One of the staples that I use for my baon is carrot kaldereta, since it’s easy to prepare for a cooking newbie like me. It’s basically a meat-less version of the traditional Philippine kaldereta, where beef is basically stewed in tomato sauce along with some vegetables like carrots and potatoes. My version uses carrots as the centerpiece, instead of meat, since I adore carrots and I always have a supply in my fridge. I whip up a batch of carrot kaldereta when I’m out of inspiration or out of time.
In a medium or large saucepan, heat a little oil. Fry garlic and onions until they change color. Add the chopped carrots and fry until coated with oil. Pour in tomato sauce and turn up the heat until the tomato sauce starts boiling, then turn down the heat to medium. Add the mushroom, then simmer for 3-5 minutes. Finally add the tomato, then turn down the heat to low. Simmer until the carrots are soft enough for your preference. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This is where it gets tricky. The final taste of the kaldereta depends mostly on the taste of the cook. I like mine to be not so sharp, but enough so I could still taste the tomatoes in the sauce. Sometimes I’d have to dilute the sauce with water, or add some sugar or soy sauce or herbs depending on the mix and flavor of the vegetables. Keep tasting the sauce and adjusting the flavor until it’s just right.
The nice thing about this recipe is it’s very versatile. You can add/subtract ingredients without affecting the overall method, just adjust depending on the length of time it takes to cook a particular item. For example, if I use potatoes, I’ll put it in after the carrots and let it simmer in the sauce for around 3-5 minutes. You can even add meat, although you might need to simmer it for longer for it to become tender. 500 ml of sauce will render around 5 to 6 servings of kaldereta, and the dish will keep well covered in the fridge for up to a week without going bad.
I had carrot kaldereta in my baon last week. Since the kaldereta has runny sauce, it would do well to have good sturdy separators in the lunch box so it won’t spill onto the rest of the food. I used one of my bigger boxes, one with a pre-built separator. I have the carrot kaldereta in one side, and hotdog flowers and furikake rice in the other. The bottom compartment housed my breakfast (yes, I take my breakfast in the office): some raspberries and plums in silicone cups beside whole grain cereal, topped with more plums.