The last month of the year brings back many food memories like this sumptuous Beef Pochero, an all-in-one meal for a large family gathering. This was the favorite dish of my late uncle, Willie Reyes, brother of my mom Lulu. He was a Filipino POW during World War II, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, and his story was one of the centerpieces of my newest book, a food and history memoir, Every Ounce of Courage.
When my Tito Willie was incarcerated in the enemy’s prison camps during war time, he willed himself to survive and to live in spite of his illness, and the inhumane conditions he was brutally made to suffer daily. In a rare story he told our family after the war, my uncle Willie said “The memories of mama’s Beef Pochero during our Sunday meals kept me alive. I wanted to go back home to that meal again.”
For years the Beef Pochero defined our Sunday family meals. Sundays in our home when I was a child, were celebrated with big meals and the family seated at the table, enjoying each other’s company, giving thanks for our blessings. We were not interrupted by the tv, phone calls, or running off to a sports event on a Sunday. These were unheard of, heaven forbid, and my dad would not have approved. My parents stressed on the importance of being together for Sunday meals and enjoying a lavish dish, cooked extraordinarily by my mom.
What is Beef Pochero?
The classic Filipino Beef Pochero Stew with Spanish Chorizos, a one-pot meal, has something for everyone. It has tender beef chunks, smoky-flavored Spanish chorizos, a rich and sweet tomato sauce broth, vegetables, and seasonings.
The pochero (say ‘poh-che-roh’ ) was always a mainstay at our Sunday suppers. It was tomato-sauce based, clearly the Spanish in our Filipino family meal. There was always a large casserole in the middle of the table. It was accompanied by a side of eggplant hash salad, mashed roasted eggplants seasoned with garlic and onions. I never loved eggplants more than this moment. But I had a favorite side to the pochero. It was the sweet, ripe, banana plantains, or what we called ‘saging saba’ (say ‘sah-ging sah-bah’) boiled and plump, waiting for all to grab one. I’m making pochero for our Christmas meal. It will have everything for everyone. It will have the hearty yet tender beef chunks and spicy chorizos for the carnivores. There will be green, leafy vegetables mixed in with potatoes and carrots. There will be a thick broth of tomato, both sweet and slightly tart, that will go best with the heaps of fragrant white rice all our meals have. Best of all, this pochero will hold all the memories we hold dear – of family times together, on Sundays,holidays and Christmases. No other dish comes this close to connecting our family’s past to the present.
What Ingredients Are Needed?
Beef Pochero is a one-pot meal. The ingredients you need might already be in your refrigerator or pantry:
- Beef stew cubes
- Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
- Tomato sauce
- Tomato Paste
- Beef broth
- Spanish Chorizos (or you can substitute Ham)
- Green Beans
- Bok Choy or Chinese Cabbage (or substitute with cabbage)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Eggplant hash
- Plantains or saging saba
How to cook Beef Pochero?
I offer two alternative ways to cook beef pochero: the classic stovetop way or the newer way, in the Instant Pot multicooker.
- The traditional way to cook Beef Pochero is stovetop. The beef cubes are simmered in a stockpot with the broth, tomato sauces and seasonings, for a few hours till the meat is tender. The vegetables and leafy greens are added to the same stockpot once the beef is fall-off-the-bone soft. It may take a half a day to cook the pochero this way, but that is what weekends and Sundays are for – to revel in the luscious flavors of the dish’s ingredients, and to savor time spent with our families.
- The more modern way for me to cook Pochero is to soften the beef cubes in the Instant Pot multicooker. Cooking the beef in High Pressure (like that of a pressure cooker) takes less than an hour, and gives you more time to walk away from the kitchen and do other stuff. Adding the vegetables to the Instant Pot towards the end of cooking also hastens the process and gives us time – exactly what we need during a busy holiday season.
Beef Pochero – Spanish-style Stew – Instant Pot + Stovetop
- 1 Large Stockpot , about 8 quarts
- 1 Instant Pot multicooker, if using; 6 to 8 quarts
- 2 small stockpots – 4 quarts
- chopping boards
- 4 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
- 1 whole large white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 whole (4 to 6 ounces each) Spanish Chorizos
- 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
- 1 can (8 ounces) tomato paste
- 6 to 8 cups beef broth
- 4 whole potatoes, peeled, quartered
- 1 whole carrot, peeled, sliced
- 1 cup sliced green beans
- 2 cups coarsely sliced Bok Choy or Chinese cabbage; or use regular cabbage
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 stalks scallions, white and green parts chopped; for garnish
- 1 whole red or green bell pepper, seeded, sliced; for garnish
Eggplant Hash – for sides:
- 4 whole large Asian eggplants, boiled, peeled, mashed; about 2 cups
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic; from about 4 cloves
- 1/2 cup sliced red onions; about half a small onion
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Boiled Plantains (Saging Saba) – for sides:
- 6 whole ripe plantains or saging saba
- 2 cups water for boiling
- 1/2 cup granulated or brown sugar
- steamed rice
To cook Beef Pochero on the Stovetop (Option 1):
- Prepare the beef : In a large mixing bowl, marinate the beef cubes in the Worcestershire sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking.
