Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Ox cheek and venison rendang



I'd totally forgotten about my freezer and its store of fantastic leftovers.

I got home cold, tired and hungry again and was getting ready to make another pot (no a bowl won't do it) of lazy ABC soup. It's been 5 days of soup, and though I've made these soups in as many variations as this country's range of winter produce will allow, I must admit I've been slurping the soup up with much less enthusiasm day by day. I know not many people can say this next satement, so I say it with smug relish: How nice then, to discover in the depths of your freezer, the last ziplock bag of ox cheek and venison rendang.

Beef rendang is perhaps one of my favourite curries from home. I say curry but for the rendang-uninitiated, they may be a bit confused by the look of this dish. It's not the usual shade of yellow, orange or red, and there's hardly enough broth to call it a curry, the liquid having mostly gone after the long hours of simmering, as the cooking process turning from boiling to frying towards the end. What remains though, is this rich, thick sauce that coats the beef, concentrated with meaty flavour and the complex aroma of spices and coconut. I guess you could call it a dry curry, but that wouldn't do justice to the meat that's so very moist and tender from soaking up all those spicy juices in that slow-cooking process. I also said beef, but for the supperclub that this dish was done for, I wanted to celebrate Singaporean food with the best of this season's British produce, and that meant game in the chilly fall/winter months.

Venison actually works great here because it's pretty similar to beef; being wild, it's as organic as you can get, but much more sustainable for the environment. Unfortunately though, wild venison is also incredibly lean, wonderful for the cholestrol-conscious but not so wonderful when you're trying to make a rich rendang. The ox cheeks here are absolutely necessary to balance the venison shanks (and don't worry, it's proven fat is good for you anyway), both these cheaper, tougher cuts transforming into melting tenderness with eight hours of patient loving care.

OX CHEEK AND VENISON RENDANG
(or BEEF RENDANG)

Recipe with help from my friend's Malay aunt, Goz and Charlene.*

Ingredients
serves 6-8 people, as a side


500g ox cheek from happy cows (chopped into 1 inch cubes)
300g wild venison shanks + bones* (meat chopped into 1 inch cubes, bones into pot-fitting sizes)
1 stick cinnamon (cassia bark)
4 star anise
4 cloves
6 cardamom pods, bashed
2 lemongrass, white part only, bashed and thinly sliced
12 kaffir lime leaves, bashed and thinly sliced
500ml thick coconut milk
200ml water (may top up more)
3 tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in warm water to get the juices
about 2 tsp unrefined sea salt (adjust to taste)
about 1/4 cup unrefined palm/brown sugar (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
2 tbsp coconut oil

For the rempah (spice paste)
200g shallots (or onions)
1 bulb of garlic
4 lemongrass, white part only
2" galangal
2" ginger
12 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water and deseeded
3 tbsp melted coconut oil, or groundnut oil

To finish
chopped fresh coriander


Method
1. Pound/blend the ingredients for the rempah till you get a smooth paste.
2. Add coconut oil to a large oven-proof cast iron casserole pot, and over medium heat, fry the rempah along with the other whole spices, stirring, till aromatic and of a delicious brown (but not burnt) colour.
3. Add the beef, venison, bones, and pounded lemongrass and saute for another 5-10 minutes. You might have to do this in batches.
4. Add the coconut milk, water, tamarind water, kaffir lime leaves, salt, sugar, bring to a boil, and then cover and let it remain cooking in the oven at 150 degrees celsius for about 7 hours. Check every 1-2 hours, give it a nosy poke and stir to make sure everything gets coated in the sauce, topping up with more water as needed.
5. For the kerisik, toast the dessicated coconut over a medium hot pan, shaking and stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Remove from heat just as it turns a pale golden because it will continue cooking to a golden brown off the heat. Pound and grind till you get an oily paste. Stir this in midway through the cooking.

6. The meat should be tender and near falling apart when you jab at it, and the sauce, thick and rich, but not entirely dried up. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt/sugar if necessary. Finish with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, and serve with nasi lemak (coconut rice), or just plain rice really; this packs enough punch on its own.

Additional notes and credits
* Auntie told me about the spices. Although I must add, Asian cooking is very much agak-agak. And the kerisik, the toasted coconut paste that's an essential to any fragrant rendang.
* Goz turned this into a much less harrowing experience by using the oven. The oven keeps everything at a steady heat without the worry of it over-caramelising, i.e. burning at the bottom. Your electricity/gas bills might come as a mini shock though. He also uses thick sweet dark soy sauce to make the rendang darker, which I've decided not to include in the recipe, but which I did use for the supperclub.
* For a normal beef rendang, just replace the venison and bones with the same weight of beef short ribs instead of going all cheek; there is such a thing as too rich. Cheeks for the gelatinous richness, ribs (and their bones) for bite and flavour, almost like a stock. Charlene the anal Cordon Bleu graduate came up with the perfect portions of fatty cheek to ribs. (Goz argues he came up with it too. First.)



If you're a fan of rich beef stews, and a fan of aromatic curries, this is pretty much the happy intersection between the two. The spices, the toasted coconut, the slow cooking, altogether make for melt-in-your-mouth, intense flavours. It's a fair bit of work but worth every effort, especially since leftovers only get more delicious in the fridge, and ridiculously delicious when discovered in the back of your freezer when you come home cold, tired and hungry.

40 comments:

  1. Bang! I love rendang and haven't made it in a while so will definitely have a crack at this. Love the sound of ox cheek and venison.

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    1. this was supposed to be exchanged for spotted dick.

