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Recreating family recipes

By MILLIE AND KARLA REYES, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 17, 2021 6:00 am

The last 14 months have been quite a challenge for Karla and myself. Although we work from home, we find ourselves busier than in pre-pandemic times.

We try to manage our time doing office work and at the same time all the household chores but, at the end of the day, we are so pooped and just crawl into bed.

But I'd like to think that the situation has drawn us closer to each other more than ever before and that we have treasured each moment and each day as it comes.

Karla and I have used our time to learn new things. Most of the time, though, she is teaching me and I am learning from her. We each have our own chores and responsibilities to handle, yet I realize our roles may be changing as she takes on the more difficult tasks.

What I find amazing is that she has been able to do everything plus cook delicious meals for me every single day!

KARLA: As mom mentioned, it has been a very busy 14 months for us. It started out with me volunteering my time for Frontline Feeders PH, where we coordinated donations of restaurants, commissaries, individuals and other businesses to hospitals.

When that ended I had a short window of time to enjoy being locked up at home. I tried all sorts of things such as planting my own herbs. But no matter what I did, they just all died. Ha ha! I suppose planting isn’t for me.

  Oxtail mechado, a variation of Lolo Joe’s beef heel muscle mechado

I used my time instead to recreate family recipes — everyday food that we used to eat based on my memory. Being an only child, it interested me more to hang out in the dirty kitchen and watch our cook work rather then be in my room and play by myself.

One of these hand-me-down recipes is our family’s version of menudo —ground meat with cubed carrots, potatoes, garbanzos and raisins. Perhaps some would call this picadillo or arroz a la cubana, but for us, this was our menudo.

I’ve also perfected our family’s version of beef mechado. I can confidently say “perfected” because every time I cook it, my mom tells the same story over and over again. It was always a story about how Lola Asiang, her grandmother, used to serve beef mechado during their family picnics but as a sandwich. 

I made versions of this by using oxtail, which Lolo Joe would have loved, and also braised short ribs with red wine, just for some variety.

 From scratch: Traditional, no-frills pork belly sinigang

Some other specialties I’ve managed to recreate from memory are pork or beef sinigang, chicken or pork afritada, pork binagoongan, and pinakbet — all from scratch, no instant mixes.

Ironically, the dish that took me the longest time to perfect was chicken and pork adobo. For some reason, I kept getting different results from using a traditional pot on a stovetop and my InstantPot. I had to tweak the recipe I knew from memory to get consistent results. 

MILLIE:  Yes, the adobo is the simplest of all, and yet it was hit or miss! Little did Karla know I was keeping tabs on the times when she scored a hit!  Either I was starting to forget the recipe I was sharing with Karla or she wasn't paying attention, but I noticed that she would avoid cooking adobo for a while.

So we'd laugh at ourselves and eat it, anyway. We would even recycle leftover adobo as sandwiches the next day. It just goes to show that, whatever it was we were doing, we were enjoying our journey.

Lola Meldy's Menudo

 Lola Meldy’s menudo with ground meat, potatoes, carrots, garbanzos and raisins

Ingredients (Serves 2-4):

  • 250 g ground pork or beef
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 small potato, diced
  • 1 /4 cup garbanzos
  • 1/ 4 cup raisins
  • 1 pack tomato sauce, 200g
  • 1/2 cup water             


  1. Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil.
  2. Add in the ground meat, season with salt and pepper.
  3. Once meat is cooked, add the tomato sauce, water, carrots, potatoes, garbanzos and raisins. Bring to a boil and simmer until sauce is thick.
  4. Serve with a heaping bowl of steamed rice or as a sandwich.