My household recently underwent a transition as we got a new member from Minnesota. Being of the helpful sort he is always offering to go on errands and such so when I saw him eyeing a somewhat complicated looking recipe in my most recent issue of Saveur Magazine I told him I'd make it if someone tracked down the ingredients.
Thus after a trip to the International District of Seattle he brought home lemon grass, keffir lime leaves and galangal. Amazingly enough I had all the rest of the long list of ingredients just lying around – including red pepper from Bali. The dish – Beef Rendang – an Indonesian specialty originating from West Sumatra.
Here is the finished product many hours later over quinoa and a very Northwesty arugula, spinach, apple and cashew salad.
Beef rendang is a slow cooked meal – essentially a complex paste is smothered over cubes of beef then soaked in coconut milk with whole spices and cooked on low for 4 hours. The coconut milk cooks down and the beef turns into a soft and chewy flavor bundle. A flavor bundle that apparently is preserved & cured by the process and the spices it cooked in.
So where do you start such a food making journey?
Get out your food processor, spice grinder, and mortar & pestle and smash some nutmeg. Then grind said nutmeg in a spice grinder with some whole cloves until both are a fine powder. Make sure it is a fine powder or else the nutmeg will come back to get your teeth later.
Galangal is really really hard. You need a sharp knife and you need to thinly slice it. Whatever you do – do not put large chunks of it into your food processor. I did this and it was a nightmare to create a paste because the galangal kept catching on the blades and causing my poor little machine to shake and lurch. So my photo below shows what not to do.
Using a tool other than your fingers (its really hot) remove the large chunks of spices and you are ready to serve your Beef Rendang.
2 lb boneless beef chuck (cut into 2 inch pieces)
2 cans of coconut milk or cream
2 sticks cinnamon
7 fresh keffir lime leaves
3 stalks fresh lemon grass
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 whole nutmeg
5 whole cloves
3 red chilis (cut the stem off)
1 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
3 large cloves garlic
6 small shallots or 1 bunch green onions
5 macademia nuts
1 chunk of fresh ginger at least 2 inches without the skin and sliced
1 chunk of fresh galangal at least 2 inches – sliced thinly!
Start by making the paste. Crush the whole nutmeg in a mortar & pestle then grind in a spice grinder with the whole clove pieces.
Place the clove and nutmeg powder in a food processor with the macademia nuts, garlic, ginger, galangal, shallots and tumeric. Blend until everything forms a paste.
Place your beef and paste in a good stove top pan (I used my enameled cast iron pot). Massage the paste into the beef.
Add two cans of coconut milk and the cinnamon sticks, lemon grass stalks, keffir lime leaves and salt. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to medium low.
Cook on medium low for the next 3 1/2 hours stirring frequently to prevent the coconut milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Pull out the whole spices (cinnamon, keffir lime leaves, and lemongrass) and serve over rice or quinoa.