Beef rendang with cucumber, onion and lime relish

This rich Indonesian beef rendang is traditionally a dry dish with the sauce clinging to the meat pieces, but I like to make it with a less reduced and runny sauce because it’s just so delicious. There are many recipes for this spicy, coconut flavoured dish because it’s so famous but you can easily make this version in a home kitchen with supermarket ingredients. You can buy ready-made tamarind concentrate but pick up a block of fresh sticky paste from an International/Asian supermarket (and some frozen fresh coconut while you’re at it), keep it in the fridge to use whenever you need it and you’ll never look back.  This is quite a rich dish so you really do need the cucumber, chilli and onion lime relish to lift it, add an extra flavour dimension and some crunchy texture. It’s so easy to make and the end result is a real showstopper – great for a Saturday night supper with friends. It freezes well too and, as with most spiced dishes, tastes even better if it’s made a day ahead and reheated. I like to add some steamed fine green beans or pak choi on the side too.

  • 100ml tamarind concentrate (made with dried tamarind paste preferably)
  • 1.5 kg (3lb) blade or chuck steak cut into large bite-sized chunks
  • 1 x 400ml can of coconut milk
  • optional: 2 tablespoons of frozen grated fresh coconut
  • 1 tbsp light soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Juice of a lime
  • Spice paste: 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, a 2.5cm stick of cinnamon, 3 cloves, 1 tsp dried hot chilli flakes, a 2.5cm piece of fresh ginger – peeled, 6 garlic cloves, 1 lemongrass stalk – chopped, 2 large banana shallots – peeled and chopped, 1 tsp turmeric.
  • Relish: 1/2 cucumber, 1 small red onion, 1 fresh green chilli, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, sea salt, a pinch of chilli powder
  • Sticky jasmine or basmati rice to serve

To make…

  • Preheat the oven to 140°C.
  • If you’re making the tamarind concentrate from scratch put a 4cm square section of tamarind paste into a small bowl with 100ml of warm water. Soak and gently work it with a spoon to create the tart tamarind concentrate. Strain into a bowl and discard the fibrous waste.
  • To make the spice paste lightly toast the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and chilli flakes in a little frying pan for a couple of minutes. Pour into a spice grinder and blitz to a fine powder. Put the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, shallot and turmeric in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of water and whizz to a smooth paste. Combine the spice powder and the ginger paste together in the bowl of strained tamarind. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
  • In a large ovenproof casserole (I use a cast-iron one) add the beef, coconut milk, sugar, salt and the spice paste. Bring up to a simmer and cook, covered, in the oven for 3 hours. It’s best to cook it low and slow so the meat doesn’t shrink and becomes meltingly tender.
  • When the meat is tender, move the dish to the hob, lift the meat out into a warm dish and set aside. Turn up the heat and allow the sauce to reduce to a thick sauce and then add the meat (and frozen coconut) back in. Taste and adjust the seasoning – add more salt or chilli powder to taste. It will sit quite happily while you make the rice and the cucumber relish. Squeeze the lime juice over just before serving.
  • Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds and slice thinly. Peel the red onion and slice thinly (I use a mandolin). Finely chop the chilli. Mix it all in a bowl, stir in the lime juice, chilli powder and a little salt.
  • Serve the rendang in bowls with rice and a generous topping of the cucumber relish and vegetables on the side.

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About Janet Davies @pigeoncottage

Food lover, author, cook!
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