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Kare Kare
Roots

Kare Kare is known for its thick, peanut gravy and its origin story comes with many theories from Arab traders bringing over braised beef, to Indian soldiers creating sauce-heavy dishes and peanuts travelling overseas from Portugal and West Africa. Historically, Kare Kare was the perfect dish for farmers whose working days were long, as it could be slow-cooked throughout the day in one pot which would go straight from stove to table, sitting alongside rice and bagoong paste. For this dish you'll be cooking oxtail - a common ingredient in Filipino cuisine which is known for embracing nose-to-tail cooking.

Techniques

Braising bone-in cuts - you'll be learning how cook the oxtail low and slow until nice and tender

Using bagoong - understand how this punchy fermented condiment is used in the Philippines

Steaming rice - prepare perfectly fluffy Jasmine rice

Ingredients
Serving Size
Serves: 4
  • 1.5kg oxtail
  • 120ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp annatto seeds
  • 4L water
  • 2g peppercorns
  • 2x bayleaf
  • 2x onions
  • sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 4x garlic bulbs
  • approx 350g peanut butter, smooth
  • fish sauce to taste
  • 1x lime
  • 1x aubergine
  • 2x pak choi
  • 100g green beans
  • 1x red chilli
  • coriander cress or vene cress for garnishing
  • 40g toasted peanuts for topping
  • bagoong (fermented shrimp paste)
Equipment
Utensils

1x large chopping board, 1x small pan, 2x tray, 1x chefs knife, 1x waste bowl, 1x heavy based pot, 1x tongs, 1x ladle and bowl, 1x large pot, 1x sieve, 1x deep container, 1x frying pan, 1x bowl, 1x wooden spoon, 1x whisk

Pre-Preparation

If you would like, you can make your annatto oil ahead of time by combining the annatto seeds in a small pot with your vegetable oil, bring up to temperature on the hob and leave to steep for 10-20 minutes. Strain the oil.

Cooking Method
Time: 1hr (prep), 4.5hrs (cook)

Step 1

Starting on our kare kare what we are going to do is make our annatto oil. So, we're quickly going to combine the annatto seeds in a small pot along with your vegetable oil or rapeseed oil. Place it to one side and let's move onto the oxtail.

Take an onion and cut into a large dice, we want to retain some of the flavour and also texture in the dish. Next we're going to break down the garlic, due to the braising time what we're going to do is just cut one whole bulb of garlic in half (including the skin). Pick two bay leaves and place on our tray. Move all the ingredients over to the hob.

Step 2

Let's move onto the remaining vegetable prep and garnish for our kare kare dish. Peel the remaining onion, remove the core, dice finely and move to one side. Peel the garlic by bashing the clove to release the skin and sit to one side. With all the garlic peeled, cut the garlic finely into a paste like consistency. Clean down your board.

Next we will work on the garnish that we will serve with the stew. Starting with pak choi, break them into whole leaves and place to one side. Halve some green beans. Next, the aubergine - remove the stalk and then cut in half. Then cut each half into 3 so we have large wedges. Halve a lime for later, and then slice a small amount of chilli for garnish. Finally slice some spring onions on an angle and then place alongside your other garnishes. Now, move over to your hob.

Step 3

Grabbing the pot containing your annatto seeds and oil, place it on the hob on a low heat - leave to steep for 10 - 20 minutes. Heat a heavy pan and add a drizzle of the cooking oil (or some annatto oil if you have a batch already made). The oil in the casserole pot is now hot, using some tongs place the oxtail in the hot oil and start colouring it nicely. Season with salt and then once one side is nicely coloured turn and brown the other side. Continue to sear developing the flavour in the pan. Remove the oxtail onto a tray and then add the 2 halves of the garlic clove and the onion which you chopped into a large dice. Stir well allowing the vegetables to pick up the sediment on the bottom of the pan. Add back the oxtail along with the other aromatics (bayleaf and peppercorns) and then add water so it covers everything. Now we can bring this up to the boil.

Step 4

Heat up a large pot, and quickly strain your fresh annatto oil into a clean container.

If the oxtail has come to the boil, reduce the heat right down and allow to simmer.

Add some of the fresh annatto oil to your pan and now we can add the finely diced onion as we start to create the base of the Kare Kare. The annatto oil will turn the onions a bright colour. Leave to cook.

