Beef Rendang

It’s true – curry is hard to photograph!

I’m sitting here sweltering: the thermometer has slid past 36°C yet again, and I’m hanging out for the cool change late this afternoon or early evening. Tomorrow’s forecast 29°C sounds almost chilly.

As I’m very much a winter person, I would like to swap with my mates in Leeds, who are currently enjoying temperatures just above 0°C. At least in that weather you can rug up, head to the pub for a cheeky pint and then tuck into a big curry. OK – you do have to dodge the icy footpaths (something I very definitely do NOT miss), but at least you feel like eating, which is the last thing on my mind right now!

Before temperatures took off, I made this beef rendang. The original recipe came from a 2003 Sainsbury magazine. As I no longer own the original I have no idea what tweaks may have taken place in 10 years. If you are familiar with rendang then you’ll notice that mine looks nowhere near authentic: I didn’t have the time to leave it cooking for long enough for the coconut milk to evaporate properly. It doesn’t matter: this still tastes fantastic!

Take 1kg of cubed beef and brown it in a large pan, in batches if necessary. Remove the beef and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little extra oil (use a flavourless oil, such as peanut) and brown a generous 2 tsp of grated ginger, 1 stalk of lemongrass, finely sliced, 1 onion, finely sliced and 6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped. Add 10 curry leaves (as I have these growing at home I always add even more because I love the flavour!), chilli to taste (either fresh birds eye chillis or chilli flakes), ½ stick cinnamon, 4 cloves, 5 green cardamom pods, 1 star anise, chilli powder (again, to taste – the original recipe states 1 tbsp but you really have to hold your nerve to use that much!), 1 tbsp turmeric, ½ tbsp ground coriander and ½ tbsp ground cumin.

Give this all a good stir fry and then add a 400mL tin of coconut milk and an additional 200mL of water. If you are in a hurry reduce the amount of coconut milk you use and omit the water – this will give you a thicker gravy without the long cooking time.  Bring this mix to the boil and then add an additional stem or two of lemongrass (whole, but bruised).

Reduce the heat and return the meat to the pan. Simmer (very gently – if you let it boil now you’ll end up with super tough meat) for a couple of hours.

The longer you can let it simmer for the better: flavours will develop and the coconut milk will start to evaporate, leaving behind a dense, fudgy and quite dry curry, with beautifully tender meat.

Serve with rice, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Perfect for staving off a cold winter night in the northern hemisphere … and, if you put enough chilli in, great for working up a sweat here in the sweltering south of Australia!

Pondok Bali

date of visit: Wed 16 February 2011

It was time for a meal out just the two three of us. In our household, any decision to go out en famille always results in quite a discussion about where to go. This is quite possibly why we go out in groups rather more often … We started off by deciding the cuisine would be Japanese and that, for easy parking, the destination would be outside the city centre.

And that is how we ended up dining at Pondok Bali, an Indonesian restaurant in the city centre …

In amongst Adelaide’s plethora of Asian restaurants the food of Indonesia is somewhat underrepresented. I’m sure someone will correct me but Pondok Bali seems to be the sole Indonesian restaurant in Adelaide. I’ve been there once many years ago for a work dinner (my sole memory of the event is that it was a ridiculously hot day!) so a return visit was more than overdue and a booking was duly made.

I booked for 6pm (I know, I know … stupidly early but fits in well with knocking off work and hauling around a baby) and when we arrived, just a fraction before, we were a bit stunned to see that the restaurant was closed. Our confused faces must have been spotted from within the restaurant, as seconds later, the door was opened for us and before we knew it we were seated in airconditioned comfort. On booking I had mentioned we’d be bringing a pram with us and it was lovely to note that our table had been selected with this in mind.

The menu at Pondok Bali is reasonably extensive without being frightening. The dishes have reasonably comprehensive descriptions so if you’re not conversant with Indonesian food you don’t need to worry about making an ordering error. It was interesting to see that the menu notes that the main courses are all served mild but can be made hotter according to individual taste. Based on the dishes we ordered, the restaurant’s definition of ‘mild’ may be different from yours: although we can both handle our spice, we decided that both of our dishes were hotter than mild. Consider yourself warned if you’re not a huge chilli fan!

I started with martabak – a stuffed pancake, folded and panfried and served with a curry sauce. I’m a big fan of the martabak my dad makes (which I think are more Malaysian style than Indonesian) so I was interested to see a restaurant take on this dish. At Pondok Bali the martabak is not deep fried and the filling is heavier on the egg and spring onion than I am used to but it was still very tasty and the curry sauce added moisture as well as a good kick of heat.

I followed my martabak with beef rendang which was really good. The sauce was very thick, concentrated and reduced and the meat simply fell apart – a sign of some very long, slow cooking. There was plenty of flavour and plenty of heat. Although there wasn’t masses of meat, we did have plenty of rice to help mop up that lovely dense sauce. It was one of those meals where what I ordered matched my expectations exactly and everything seemed right with the world.

Andy ordered some corn, potato and onion patties to start with (think onion bhaji with mashed potato), which were served with sweet chilli sauce, and for main he ordered prawns pan fried with chilli and garlic. His main course dish we likened to an Asian take on garlic prawns. I particularly liked Andy’s main course but in this instance, we both decided I had definitely won in terms of menu selection.

The service was very friendly but just a touch erratic … while there are massive plus points for taking on board the fact we’d have a pram with us and letting us know the martabak would be about 15 minutes in coming out, our drinks were (briefly) forgotten, and our entrée plates weren’t cleared by the time our main courses arrived and we were asked if we wanted new plates. I find that, in particular, a bit odd. However, this isn’t a restaurant which is setting itself up as a fine dining experience, so this shouldn’t be taken as a serious problem.

Our final bill was $85 (two entrées, two mains, rice, two beers and a pineapple juice) which I thought was a little bit steep. We used our Entertainment Card which brought the total down to $64 which we both agreed seemed a lot more on the money. Neither of our main course portions was particularly huge and I suspect someone with a substantial appetite would need to bolster their order with some side dishes. Personally, I thought it was fantastic to be able to order both entrée and main and be able to eat it all (and without feeling ill)!

The bottom line is that if you fancy something a little bit different then Pondok Bali could well hit the spot: you’ll certainly be looked after and enjoy some tasty food.

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