learning to ask better questions

May 22, 2023

Cuban Comfort in Abu Dhabi: Reliving the Magic of Abuela’s Picadillo

Standing in my kitchen in Abu Dhabi with the smell of onions and garlic swirling around me, I close my eyes and am instantly back in my…

Standing in my kitchen in Abu Dhabi with the smell of onions and garlic swirling around me, I close my eyes and am instantly back in my abuela’s kitchen. I miss the noise and bustle and wonderful scents of adobo criollo. Today, I am recreating a beloved Cuban dish that holds a special place in my heart – my grandmother’s picadillo. This yummy recipe not only satiates my hunger but also stirs up delightful memories, reminding me of the flavors of my grandmother’s kitchen.

The recipe itself is simple yet tasty. Ground beef gently simmered with onions, garlic, and potatoes, infused with the aromatic blend of adobo and tomatoes. I have modified the recipe a bit. Blending it to my taste. I have added tomato paste and left out the green peppers and raisins. The aroma slowly spreads through the house. The dish would be incomplete without the addition of briny aceitunas rellenas con pimiento.

I serve the picadillo with black beans and white rice. As I take the first bite, the flavors instantly transport me back in time. The picadillo tastes just as it did in my grandmother’s kitchen. Each mouthful reconnects me to my roots, reminding me of the rich flavors of my Cuban heritage. It’s as if I’m sitting at the loud raucous family table once again, surrounded by laughter and the comforting embrace of familial love.

In the fast-paced world we live in, revisiting the flavors of my childhood provides grounding and a sense of belonging. As I recreate my abuela’s picadillo, I bring her essence into my present, and add a little bit of my own flavor to it. This dish, infused with nostalgia and tradition, serves as a testament to the unbreakable bond between generations. The changes I made both celebrate the old and allow the infusion of the new, forging enduring memories.

Recipe: Abuela’s Picadillo


  • 500 g ground beef
  • 500 g peeled and diced potatoes
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, large chop
  • 250 g tomatoe sauce  
  • 50 g green olives
  • 25 ml white vinegar
  • 25 ml red wine – can be substituted with red vinegar
  • Lots of olive oil 
  • Salt, pepper, and add adobo to taste


  • Sauté potatoes in olive oil until light brown, set aside 
  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and sauté until softened.
  • Add ground beef to the pot, breaking it up with a spoon. Cook until browned.
  • Stir in salt, pepper, and adobo. Cook for another minute to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, olives with juice, vinegar, and wine. Stir well to combine.
  • Add brown potatoes
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavors to develop.

A quick note, I always do some final addition of an acid or adobo to taste. The olive juice is a great addition. I prefer it to vinegar.

Serve the picadillo with black beans and white rice or with harina de maiz, a soft polenta, and let the taste of nostalgia transport you back to cherished memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *