RECIPE: Lamb Rendang Curry
Rendang is a rich, fragrant coconut curry usually cooked with beef. Often associated with Malaysian cooking, the word ‘rendang’ actually comes from the Indonesian ‘merandang’ meaning to cook coconut milk slowly until it’s dry. In fact it didn’t reach Malaysia until the 16C when the Minangkabau people (from Western Sumatra) began wandering and sailing over the Malaka:
Now popular all over the world, the rendang is a dry curry that requires long slow stove top cooking to reduce the coconut liquid and bring out the flavours of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
Before arriving at this recipe I had a number of failures trying to make the perfect rendang curry. Most notably during a visit from my sister-in-law and her partner when I tried cooking it in a low oven. After a long day at university I scampered around the local shops like a headless chicken searching for kaffir lime leaves (unsuccessfully), getting home late, and then (fatally) putting the curry on to cook with nowhere near enough time for the meat to break down. Needless to say by 9pm we were all famished and with my tail between my legs I picked up the phone and ordered pizza. Epic Fail!
Thankfully, after much recipe reading and many more attempts to get it right, I have arrived at this recipe. It is rich, fragrant and hearty, and a perfect winter warmer served with rice.
Prep time: 2.5 hours
1 lemongrass (white part only)
5 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
3 birdseye chilies OR 5-10 dried chilies
250g lamb shoulder
5 tbsp oil
1 cinnamon stick (about 2-inches long)
3 star anise
3 cardamom pods
10 black peppercorns
Residual lemongrass from paste (pounded)
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
2 tsp tamarind pulp (soaked in some warm water for the juice and discard the seeds )
6 kaffir lime leaves (very finely sliced)
6 tbsp toasted coconut
1 tbsp brown sugar
To make the spice paste simply put all ingredients in a food processor and whizz together until well combined. If the paste is struggling to come together add a dash of oil.
Next, take the lamb shoulder and cut it into bitesize cubes.
In a large heavy based pot (I use a cast iron casserole dish) heat a glug of oil over a medium-high heat and cook off the spice paste with the cloves, star anise, cinnamon, black pepper and cardamom. Once aromatic, add in the lamb and the pounded lemongrass. Cook until the lamb has browned on all sides.
Finally, add in the coconut milk, tamarind (plus soaking water), kaffir lime leaves, water, sugar, and toasted coconut. Stir well so that everything is combined before placing on the lid, turning the heat down to low, and simmering for 2 hours or until the meat is tender and the sauce is dry. Season with salt to taste.
Stir the curry regularly during cooking to ensure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Serve with rice.
A squeeze of lime over the curry and a few coriander leaves.
Rice or roti bread.
If it’s a bit spicy have a dollop of cooling Greek yoghurt on the side.