Monday, 28 July 2014

Selamat Hari Raya and a tale of Beef Rendang


It's Hari Raya. The time of the year when one eats all the goodies of the season in the form of nasi himpit, lemang, kuah kacang, kueh, and of course rendang

There are all sorts of rendang, but I'm not going to get into that today. What I am going to get into is that a week ago I realised I might actually miss out on all these goodies especially the rendang. Now, I don't celebrate Hari Raya, but going without rendang during the season was just impossible to deal with. So I decided to make my own. 

This is not my first attempt at rendang and as I do love a good Beef Rendang, I've tried to make it before but not quite so successfully. It's quite an effort to get the flavour and tenderness of the meat right. 

Armed with research from here and here, I made what I think is the best rendang I've ever made, ever. It had a gorgeous flavour and above all, the meat is fork-tender. Both use similar ingredients with the exception of the quantity called for and two or three additional spices.  

There were a few stressful moments while making this dish though.

First, I panicked and kept checking on it every five to ten minutes, when the recipe said to leave it well alone. (This is when I sent an S.O.S. to a friend on Facebook to find out if I should be looking at it cook every few minutes or not. I was told yes, a little bit too late!) Why? Because I finally DID leave it alone only to find at the end of the first hour that the bottom was starting to get burnt. Oh dear, oh dear.

So after a quick check on the tenderness of the meat, I turned on the oven and into it went the pot for its second hour of cooking. 

After the second hour was up, the contents of the pot went into a flat-bottomed wok for caramelising, 'frying' of the Spice Paste and reducing the gravy.

All in all, the rendang took about three and a half hours to make from beginning to end, including prep time. I was relieved and tired once it was done. The dish was delicious this evening with some boiled rice, but hopefully better tomorrow once it has a chance to have a good night's rest. This and a Butter Cake is what I'm taking over to Aunty Jaibun's later today.

Don't think I'd repeat this anytime soon. Maybe next year Raya is soon enough? 

BEEF RENDANG

1.2kg Beef Brisket, cubed
2 teaspoons Salt
4 teaspoons Sugar
3 teaspoons Tamarind Paste
80g *Kerisik

Spice Paste (to be blended)
4 medium red Onions
6 fresh Red Chillies, de-seeded
28 dried Red Chillies, soaked in hot water and drained
2 thumb-sized pieces Ginger
1/2 thumb-sized piece Galangal
6 cloves Garlic 

Other ingredients
2 teaspoons Turmeric Powder
6 Kaffir Lime Leaves
4 stalks Lemongrass, bruised
4 slices Galangal
5 tablespoons Palm Sugar
2 teaspoons Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
4 tablespoons Oil
1 litre Coconut Milk, divided

In a large bowl, mix the Salt, Sugar, Tamarind Paste and Kerisik together. Add in the Beef cubes and toss till well mixed. Set aside.

In a blender, blend all the ingredients for the Spice Paste. If needed, add a little water to get the blender going. Blend until you get a fine paste. Set aside. 

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add Oil. Then add the Spice Paste. Fry the Spice Paste for about 1 minute and then add all the other ingredients into the pot. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add 750ml of the Coconut Milk. Add the Beef and stir through until the meat is well-coated. 

Cover the pot and cook on very low heat for 1 hour. Add in the remaining Coconut Milk and adjust the seasoning. I then put the pot into a 170 Celsius oven to cook for a further hour or until meat is tender.

After the second hour of cooking. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer everything in it to a flat-bottomed wok. Turn the heat on to low and start stirring the rendang every 5 - 10 minutes to prevent any sticking. Keep stirring until the gravy reduces and changes into a darker, more chocolate colour. The rendang is done once the gravy dries up leaving the meat with a caramelised coating. Cover and cool in the wok. Before eating, warm it up a little and serve with hot boiled rice.

*Kerisik - Make your own kerisik by toasting about 80g of dessicated coconut in a dry wok until it is aromatic, brown and well-toasted. Transfer to a pestle and mortar. Pound the crisp coconut lightly until you get a semi-fine powder. 

Notes
  • This is my first time cooking Beef Brisket. It is so far the best cut of beef I've used to make a rendang.
  • I used my cast-iron Le Creuset pot for the first two hours of cooking. Next time I'd put the pot straight into the oven for the first two hours of cooking to prevent the rendang getting burnt.
  • I would experiment with slightly less Coconut Milk next time. I used Ayam Brand Coconut Milk
  • I didn't use the Dark Soya Sauce called for in Not Quite Nigella's recipe, as I wanted the dish to caramelise on its own. 

Now, just what do I do with all that Galangal and Kaffir Lime Leaves I had to buy?