Now, checking on your oxtail, using a ladle and bowl, swirl the ladle around the pot, pushing all the scum to the edge of the pot and then skim the scum away. Keep skimming the pan every so often to remove any excess scum.

Add the garlic into the onions which are frying in the annatto oil, stirring well. Once the garlic is cooked out, remove from the heat and leave the base of our stew to one side.

Leave your oxtail to cook for 3 - 3.5 hours. (Feel free to pause the video here while it cooks)

Step 5

Into a dry pan, toast the peanuts, lightly rolling the nuts around the pan toasting all the sides of the nuts evenly. Remove from the pan, season lightly with sea salt and leave to cool.

Now, moving to the sink we want to wash our rice, drench in water and then using your hands rub the starch away from the rice and then repeat 2 more times. After this the water should run clear and be ready to use. To one measure of rice add the same measurement of water to your pan.

Step 6

Remove the oxtail from the broth, reserving the broth in the pan. Put the washed rice onto the heat, bring it to the boil allowing the water to absorb and evaporate. Go grab the base of onions, garlic and annatto oil you prepared earlier. Place onto the heat and add your cooked oxtail to the pan, pouring in any juices left from the resting time. Add the cooking broth and some extra water to loosen it up slightly. Put the rice on the heat and allow to cook.

Once the broth has come to the boil, add the beans to the pot and then in the mean time we can start the aubergine. To your frying pan, get some rapeseed oil nice and hot before adding the aubergine.

Taste the green beans for texture and then add the pak choi once happy.

Fry the aubergine topping up with oil when needed and colour well. To the stew add a touch of fish sauce and then stir. Flip the aubergine when coloured and charred.

Step 7

To our stew add your smooth peanut butter and whisk in lightly. Add more peanut butter if you wish to thicken it. Turn the aubergine to its skin side (if both fleshy sides are browned). Tidy your work top and let's get ready to plate.

Taste the stew and check the consistency and adjust the seasoning as you wish - with either more salt, fish sauce or peanut butter. Remove the aubergine from the pan and set to one side. Add a drizzle of fresh lime juice and move over to start our plating.

Step 8

To a bowl, add some of the oxtail with the peanut stew, serve alongside our grilled aubergine. Ladle over some more of the sauce, top with the chillis, peanuts, spring onions and a drizzle of our homemade annatto oil.

Finally serve alongside a bagoong and rice. So there you have our Kare Kare. Enjoy!

Rex De Guzman
's Notes

Step 1

Annatto

Annatto, which is also known as achiote, is used as both a flavouring and a colouring agent. The seed is from the Bixa orellana (which is a bright red bush). Native to tropical climates it gets its bright red pigment in the waxy shell coating (called bixin) surrounding the seed. The seed can be both soluble in water and in oil like in today's recipe.

Manufacturers have been known to use the vivid colour of annatto for cheeses, butters and other products. But are most often used in oil to extract their flavour.

The stew is something you can prepare days in advance, it will only mature and develop in flavour

Step 2

This vegetable prep is for the sauce itself rather than the oxtail's braising liqueur.

Garlic is such a prominent flavour in Filipino cooking, don't be afraid when using it.

Peeling Garlic


A tip I learnt in the kitchen was to place the cloves in a pot of hot water to help release the skins. This is an easy way to make the process easier when peeling a large amount.

When peeling or working with vegetables (or a product that produces waste) it's always best to work with a waste bowl next to you so you can keep the chopping board clean and clear.

Feel free to cut your vegetable garnish how you like.

Step 3

You can make your oil well in advance it will keep happily for extended periods of time.

Over the 10 - 20 minute period you'll begin to see the annatto seeds bleed into the oil and start to colour it.

Colouring

Colouring the oxtail will help bring loads of flavour to the dish. Two main reactions will be taking place, the Maillard reaction and also caramelisation. The two key reactions help us develop flavour in the dish.

Deglazing


Typically the process of deglazing is started by adding a liquid to loosen, lift and dissolve any food particles that are left stuck to the bottom of the pan, however in this recipe we will use our vegetables to do the same thing. As the onion cooks its natural water will release lifting the sediment off the pan. The sediments left on the bottom are sometimes referred to as 'Fond' and are full of flavour.

Step 4

When creating a one pot recipe like this, I like to season as I go, this helps us develop layer upon layer of flavour.

