Tonight I am cooking a Beef Rendang. It's one of our favourite dishes, and popular throughout Malaysia and Indonesia, and I am *shock horror* using a packet mix for it - a spice paste from the excellent Asian Home Gourmet range which I buy from the Chinese cash and carry. They are excellent for when you want an exotic-tasting treat without the effort, and a great benefit for us is that the Rendang mixture contains no blachan or fish sauce, neither of which Mark can eat.
I'd already decided that was to be tonight's meal when I realised that the droopiness and lethargy I've been suffering from since being poorly a fortnight ago had lifted, and I was actually in the mood to spend the afternoon in the kitchen, so I decided to make a few accompaniments to go with it.
On the left is a crunchy mixture of flaked coconut and peanuts, very loosely based on an Indonesian Rijstaffel dish called Serondeng which uses grated fresh coconut cooked in the spices until dry, and on the right is an Asianified version of good old Lancashire style quick pickled onions.
First of all, the onions - prepare these several hours in advance:
Mix together 1tbs tamarind liquid (you can buy tamarind "stock cubes" from Asian stores, or infuse a small piece of dried tamarind in hot water - if you can't get either, mix together a dessertspoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of redcurrant jelly), 1 tsp honey, a couple of generous shakes of Tabasco, ½ tsp salt and 100ml red wine vinegar. Slice a red onion as thinly as possible and stir into the liquid. Cover and leave for a few hours, stirring several times, before spooning the onion out of the liquid and serving.
For the coconut and peanut mixture:
You will need (quantities are approximate, use whatever measuring cup you have to hand)
I coffee mug full of flaked dried coconut
½ of the same mug full of plain unsalted peanuts
1 small onion, very finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs groundnut (or other unflavoured) oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon honey
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and very gently fry the onions until they are very soft and starting to turn dark brown at the edges. Stir in the garlic, peanuts and spices and continue cooking for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the peanuts start to colour. Add the honey and blend it in well, then mix in the coconut flakes and stir quickly until they start to colour at the edges. Remove from the heat immediately as the nuts will continue to cook in the residual heat. Taste and add salt if you wish - it rather depends on what else you are serving this with.
This makes more than you will need at one meal but it keeps well in an airtight container. Delicious scattered over curries, stir fries and noodle dishes, or served alone as a nibble. And I think I'm going to try some scattered crouton-style over a chicken noodle soup.
I'm also serving Gado gado - you can find the recipe here - this is how it looks so far
I haven't got any watercress today but there's plenty other veg to satisfy us. I've made the peanut sauce, boiled some eggs and fried some prawn crackers, and will assemble the whole thing just before we eat.
I hope you enjoy whatever you are planning to eat tonight - I KNOW that we will. Bon appetit!