Ropa vieja means old clothes, probably because it resembles ripped up pieces of cloth. This classic dish is emblematic of Cuban cuisine and a lot tastier than its name implies. Traditionally one of the most requested dishes in restaurants nationwide, it also graces many a menu among the new wave of emerging Cuban restaurants. Alongside ajiaco (a traditional root vegetable-based soup) and picadillo (a traditional mincemeat dish), ropa vieja appears in the oldest Cuban cookbooks and gets various mentions in the national narrative.
Ropa Vieja 4 servings
Ingredients: 2lb meat (pork, beef or lamb, cheaper cuts not prime cuts) 10 ripe cooking tomatoes or one cup of tomato purée 3 tbsp cooking oil 1 large onion 8 cloves of garlic 2 large bell peppers 1/2 a cup of cooking wine/vermouth 1/2 tsp vinegar 1 bay leaf 1 tsp cumin Salt and pepper to taste Water
Method: Clean the meat and cut into medium chunks. Clean and quarter the tomatoes. Clean and slice the onion. Clean and crush the garlic cloves. Clean and chop the peppers into strips.
Half-fill a pressure cooker with salted water. Add the meat, seal the pressure cooker and leave to cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Cut the meat into smaller cubes, then use a fork to tear it into smaller strips.
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions, garlic, peppers and cumin, and season with salt and pepper. Once this has begun to cook, add the tomatoes/tomato purée and the meat. Leave to cook for 5 minutes.
Add the cooking wine/vermouth and the vinegar and leave to cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the mixture sticking, until the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated.
Serve with white rice, fried ripe plantain and fresh salad.