This is fast becoming my favourite curry. The first time I tasted it was on holidays in Malta. We were keen to try the restaurant Zest in St. Julians but the night we went was the one night of the month where they served a buffet menu. I was a bit disappointed at first, but not for long. The food was delicious and I would never have tasted this if it was an a la carte menu.
That was over two years ago. I have been trying to recreate this curry since at home and I’m finally happy with this recipe. I had a group up for dinner one night and decided to do a curry night. I made this, the Thai Red Chicken Curry and the Chicken Jalfrezi. This was the clear favourite.
Rendang is a rich, dry, slow cooked beef curry from Malaysia. It is not very hot but you can really taste layers of spices as you eat it. It was traditionally made as a way of preserving cheaper cuts of beef. I don’t make it as dry as it should be because I love having the rich sauce to mop up.
To make this I have drawn from recipes in Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, Gizzi Erskine’s Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts, Dhruv Baker’s Spice and also a recipe from one of Donna Hay’s magazines. Rick recommends using beef shoulder; Gizzi and Dhruv recommend beef shin or cheek and Donna suggested brisket. (Look at me, on first name terms with these people ?) I have tried a few options and while the shoulder was good, there were some pieces that were still very tough after the long cooking. I was in a butchers asking for brisket when they asked what I was using it for. When I told him, he suggested using flank steak. It was a more expensive cut but I thought I’d give it a go. It was perfect! So that’s what I use now.
The paste takes a little bit of time so you can make this in advance. Dhruv Baker recommends making a large batch and freezing it to use later. Nearly all of the recipes involved cooking the curry on the hob, some covered some uncovered. I like to cook it for an hour on the hob and then put it in the oven to slow cook for about 4 hours. It also tastes better made the day before you plan to eat it. If using the whole spices you will need a spice grinder or if you don’t have one, a pestle and mortar and some muscle! I bought a cheap coffee grinder and use that for my spices. Substitute with ground spices if you have neither. To make the paste you will need to use a food processor or blender.
For the paste
- 100g desiccated coconut
- 8 dried red chillies
- 1 stalk of lemongrass
- 2 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 225g onions/shallots roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 5cm piece of galangal/ginger roughly chopped
- 4 fresh red chillies
- 100ml water
For the Rendang
- 1.5k flank steak trimmed and cut into large chunks
- 1 portion of the paste above
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 400ml coconut milk
- 500ml hot beef stock
- 3 lemongrass stalks, hard outer layer removed and bashed but left whole
- 10 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 125ml tamarind water (made with 50g tamarind pulp dissolved in 125ml boiling water)
- 2 star anise
- Fresh coriander
- Start by making the tamarind water. Break up the pulp a bit and add it to the boiling water. It needs to stand for 15 minutes.
- Then move onto your paste. Heat a dry non stick pan and toast the coconut until it starts to turn a little brown. Tip it into a food processor and allow it to cool.
- In the same pan toast the coriander and cumin seeds. When they start to pop put them into your spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Break the dried chillies into the seeds and whizz them up until you have a fairly fine powder. Add this to the coconut along with the turmeric powder and ground cardamom.
- Peel the outer layer off the lemongrass, bash the stalk with the end of a knife and cut it into little pieces. Add this along with the onions, garlic, ginger and fresh chillies to the coconut.
- Pour in the water to make it easier to blend the ingredients and process until you have thick paste consistency. This can take a bit of time.
- When the paste is ready, heat a large casserole dish over a medium-high heat and add the oil. Pour in the paste and fry until it starts to cook through and you can smell the spices cooking.
- Add the chunks of beef and brown them off in the spices, mixing well to make sure all of the beef is coated with the spices.
- When the beef has browned, add the coconut milk, hot stock, lemongrass, lime leaves, cinnamon sticks and star anise. Bring it up to a gentle boil.
- Strain the tamarind pulp and water through a sieve. Push the pulp through to make sure you have as much juice as possible and then discard the solids. Add the water to the pot.
- Turn the heat down to a simmer and leave it uncovered on the hob for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Preheat the oven to 140c/120c fan/gas mark 1. Cover the curry and put it in the oven.
- Check it after 2 hours and give it a stir and put it back in the oven. The curry is ready when the sauce has reduced quite a bit and the beef falls apart easily with a fork. I leave it in the oven for a total of 4 hours.
- When you are ready to serve, remove the lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Taste if for seasoning and add some salt if you think it needs it.
- Garnish with some fresh coriander and serve with basmati or jasmine rice. I like to serve green beans with mine just to cut through the richness of the curry a bit.