Skimming

Skimming is the process of using a ladle or spoon to remove any of the impurities or scum that have risen to the surface throughout the cooking process that would otherwise cloud or muddy our stock.

Leave the stew to cook away for 3 - 3 1/2 hours, what we are looking for is the meat to start pulling away from the bone.

Step 5

Nuts are great simply toasted in a dry pan to release their natural oils and flavour. Due to their size and being dried they can be cooked at lower temperatures (usually 175°C/347°F). When cooking nuts the key things you are looking for are colour, flavour and aroma. Nuts become soft when hot due to the tissue being softened by heat so we aren't necessarily looking for texture once cooked.

Washing the rice helps remove any excess starch, keeps the grains separate and stops any clumping.

Jasmine rice is from the group of aromatic rices that are typically long or medium grain lengths. Their flavours come from high concentrations of volatile compounds.
Jasmine rice is a longer grain and low in amylose.

Cooking rice

There are many different ways to cook rice, more recently people have turned to rice cookers. But if you don't have such equipment follow these general rules.

- Finger depth

If you place your finger into the rice and look for the water to be meeting the first line of your finger.

- By weight

Depending on your rice an easy way to get the correct quantities is by using weight. For example with Jasmine a ratio of 1:1 (1 part rice to 1 part water).

Step 6

We add our various vegetables at different times so we maintain the texture and improve the mouth feel of the recipe.

The aubergine is like a sponge and will absorb anything we add to it, so don't be afraid to add more oil to the pan.

The Nightshade family

This group of plants are some of the most loved in the world (tomatoes, capsicums and aubergines). Arab traders brought aubergines to Spain and north Africa in the Middle Ages and it spread to other parts of Europe by the 18th century. All aubergines have a spongy interior with tiny pockets of air between the cells. When cooked the air pockets collapse and the texture becomes more of a a finer texture that can be sometimes creamy or meaty.

Egg plants have two notable changes when being cooked. Firstly, they shrink and secondly, they soak up whatever they are cooked with like sponges.

Fish sauce or Patis

Fish sauce through history has often played a similar role as soy sauce, in areas where soy doesn't grow. Fish sauces or pastes are made much in the same way, but are left for different periods of time. Quantities of fish or shellfish, is salted at a concentration typically between 10% - 30% and then sealed in a container for an extended period of time. Typically 1 month for fish paste and up to 24 months for sauces.

We purposely season with caution in the final stages of this recipe because of the bagoong paste that we use to serve the recipe with.

Step 7

Always keep an eye on the aubergine and your rice.

You'll start to see how the peanut butter thickens the stew, it will become a vibrant yellow.

Peanut butter

Peanut butter as we know it now is thought to have been created in St.Louis around 1890. Commercial peanut butter is made by heating the nuts to roughly 150°C/302°F to develop their flavour, blanched in hot water to remove the skins and then ground into a paste with salt and sugar.

The peanut butter in the dish is to bring an undertone of flavour and also to give a rich fattiness and viscosity to our Kare Kare stew.

The acidity from the lime helps to cut through the fattiness of the dish.

Step 8

Bagoong

Bagoong is made in a very similar way to the Patis or fish sauce described above (however the shrimps are often brined before being salted). Once fermented the paste is typically a white or grey colour. Where it gets its distinct colour is the inclusion of a red type of food colour called angkak. Angkak is made from rice inoculated with a species of red mould which is then added to the shrimp paste.

Get Creative
  • Vegetarian - Kare Kare can easily be made vegetarian. When thinking about which vegetables used, make sure they can withstand the long cook time - potatoes, swede and squashes are good options. Once you've replaced your main protein think about adding more greens alongside your pak choi and green beans (work with the seasons).
  • Proteins - I use oxtail in this recipe, but there are a variety of other hard working and slow cooking cuts of meat you can use as well as fish. Try making your Kare Kare with pork hock or shellfish.
  • Bagoong - If you are vegan or vegetarian (or simply not a fan of the shrimp paste) there are varieties of of vegan fermented pastes to be found. Most popular ones are made from nori.
Allergens
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Always check the packaging as allergens may vary depending on the supplier.
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Rex De Guzman
Filipino cuisine for a long time has been misunderstood and underrepresented so I'm working to bring attention to it.