Because of the shared history between Spain and the Philippines spanning over 300 years, Spanish influences are deeply reflected in Filipino custom, architecture and cuisine. You will likely find empanadas, lechon, arroz ala valenciana, embutido, leche flan and many more dishes with Spanish names if you go to a Filipino feast or gathering. One of these Spanish dishes that has become an everyday Filipino dish is picadillo.
Latin American countries have different interpretations of this dish that has ground beef (or pork) as its main ingredient. Some countries add olives and/or boiled eggs to their version of picadillo. The version that I grew up eating does not include olives but I faintly remember that quail eggs were sometimes added. One ingredient though that is a must for me (but others may omit) is raisins! Raisins bring that sweetness to this savory tomato-based dish.
My mom calls this dish “giniling” which means “ground” in Tagalog. My dad calls it “picadillo.” My mom says that she did not know how to cook before she married my dad. She said that my dad taught her how to cook after they got married. In my grandma’s household, she raised her daughters like “princesses.” LOL! They did not do housework. The sons, though, — well, they were the ones who were put to work. This is the reason why my mom never learned how to cook while growing up. Go, grandma for reversing the roles when women during your era were expected to be “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen”! That sounds so terrible with me writing these words but sadly, that was then and even now in many parts of our society and the world. Hence, I come from a long legacy of strong and independent women (and men) where every member of the family is expected to pursue an education and establish a career.
Anyway, back to the picadillo story, when I was growing up, my dad would once in a while be in the mood to cook. And my dad would always announce to me and my siblings, “Stay tuned! I am making picadillo!” I do not remember him cooking anything else ever. It was more of a treat because my dad hardly ever cooked. My mom would get really annoyed because by the time he is finished, the kitchen would look like a hurricane went through it. And the funny thing is picadillo is such a simple and easy dish to make. In fact, it is a one pot dish! Ha! Ha!
I was really craving this dish but I did not cook it until I finally went to the grocery story to buy raisins. I need to have raisins in this dish!. And I cannot even remember if my dad added raisins but I am sure that my aunt (his youngest sister) did. I made picadillo today, Sunday afternoon, after attending online church with BFF and my family. After not cooking picadillo in a long time, I am happy that my dish turned out to be very delicious. It was very pretty with lots of colorful chunks of red peppers, green peas, carrots, potatoes and raisins. It was savory with an occasional bite of sweetness from the raisins. Here is my recipe based on the taste of my childhood:
- 1 TBSP canola oil (although I always use Extra Virgin Oil in almost all of my cooking)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 c potatoes, cubed into small pieces
- 1 c carrots, peeled and cubed
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 c onions, chopped
- 2 heads garlic, minced
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1/2 c raisins
- 1 c frozen green peas
- *1 TBSP fish sauce or soy sauce
- Ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 c water or beef broth
- In a pan over medium heat, heat oil. Cook onions until translucent. Add garlic and cook until soft.
- Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain excess fat, if any.
- Add fish sauce or soy sauce.
- Add potatoes, carrots and bell peppers. Cover for about 7 minutes until slightly tender.
- Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
- Lower heat, cover again and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until vegetables are tender but not overcooked.
- Add raisins and green peas. Cover and continue to simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes or until peas are tender.
- Season with black pepper.
- *If the sauce is too thick or the stew seems to slightly dry out, add 1/4 – 1/2 cup water or broth. Bring back to gentle boil then turn off heat.
- Enjoy the stew with hot rice.
- If sharing with a loved one who does not like raisins but you like raisins, stop at #6. Add green peas until tender, then save a portion of this dish without the raisins in a different container. Proceed to #7 where you can add raisins. (This is what I did for Mr Sweetie who does not like raisins at all.)
- If you do not want to use fish sauce, you can add soy sauce instead. In fact, my sister cooks this dish with soy sauce.
- One trick that I learned when cooking with fish sauce is, if you are like me who hates (with a passion!) the smell of fish sauce in my house but love the taste, it helps when fish sauce is added at the end of the cooking. It does not smell up the house at all!
- Picadillo is great with rice (because Filipinos eat everything with rice!) It is also great as sandwich filling. Picadillo sandwiches were picnic staples during our excursions to the beach.
- To use as filling for empanadas, simmer until sauce is thick and do not add water or broth. Add olives and boiled eggs if desired.