This is Mexican Relish. I'm not sure if it's a "real" dish to be found in other cookbooks nor am I sure if it's actually Mexican in origin. But it does have tomato sauce and corn, so that does make it seem rather Mexican, right? At the end of the day, it's a recipe that has been floating around among my family and we all love the dish.
I am not a chef by any means, but in the years that Tobie and I have been living together, I've learned to decently navigate my way around the kitchen. I know a few decent base pasta sauces and I have some soups always in mind for rainy days. And there are the few other odd dishes that I can either prepare with the aid of various recipe mixes from the grocery. And then you have specific recipes like this that I learned from my mom or more likely my sister.
More importantly, Tobie loves it and would probably be even happier if I cooked it more often. But I try to space it out given it's a very meaty dish and we really ought to be careful about that much red meat.
So today I just want to talk about the process of preparing this dish - but this is not quite an official recipe just yet. I think the dish changes just a little bit every time I prepare it.
This dish requires a lot of preparation work. It's really simple to cook once you get everything in the pot, but beforehand you have a lot of work indeed. This dish requires generous amounts of onions, garlic and tomatoes. We'll still use tomato sauce, but fresh tomatoes are always a good thing.
Then you saute everything in the pot and get things nice and aromatic. Then you add in the ground meat - I use half lean ground pork and half ground beef. My mom uses ground sirloin because she's classy that way. As the meat breaks down I add in soy sauce, a little patis, and lots of seasoning. This is meant to be a dish with a little kick so it gets a lot of ground black pepper, some cumin, some Spanish paprika, some cayenne pepper and some chili powder. And I add in some oregano because I like oregano but I doubt that it's part of the original recipe.
I'm also weird because in recent years I've started adding mushrooms. They don't "officially belong in the dish, but I like mushrooms. So there.
Then I add in tomato sauce, some water and a pork bouillon cube for flavor You bring it to a boil and add in a can of corn. You may want to season it some more to get to your desired heat.
During the boiling you need to prepare the last ingredients - diced bell peppers (both green and red) and some fresh cilantro (wansoy). Please, if you do not have cilantro on hand, do not bother cooking this dish today. Tobie always makes sure that there's cilantro ready when I cook this. No cilantro, no relish. It just loses a lot of its character.
You add in those final greens, let it simmer a bit more and presto! You have Mexican relish. It goes well with fresh flour tortillas. But since we are Filipino, it goes even better over hot white rice.
This dish is one of my most important dishes in my cooking arsenal. Beyond the fact that Tobie loves it, it's one of the first dishes from home that I learned to master and that I'm proud to cook. It's rather feisty and may be too flavorful for some people. But we enjoy it a lot and that's what really matters.