Rendang curry has been on my radar screen for some time now, so when the first winter chills hit Cape Town it was on my priority list!

This Indonesian speciality, Rendang,

I first tasted in Singapore a few years back. What appealed to me was the interesting combination of ingredients, including desiccated coconut and plenty of ginger. It more fragrant than a fiery hot curry.

Tough cuts of meat is slowly stewed and then the moisture is allowed to evaporate leaving the tender meat coated with a dark, rich spicy paste. I prefer more ‘saucy’ curries so I don’t cook quite as dry as tradition requires. If you allow the moisture to cook away the colour becomes quite dark and you need to watch that it does not burn.

The recipe looks complicated but I assure you, once you have made the paste, it is really quite easy.

Traditionally the meat is not coated with flour, but I like to do that as it promotes browning and thickens the sauce. The addition of basic curry powder to the flour is also my way of adding depth of flavour without interfering with the complex fresh flavours.

The desiccated coconut is finely ground in the paste, so you won’t detect the texture, but a richer coconut flavour than that of the coconut milk.

Toasted desiccated coconut gives depth of flavour

Tamarind paste gives a slightly sour note that cuts the richness of the meat, especially fatty lamb. If you cannot find the tamarind paste, use lemon juice.

As usual the heat of chillies differs. This winter I seem to have fairly mild ones in the garden, so I had to add extra. But always rather start off milder options than attempting to dilute the burn later.

Make it ahead of time ….

Apparently this recipe originated long before refrigeration was the norm. The combination of spices, long slow cooking and the reduction of most of the moisture in the traditional recipe extended the shelf-life of this meat dish to a few days in the hot Indonesian climate. It all makes sense. This recipe can easily be made a day or two in advance, but obviously I would insist on refrigeration!

Play around with accompaniments. Basmati rice is usually served, but we prefer the brown rice combinations with wild rice, lentils or split peas. Tastic has an excellent range (not sponsored!)

As many people like the piquancy of chutney, I usually serve some on the side.

One of my favourite sambals is cubed ripe tomato, slices of red or green chilli, finely chopped onion, coriander leaf and a dash of white wine vinegar.

Sliced bananas mixed with lemon juice and thick full cream yoghurt is also popular. Add chopped mint, coriander or Vietnamese mint/basil.

And of course Roti’s either store bought or home made. If you buy prepared roti paint them with garlic butter before re-heating them in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Recipe: Lamb Rendang