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  2. Hooray for discovering leftovers. I've never tried rendang but I love stews and curries, the flavours sound wonderful. Having a stew cooking away in the oven on a cold winters day sounds pretty good to me. I also love cooking with coconut.

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    1. You have to try rendang if you love both stews and curries! this combines the best of both! (:

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  3. How good it must have felt to find this hiding in your freezer. Bet you felt pretty smug! So many of the flavours I love here, what a satisfying, delicious sounding dish :))

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    1. Hehe yes I admit I was pretty smug. All gone now though D:

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  4. This is interesting... One of the most celebrated Asian recipe using British produce... Rendang with Ox cheek and venison... I'm hungry now...

    ... and you cooked that for 20 people?

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    1. That's actually the theme for the supperclub, and also the main thing I want to bring across with my blog- to share food that I've grown up with, but using the produce that is available where I am. It makes no sense to use things imported from halfway round the world when you've got the best produce right at your doorstep, and that's also why i work at the farmer's market, I really like supporting local, seasonal produce (:

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  5. Venison rendang, sound so yummy! but hard to find this here..

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    1. You can just replace the venison bit with beef short ribs too (:

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  6. This looks fab... I love the dark tone of the rendang. And rendang (of many kinds) is one of my favourite dishes in the world.

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    1. I must admit I have not yet tried other variations beyond those of sg/malaysia would love to try the others!

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  7. I did wonder about the venison and the leanness of it, but it looks fantastic. I love rendang, especially with a roti to scoop it up with

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    1. ox cheeks an absolute must to balance out the leanness! funny, I';ve never thought of having rendang with roti, for me, it's almost always nasi lemak or nasi kunyit. roti feels so.. indian.

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    2. Interesting - I prefer breads with dry curries for scoopability!

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    3. I like breads with wet curries so I can use it soak up the juices or everything feels very dry. Ah well, different preferences!

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  8. i will admit that i have a love for curry that has sauce to be drizzled over the rice or to be sopped up by bread. it's just what i'm used to. so when i first made rendang i was a little taken back but the patient coaxing of flavors was so good. it's not occurred to me to use venison instead of beef, such a perfect substitution!

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    1. It really is quite different from other curries right, that's why I hesitated to call it that. But all those spices and rich flavours makes it kind of a curry. love rendang (:

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  9. Now that you mention it I think I should check what's in my freezer... This recipe sounds absolutely fabulous! I've just had grilled beef and pork cheek. Boring compared with the fantastic festival of flavours you add to the meat!

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    1. pfft that sounds no way boring!

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  10. Love that that fatty ox cheek could bring the slipperiness to your venison ... I love venison and love the idea of these ingredients and spices ... it's hunting season here in the States and SB is trying very hard to get the little SOB deer that ate ALL of our kale, Swiss chard, and Brussels sprouts over the course of the last three nights ... I am in the mood for rendang!

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    1. you are a proper hungry huntress eh!

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  11. Love beef rendang and randomly had a hankering for it the other night, cue a very late dinner for me... And ox cheeks are brilliant, so cheap and delicious. I made a slow cooked chinese dish with those. Mmmm.

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    1. slow-cooked stews/braises are a god-send this season. I love making chiense braises with just soy sauce and the usual suspects liek star anise and some shaoxing wine. how was yours like?

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  12. hehe nice plate :P

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  13. Shuhan, do you remember how many times we had telepathic things going on in our kitchens? Well, I have just been finishing my post for tomorrow and in the meantime started to visit my friendly bloggers and... guess what I have planned for tomorrow? Rendang, but not any beef rendang but rendang with beef cheeks!!! (I am not joking, because beef cheeks is the only cut I use for rendang). Doesn't it sound scary? Unbelievable? (OK there is not venison...). Actually my post is a repost (I have finally managed to take a daylight photo so I thought there was a reason to repost it ;-) ).
    Your rendang looks extremely luscious and unusual with the venison bits. I wish I could taste this version! Rendang is the only beef dish I go crazy about (apart from steak tartare) so it has a special place in my heart (and on my palate ;-) ).
    I will see if I manage to post something different for tomorrow... In case I don't find anything else, I hope you will forgive me.

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    1. Oh go on and post it!! Hah I actually really like it that we have connected posts somehow, and I'm curious to see what your rendang recipe is like!

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  14. Wow! This is so mouthwatering yummy! Love rendang or curry in any shades as long as they're spicy & HOT ! LOL

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  15. Spicy & delicious! Love the contrast of coriander - looks wonderful :)

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    1. it's also good to add thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves or laksa leaves (vietnamese mint/ coriander) at the end (:

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  16. It's official, I have other freezer envy. I love this dish. Do you think it could be made in a slow cooker? Should lend itself to it, don't you think?

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    1. Actually, yes why not! You will still need to fry off the paste etc first before transferring though!

      Heh not right now, my freezer is bare.

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  17. Hi Shuhan, that's such a rich, rich colour - and I love the contrast with the rendang and the rice on the plate. Really pretty. I'd never heard of rendang before... and now two people post it almost at the same time - first you and then Sissi... hehe, what are the odds? :D

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    1. haha quite high, considering sissi and I have bloggers' telepathy! (:

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  18. Thanks for this recipe - I saw something like this awhile back and I've been wanting to make it and now you sealed the deal! It sounds delicious!

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  19. You've given me so much inspiration today I'm almost full already. Thanks!

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  20. I love the colour of your beef rendang. Will be great to go with 'lemang'!

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  21. I have been meaning to make rendang with the last of the beef from my butchery course for *ages* -- thanks so much for the recipe -- I'll have a crack at yours.

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  22. I love your blog! Beautiful photos, great writing & yummy food. xo

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