Malaysian Beef Rendang

Cost: £12 for 8 people as a main course, very generously

A Malay classic – nuggets of beef slow-cooked to collapsing tenderness, in a fragrant, almost caramelised curry. The shopping list of spices isn’t particularly long – we happened to have almost everything on hand, and the base of the curry is coconut milk, so it’s dairy free but still gorgeously rich. This recipe was originally from a butchery course at the Waitrose cooking school, and overall winner in a family rendang-off that my brother won against my parents.

The only changes I’ve made have been for convenience, as well as using beef shin instead of chuck – shin is my favourite cut for this kind of slow-cooked dish, where the collagen breaks down to give a silky, rich sauce and the meat breaks down without becoming tough into pink-tinged shreds.

Beef rendang on paratha

This was the centrepiece of the latest dining club with my brother and sister – we started off with lychee vodka cocktails and king prawn summer rolls, before moving on to beef rendang over Indian parathas (available very economically at Morrisons in the frozen section of Indian food) and finishing with pudding glasses of vanilla coconut sago and luscious honey mangoes (the kind from Pakistan, only available for the summer months – a couple of the independent grocers on Seven Sisters Road stock them – gorgeous!)

Lychee cocktail and king prawn summer rolls Vanilla coconut sago pudding

I made the curry the night before and reheated it on the day – it does take a few hours for the sauce to reduce and darken whilst the meat becomes suffused with spices and the fat and collagen break down. It reheats and freezes extremely well though. It is such a simple recipe – only 3 steps, and although it takes a while to cook, the active time is very low – just combining the spices. Long, slow heat does the rest.

Recipe: Beef Rendang Curry

Spice paste:
2 tsp ground coriander/coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
12 cloves
1 tsp dried chillis, or to taste
1 tsp turmeric

12cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 onions, peeled
1 kg beef shin, cut into about 1 in x 2 in pieces
4 Tbsp tamarind paste
2x 400ml tins coconut milk
2 Tbsp light brown sugar

Plain rice or paratha and fresh coriander, to serve

1. Grind the ingredients for the spice paste in a mini food processor, and add 80ml cold water to bind together. Add the garlic cloves (as many as can fit) and then fry the spice paste in a large saucepan over a medium heat as you finely whizz the remaining garlic and onion in the mini food processor (no need to wash it in between) and add this to the saucepan as well. Fry until fragrant and the onion is soft.

2. Add the beef and coconut milk to the pan and stir so that the spice paste is dispersed in the liquid. Fill the empty can with water and add this in as well, swirling it around to rinse out the tin. Spoon in the brown sugar and tamarind paste and stir. The curry will look concerningly pale and violently yellow from the turmeric – this is fine!

Beef rendang - before cooking

3. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered for at least 2 hours, but more likely 3, until the sauce is dark and thick. It can be cooled and stored in the fridge at this point.

4. Serve over plain rice or paratha (frozen from the supermarket – heat these up in a dry pan over a medium/high heat until puffy and browned – deliciously flaky and crisp), top with fresh coriander


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