Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Beef Caldereta

Calderetang Baka or beef stew is probably my husband's favorite Filipino dish. We consider it so special , we usually serve it here at home, in many occasions. That fact that it taste way better when reheated the next day, makes it a great and time saving party alternative.

There are few tricks that I've come up with, during my years of cooking caldereta. I enjoy food, that's no question. I'm also quick to compliment anybody,  friend , chef or relative , who could cook and serve an excellent dish. But,  I never claim to be a good cook myself  and even admit that I'm a mediocre baker. However, I'm telling you now, I make mean Caldereta ! It's so good, I managed to feed the pickiest eater in my husband's family, Princess L. She usually turns her nose to almost everything served to her, expect those cooked by her own mom. Having her eat anything in party, may it be at a relative's home or restaurants, is as easy as convincing  a cat to eat a carrot. 
She came with her grandma and grandpa at FF's birthday celebration.  I made some Caldereta among other things.  Like always, everybody's already busting a carotid just to have her eat or at least try anything. Spring roll, satays, curries and many things, most European like having since they can't have it at home. She skeptically surveyed the spread, hesitantly ordered some potatoes from the Caldereta . ''Just potatoes, please!'', she says. So 2 sauce-laden potato wedges were placed on her plate, which she first nibbled timidly , then swallowed. Then she stated eating, with less reluctance, if I may add. ''More sauce, please.'', she asked for picky as she is, Princess L is one sweet girl. Then comes the sauce. ''Can I some pasta too?''. Before we know it, Princess L got a full serving of Pasta Calderta! Beef, sauce, peas and all!  I felt like superwoman that day, almost grew another nice taller. That's one achievement , many great aunties still have to accomplish. 

Anyway, back to the home tricks that I developed:

* Instead of frying potatoes, boiled it whole, with skin on. Many recipes ask for fried potatoes. Potatoes tend to break apart and become starchy when cooked in stews. That's why, to hold its shape, many cooks fry it. Boiling the potatoes the day before make it firmer, plus it's healthier too. The potatoes stay firm even after it is served the next day.
* Use beef leg shank. It has lots of tough and leathery connective tissues. Is it bad? No! Once cooked well and throuroughly, it becomes tender and almost gelatinous, adding not only richness but flavour to the dish as well.
* Marinate beef chunks few hours or preferable overnight. Marinated meat taste better.
* Use beer during stewing. Alcohol with be cooked and evaporates during the cooking process, making it child-friendly, but beers flavor sticks to the dish. It will be robust and rich, plus it adds great color too . It also helps tenderize the meat.
* Use lot and lots of onion. If you don't intend to  French kiss your hot neighbor while cooking, put enough onions into the dish. Onion gives it sweetish flavor and make the dish aromatic.
* Lastly,Cook caldereta long and slow. Like every good stews, it need time. Don't rush it . Let the meat and the spices, dance and party  together , sweating it out and bring each other to a placid and tender end. 

Now, there goes the secret of my happy marriage. Let's start cracking!


1,5 - 2 kg beef shank, cubed and bones removed
2 large onions, chopped ( when I say large, I mean really large, each weigh more than 300 g)
2 whole heads of garlic, mashed
1/4 cup soy sauce
2   limes or calamansi
Oil for sautéing 
5 cooked potatoes
4 big carrots
4 stalks celery
5 medium sized  tomatoes, chopped
Few bay leaves
1 cup green peace
a handful of olives,sliced.
1 bottle beer ( 400 ml) 
1 L warm beef stock or water
5 tbsp Tomato purée/Paste or 1 can  ( 350 ml) of tomato sauce
1 can liver pate ( pate has a milder flavor. I don't like the caldereta to have a strong liver-y taste)


1. Boil the potatoes in water with skin on until cooked. Takes about 15 - 20 minutes depending on the potatoes' size . To test , prick cook potatoes with the tip of a knife. If it could be pierced, with little  pressure halfway through, then it is cooked. Discard water, keep potatoes. Cool off completely before peeling and cutting. Could be made a day ahead.

2.Remove bone from the beef shank. By Thor's mallet, don't you dare throw those bones! You see that marrow? That's gold mine you're holding. Cut meat into 2-3 inches cubes.

 3.Marinate meat in 2 whole and mashed garlic, juice of  the limes and 1/4 cup soy sauce for few hours or overnight.  
You could also use Paprika powder and chili flakes for some spicy kicks.

4.Heat oil in the pan. Brown meat along with the crushed garlic. Keep the marinade. 

 5.Add in chopped onion , stir until aromatic. Add in chopped celery. Putting celery stalks is a personal choice. I like the aroma and taste it renders to the stew. Sauté for about 5 minutes.Add in marinade into the pot. Stir until well blended. Let it cook for few more minutes. Chop tomatoes and add into the pot, stir well.

6.Pour the beer into the meat. Let it boil uncovered until liquid reduces into half. Dish will be very aromatic by then.  Throw in bay leaves.

7.Dissolve tomato purée/paste in broth or water. If using tomato sauce, just add into into the meat.Add about 800 ml tomato and broth mixture into the pot. Remember those bone I'm practically begging you to save? Throw it in to pot! Season dish with  salt and pepper. Bring to a rolling boil, once boiling, cover pot. Turn heat to medium low and let it simmer gently until beef is tender. Takes around 3 1/2  hours . If the dish become too dry and too thick, just add cup full of water, stir once in a while. 
8.Dissolve the liver pate in the remaining tomato broth.  Add into the pot.Crack up the heat. Let it simmer for another 15 minutes . Be careful not to burn the meat at the bottom of the pot. Some people stir in cheese in their Caldereta, if you want a cheesy note in your stew, feel free to stir in some cheddar cheese.

9.Add peeled boiled potatoes, then carrots, . Let it simmer for  around 10 more minutes. Few minutes before serving, stir in the bell peppers, green peas and sliced black olives. Test taste and season again with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with white rice or your favorite pasta.

Pasta Caldereta with cheddar cheese.

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