It’s my mother’s birthday today. Shame because we live oceans apart. But that did not stop me last night from cooking the Filipino birthday dish, the Pancit Bihon or Rice Sticks with sliced vegetables served with calamansi, a citrus I miss so much because I can’t easily get it here in Sydney. It is traditionally served during birthday parties of young and old alike to wish them long life. Thus, you are not supposed to cut the rice sticks when you add them to the dish. I’m not really superstitious and I find it easier to add the noodles to the pan so I broke them in halves when I cooked them last night.
My mother was one of the two people who influenced my love for food and cooking while I was growing up. The other person was my grandfather, my mother’s father if you are wondering who the other person was. I remember my grandfather was a good cook but what I most remember about him was the vegetable garden he tended. The tomatoes you pick out straight off the plant and eat right there and then. I remember my brother did that a lot. And the mangoes, harvest time was just awesome. Different varieties of mangoes. The best thing I liked then was the abundance of cocoa fruits. I loved sucking the juices off the cocoa seeds. Then my grandfather would dry the cocoa beans out in the sun for days and make cocoa powder. Aah the memories of hot chocolates during my childhood. And coffee beans too, which my grandfather would dry out in the sun and then he would brew his own coffee. I miss my grandfather. But going back to my mother, she is a great cook. The thing I like about her cooking is she adds her own touch and twist to a basic recipe. I’m not even sure if she is aware of that but I remember her using whatever was in the pantry and fridge and would create a nice family meal. She has signature dishes my friends loved when they would camp at my place. And she was generous and she remembered each one’s favorite and would cook for them. I’m a dessert person so I liked her plantain bananas cooked in sugar. Such a simple dessert but I loved it! I loved the Hawaiian pineapple chicken, the adobo, the Spanish-inspired rice dish and the morcon or stuffed rolled steak. You see, for some reason I cannot cook Filipino dishes the way my mother does, or any Filipino cook for that matter. But I tried and still am trying. I have two Filipino cookbooks I took with me when we moved overseas. One of them is called Filipino Cooking Here and Abroad. I have mastered one thing from that book, the bread pudding. I told you I love desserts 🙂 After I started with this blog, I got inspired to revisit the recipes from that book and thought I’d try one of my favorites, morcon. Truth be known, the end product did not look like the morcon my mother cooked for us. But the dish was still good and my husband liked it so enough said. 🙂
Morcon (Stuffed Rolled Steak)
- 1 kg beef steak (rump or flank)
- 3 tbs soy sauce
- juice of half a lemon (traditionally we use the calamansi but lemon or lime can be substituted)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 6 strips
- 2 hotdogs or frankfurters ( other recipe uses chorizo de bilbao, which is harder to find here in Sydney so I used hotdogs)
- 2 slices bacon, each cut in half lengthwise
- 2 big sweet gherkins, quartered
- 4 cheese sticks (some recipes do not have cheese but if you want it more savory, add the cheese. I did.)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
- 2 tbs cooking oil
- 1/4 cup flour
- 4 cups water (I used 2 cups water and 2 cups beef stock)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 cup canned tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp peppercorns
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
1. Slice meat beginning on one long side across to within 1/2″ of the other side. Open. Pound with side of a cleaver to flatten. I prepared 2 x 500g flattened steak.
2. Combine garlic, lemon juice and soy sauce. Pour over meat and let stand for an hour.
4. Roll meat carefully from one end to the other and tie securely with kitchen cord.
6. Add water, stock, marinade, tomatoes, onions, peppercorns, bay leaf and salt. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until rolls are tender. Turn the meat once or twice while cooking.7. Transfer meat to warm serving dish. Remove strings. Meanwhile, strain gravy. Thicken it with flour if too thin by adding 2 tbs flour dissolved in 1/4 cup water and cooking over moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring until smooth.
8. Slice meat rolls crosswise and serve with gravy.