Beef Rendang

I actually made this a couple of weeks ago, when the weather had just started to really turn. What better way to stoke the internal fire than with a big bowl of rich rendang in the belly.

The recipe comes from William Leigh (which you can find on Dos Hermanos) and I will come out right now and say it: this is the best rendang I have ever made. So perfectly balanced; fragrant and rich. There is something very satisfying and heart warming about putting a load of ingredients in just one pot and a few hours later plating up a thing of great beauty, the smell of which has been intensifying with every teasing minute.

Aside from whizzing up the paste, that is essentially all you do until you get to the end stage when things get a little hairy. The final step of the recipe involves the splitting of the coconut milk and I’ll admit to feeling slightly alarmed when I returned to the pot to find this unholy mess.

Don’t panic though – this is normal. As the liquid cooks out of the milk the oil is left behind and the beef then fries in it, resulting in that all important flaky texture. You need to keep a careful eye on it at this stage, as once it begins to dry up, you are done. I would also recommend using a solid, heavy based pan (or a wok) and be prepared to give it a good soaking afterwards. One final bit of advice: the method section of the recipe on Dos Hermanos does not tell you when to use the can of water so I added it to the pot with the coconut milk as I couldn’t see any other logical time to do it.

I was rewarded for my patience with a deep, sweet, tongue titillating rendang;  fragrant with lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass, with a tropical note of coconut and a good heat from the 10 Thai chillies I added. William acknowledges that his final seasoning of fish sauce and lime juice is a break from tradition but I agree that it lifts the whole dish and gives a very welcome burst of freshness. The meat flaked apart at the merest prod with an eager fork. I urge you to try this recipe.

I served it with a  raita (tomato, cucumber, coriander, lemon juice and seasoned yoghurt) and an onion salad, which I serve with pretty much all curries. Just plunge finely sliced onions into a bowl of icy water and leave for an hour or so until they turn crisp then season and add dried mint; I keep a pot of dried mint for no other reason. We scooped up each greedy gob-full with warm chapattis then sat back and rubbed our bellies in an appropriately satisfied manner. If I could, I would have purred like a cat. I made the rendang again the very next day.

Beef Rendang (from Dos Hermanos)

FOR THE PASTE:
6-10 Thai Chillis depending on how hot you like it
1 inch ginger
1 inch galangal
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp brown sugar

1kg stewing beef ( cut in 2in cubes)

2 tins coconut milk
1 tins worth of water
Stalk lemongrass
Lime leaves
1 bay leaf
2tbs fish sauce
Juice of a lime

Whizz the paste ingredients with a little water to a smooth paste. Add to a large pan or wok with the lime leaves, bashed lemongrass stalk, bay leaf and coconut milk.

Add the beef to this and let it bubble slowly for an hour and a half. Turn the heat up and cook until all the coconut milk has almost gone. This will take a while, maybe 45 mins to 1 hour, and it will look strange while it’s doing it. Eventually it will start to colour and the oil will come out of the coconut milk completely.

The beef will fry in this oil and turn quite dark brown and rather flaky – then you’re done. Turn off the heat and stir though the fish sauce and lime juice.