
In the same saucepan, cook the ham for a couple of minutes with the remaining bouillon cube, then add the pork and about 1/2 tablespoon of rock salt. Once the pork has browned, add the paprika & chorizo. Cook for a couple of minutes and return the vegetables to the pan. Add the tomato sauce and water; mix well & bring to a boil. Put in the raisins & bay leaf; cover the pan. Lower the heat & simmer 10 – 15 minutes. Check for seasoning. Serve with rice; if desired, you may choose to serve fried saba bananas (plantains) and fried eggs for arroz ala Cubana.