- After marinating the beef: In a heavy, large stockpot, over medium-high heat, add the extra virgin olive oil.When oil is hot enough in about 2 minutes, saute the garlic, onions, celery.Pan fry the Spanish chorizo slices for 2 minutes to flavor the oil. Then remove the chorizos and set aside.
- Add the beef cubes to the stockpot. Pan sear for about 5 to 6 minutes till they turn brown.Pour the tomato sauce and paste. Then pour the beef broth. Blend well for the tomato sauces to incorporate into the broth.
- As the broth heats up and gets bubbly, lower heat to a slow simmer over medium fire.Cover the stockpot and cook till beef cubes are soft and fork-tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir the broth and beef every so often so that the ingredients do not stick to the bottom of the pan, and to check meat's tenderness.
- When the beef is tender, add the potatoes and carrots. Cover and continue cooking for 20 minutes more till they soften.Add the green beans and shredded cabbage. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes more. Return the Spanish chorizos to the stockpot with the rest of the ingredients.Season with salt, pepper and sugar.
- To serve: ladle beef and vegetables with the tomato broth into a large serving bowl. Garnish with sliced scallions and bell pepper.Serve warm with rice and sides of eggplant hash and boiled plantains.
- TIP : If you have time, you can cook the beef ahead till it softens. Freeze it and on the day you're serving the Pochero, thaw the beef and broth, and cook the vegetables while reheating.
To cook Beef Pochero in the Instant Pot (Option 2):
- Prepare beef cubes by marinating with Worcestershire sauce. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.When ready to cookL Click the Saute option on the Instant Pot keypad.Pour the oil into the inside pot.When the oil is hot enough, in about 2 minutes, saute the garlic, onions, and celery.Add the sliced Spanish Chorizos to the inside pot. Pan sear for 2 minutes, then remove chorizos and set aside.
- Add the beef cubes to the inside pot. Pan sear for about 5 minutes till they turn brown.Pour the tomato sauce and paste, and the broth. Blend well.Add the potatoes and carrots to the inside pot. Season with salt, pepper and sugar.
- Turn off the Saute function by clicking Cancel on the keypad.Secure the lid. Check that the cooking pressure is on High and the release valve is set to Sealing.Select High Pressure + Manual + Beef and click 45 minutes on the keypad.
- When cooking is complete, buzzer will sound. Use a quick release (pressure comes down on its own) and carefully open the lid. Set the lid on a clean, dry part of the counter.Add the green beans and shredded cabbage. Return the Spanish chorizos with the rest of the ingredients.Cover with the lid. Click Keep Warm function on the keypad – this is low heat – the residual low heat will cook the leafy greens in about 8 to 10 minutes.
- To serve: carefully open the lid and place it on a dry part of the counter. Ladle the beef, vegetables and broth into a large serving bowl or tureen. Garnish with scallions and bell pepper slices.Serve warm with rice and the sides of eggplant hash and plantains.
To make the Eggplant Hash (stovetop):
- In a medium-sized stockpot, boil the eggplants in enough water to cover them, for about 25 minutes. The eggplants should be mushy-soft after boiling.When soft and cool enough to handle, peel off the skin by using a fork. Discard the peel.In a small bowl, mash the eggplants. Add the minced garlic, sliced onions, and vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper.Serve as a side to the Beef Pochero.
To cook the Boiled Plantains:
- Peel the ripe plantains. Place them in a small stockpot. Pour about 2 cups water.Add the 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar.Over medium-high heat, let the liquid boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Cook for about 8 minutes till bananas are slightly soft.Serve as a side to the Pochero with or without the syrup.
- Ingredient substitute: If Spanish Chorizos are not available, substitute with ham slices. For the vegetables, if Bok Choy is not available, substitute with regular cabbage.To store leftovers: Separate the vegetables from the beef and broth. Keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 to 7 days. Vegetables may get watery, though. To store in the freezer – keep the beef and broth in a plastic covered container. It keeps in the freezer up to 1 month. Do not freeze the veggies as they wilt or get watery.Instant Pot : is a brand name for a multicooker that cooks in both high and low pressure (like a pressure cooker and a slow cooker combined). Note that it takes about 17 to 20 minutes for the Instant Pot to preheat before the High Pressure cooking time begins. For other multicooker brands, please consult the product manual for cooking time and safety precautions.
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