Friday, June 19, 2009

More Comfort Food - Beef Rendang

Laurent was sick last week, and now it's my turn. Summer is just too inconsistent this year: we had wonderful sunshine and warmth on Wednesday, and now the weather is gray and rainy once again.

We had planned to attend a couple of shows at Montreal's Fringe Festival on Thursday. We had agreed to leave early and grab a quick pre-show bite in the Plateau (the Fringe area, and my former neighbourhood), at Rôtisserie Coco Rico, an old favourite of mine: their delicious Portuguese chicken has allowed me to survive during a good part of my years as an undergrad student.

But two hours before we were supposed to leave, I began to feel the telltale chills and sinus pressure. By 6 pm, I knew that the only way I was going to get through the evening was to forgo the Portuguese chicken (as much as I love it) in favour of something even more comforting: Vietnamese pho (soupe tonkinoise in French).

So we went to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant, where I had a huge, piping hot bowl of chicken noodle soup. It made me feel better instantly, and gave me the energy to go to the Fringe after all.

It feels a bit strange, writing about the virtues of hot soup when everyone else (or so it seems) is blogging about cherries, ice cream and cold drinks. But I'll get there too, eventually... as soon as I get over this cold and the sun decides to show itself for good.

On the bright side, the cool-ish weather means I get to use my Dutch oven a little longer. My father-in-law gave it to me for Christmas, and I love it! It's my baby:

As you may have guessed, I have a special fondness for braised dishes. I love anything that simmers and soaks up flavours for hours, then comes out so tender that it practically dissolves in one's mouth. So, while I would love to wear my sundresses a little more often, I'm also quite happy to continue making comfort food for as long as necessary.

And so, I give you beef rendang. It is an Indonesian curry I made last week. Normally, it should be made in a wok, but I felt more like taking my Dutch oven out for a spin (the wok gets plenty of use anyway). This particular combination of spices was especially good. Usually, I make fast, sauteed curries, but taking the time to simmer the meat was definitely worth it.

A word of caution: this dish was very spicy. I can usually handle spicy meals pretty well, but this tested my limits. It wasn't so much that I had used too many chili peppers, but they had dissolved completely into the sauce during the simmering, and so the entire dish was hot and fiery, rather than containing pockets of heat. If you can't handle spicy recipes, it might be better to add the peppers in towards the end, or replace them with dried chili flakes.

Beef Rendang
Adapted from Le Grand Livre du Wok

Serves 3-4

1 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
400 ml (1 3/4 cups) coconut milk
1/4 tsp ground cloves
500 g chuck beef, cut into 2,5 cm (1 inch) cubes
2 fresh small red chili peppers, minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, cut lengthwise and crushed
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
Lime wedges, for serving

Put the coriander, fennel and cumin in a small frying pan and dry-cook them over high heat for about 1 minute, until they become fragrant. Do not let them brown. Crush them with a pestle, or in a spice grinder. Reserve.

Using a hand blender, puree the onion and garlic with a little bit of water, to obtain a smooth paste. Reserve.

Pour half the coconut milk in a wok or Dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half.

Add the clove powder, coriander, fennel and cumin. Combine and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the meat and brown for 2 minutes. Add the onion-garlic mixture, the chili peppers, lemon juice, lemongrass, sugar, salt and remaining coconut milk. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 2 hours, until the liquid is reduced, the mixture has thickened, and the meat is very tender. Stir occasionally, and add water if you feel the liquid is drying up too fast (the meat should not stick at any point). Towards the end, uncover and cook over medium-high heat, until most of the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a very thick sauce. Serve with lime wedges and your preferred rice.


  1. Oooo, my boyfriend's been telling how great indonesian curry tastes but i never got to looking for the recipe, THANKS for sharing! I'll try this once the weather cools down... it's still icecream and cold drinks for me right now, hehe. That's an adorable dutch oven btw ;) hope your cold gets better soon!

  2. I love Pho. One of my friends is obsessed with it and he goes to Pho Bang in China town four times a week. I go with him at least once a week. Don't worry, when I was sick recently all I ate was pho. It makes everything feel better! I hope the cold is subsiding.

    The curry looks so delicious, can you bring some over, I will trade you for a mojito?!?

  3. Ah yes sinus, colds and Pho, totally a marriage of perfection.

    Now if I were to make this Beef Rendang, I think I wold use a slightly milder pepper like the poblano in my fridge ... unfortunately it was well into the heat of the day at the crack of dawn here this morning. We have total summer here. Perhaps I can put an alarm on this one for about mid November ;)

  4. Anjelikuh: It really is a good curry, listen to your boyfriend!

    Christie: Now that summer has FINALLY hit, I think it'd be kind of an unfair trade, don't you think? A nice cool cocktail for a hot meat-based dish... :-)

    MyKitchen: Summer has hit here too, at last! I'll admit even I am less tempted by stews and the like at the moment... But come fall and I'm making this again!