Cooked With Vegetables

Pork, okra, squash and eggplants in sour cream

My entry for Lasang Pinoy 18: Oh my gulay! is one day late. I couldn’t cook yesterday because we were waterless. I can horrify you with tales of waterless days, I can lament endlessly about the perils of living in the Third World, or I can just tell you about the wonderful lunch we had today. The truth is, whether you’re living in the First World, the Third world, the moon, Mars or Jupiter, it is always possible to enjoy a good meal. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a simple and humble meal or a gourmet chef’s masterpiece.

In my case, the contented faces of my kids and their healthy appetite were enough. And I’m one of those lucky moms who don’t have to plead, scare or bribe the kids to eat their veggies. Neither touched the okra but both gorged on the kalabasa (squash) and Sam is an eggplant lover too.

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When the pork was still simmering and the vegetables were being prepared, Sam asked if I would add gata (coconut cream) to the dish. That was really my intention. But we ran out of powdered coconut cream and the availability of niyog (freshly grated mature coconut meat) in the neighborhood is erratic. I decided to try sour cream instead. The substitution was more than satisfactory. The cooked dish was just lovely. The kids ate so well. :)

That makes me a happy mommy. Happier than my mother must have been when my brother and I were gradeschoolers. I wasn’t the sickly one; my brother was. He was so sickly and skinny as a child that the top of the fridge was always filled with his bottles of vitamins. And how difficult it was to make him take his vitamins… well, that’s legendary in my family. Example? Okay, he’ll probably flip out if colleagues in the legal circles read this (he’s a respectable lawyer now) but I’m not mentioning names, so there. :twisted:

Scenario: Yaya pours the vitamin syrup into a spoon and is holding the spoon in front of baby brother.

Baby brother: “Ang layo-layo naman n’yan, hindi ko abot (That’s too far I can’t reach it).”

So, yaya moves the spoon a little nearer.

Baby brother: “Ang lapit-lapit naman n’yan, naduduling na ako (That’s too near, I’m getting cross-eyed).”

Yaya moves the spoon a little farther. That would go on and on. There was a mat between yaya and baby brother because moving the spoon forward and backward almost always resulted in spills. Often, half of the content of the spoon would end up on the mat. And it’s lucky if baby brother consented to drink what’s left unless mother interceded.

I didn’t have to do that with my kids because the moment they could eat table food, I gave them vegetables. Okay, so they don’t eat all vegetables; who does? Even I don’t. But it’s good enough for me that they eat several varieties of vegetables.

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That’s enough story-telling, I suppose. On with the recipe.

Ingredients :

500 grams of pork liempo (belly)
1 head of garlic
2 onions
4-6 tomatoes
patis
1-2 tbsps. of chili flakes
1/4 of a whole squash
3 eggplants
12 pieces of okra
2-3 tbsps. of vegetable cooking oil
1 c. of sour cream or 1 c. of all-purpose cream + juice of 1 lemon

Cooking procedure :

Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes.

Crush, peel and finely minced the garlic.

Peel and slice the onions thinly.

Dice the tomatoes.

Heat the cooking oil in a wok or any large shallow cooking pan. Add the pork cubes and cook until the edges are lightly browned. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and chili flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes start to soften. Season with patis.

Pour in about 3 cups of water (broth, if you have some) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the pork is tender.

When the pork has been simmering for half an hour, start preparing the vegetables.

Cut off the skin of the squash and scrape the center with a spoon. Cut into cubes a little larger than the pork.

Trim the ends of the eggplants and cut into the same size as the squash. Place in a bowl of water to avoid discoloration.

Trim the okra and cut into thirds.

When the pork is almost done, add the vegetables. The squash should go in first because, among the three, it takes longest to cook. Stir after adding the squash, cover and simmer for about 3 minutes. Add the okra, stir again, cover and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.

Drain the eggplants, add to the pan, stir, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Don’t worry is there is little liquid left. You’ll be adding the sour cream later. Don’t be tempted to add more liquid or the dish will turn soupy. As long as the pan is tightly covered while simmering the vegetables, the steam should be enough to cook them. Just remember to stir occasionally.

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When the vegetables are done, pour in the sour cream. Stir. Taste the sauce and add more patis if necessary. As soon as the liquid starts to bubble, turn off the heat. It’s ready.

Serving suggestion: Oh, do serve the pork and vegetables with hot rice. They go so well together. :)

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