Opa’s beef rendang

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As alluded to in my previous recipe, my Opa grew up in Indonesia. He passed away when I was nine years old, and it has only been recently as I’ve become more passionate about cooking everything (I genuinely had never grilled meat on a barbecue until a few months ago), that I have embarked on what I am not even hyperbolically describing as a spiritual journey in getting in touch with him through cooking his food. Food has always been hugely important in my family, and he was an exceptional cook – to the point where he finally started writing his recipes down with the intention of turning it into a book (life/cancer had other plans). My Dad photocopied some of these for me to work my way through: this is the first.

I had a whole afternoon to prepare this – and you kind of need it (along with a morning trawling through Asian supermarkets to find the ingredients). Rendang is a dry, spicy but not hot curry that is a traditional Indonesian beef curry. Alternatively you can buy the prepackaged spice concoctions to prepare this dish, but I promise that the extra love that goes in is worth it, regardless of whether you grow sentimental through how delicious it tastes. Curry is one of those forgiving dishes that gets better the longer it is leftover and this one in particular freezes very well. I served it to friends the night after preparing it, with plenty left over for meals later in the week. Make a shopping list, ensure you have a large enough container to store it, and you will have an impressive dinner on hand to serve to friends in the freezer.

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Serves 6-8 people easily

Ingredients:

  • 3kg rump steak – trimmed of fat and diced into small cubes
  • 4 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tsp sambal oelek or chilli paste
  • Fresh ginger ~6cm x 2cm, sliced into thin strips (note these will be removed later)
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 tsp coriander
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 4-5 pieces galangal
  • 2 stalks lemongrass (I bought both of these ingredients frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind softened in 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 10 tablespoons desiccated coconut, fried/toasted
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. In a large, thick-bottomed saucepan (as big as you can get, seriously), heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and add the beef, onions, garlic, chilli paste, ginger and salt. Stir frequently to brown most of the meat all over. While it is browning, make sure you have all the other ingredients ready to go.
  2. Add the spices (turmeric, coriander, bay leaves, galangal and lemongrass) along with the softened tamarind. Stir to combine through.
  3. Add the coconut milk, which should reach to just below the top of the meat.
  4. Bring the curry to boil, lower the heat and cover pot partially. Stir occasionally and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Add the fried coconut and stir. Continue to cook over very low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring to ensure the meat doesn’t catch or burn at the bottom. This is a dry curry: the liquid should be mostly evaporated when it’s finished, the meat will be falling apart and some oil from it will have separated off.
  6. When the curry has reached its dry consistency, add the salt, lemon juice and palm sugar (or brown sugar). Remove from heat and extract the bits of ginger, lemongrass and galangal before storing in the fridge – this is a curry best served the day after preparation.
  7. Serve with jasmine rice, cucumber and/or salad leaves
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