Rendang terlagi-lagi – the best beef rendang recipe

If there’s only one thing you cook from reading my Malaysian adventures then it has to be beef rendang. Unless, of course, you are a vegetarian or a vegan….because, quite frankly, beef just won’t work for you. Or unless you can’t eat coconut because that, too, would mean the beef rendang just isn’t going to be your thing. But let’s not bother with ‘unless’…let’s focus instead on the most delicious Malaysian recipe ever.

Rendang is an iconic Malaysian recipe – a mouth-filling melange of spices, coconut and slow cooked meat making an aromatic dish that has you longing to eat it again and again. The first friends I made in Malaysia, Roger and King, took me to lunch at Madam Kwan’s where we had her delicious rendang. Her version has the beef slow cooked and shredded and it is rich and delicious so little goes a long way with plain rice. King swore that this was the best rendang in Kuala Lumpur and who was I to argue?

I spent a long time looking for a recipe that would give me the right taste – every cook will have their own version. Eventually I came across (in a small, inexpensive Malaysian cookbook by Betty Saw, from Marshall Cavendish, that cost 9.90 ringgit, that’s just under £2) Rendang terlagi-lagi. ‘Lagi’ in Malay means ‘more’ and I was assured that having eaten this dish people would ask for more….and more. That had to be worth trying.

Now, before we go any further, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that authentic Malaysian cooking doesn’t rely on the kitchen gadgets that make our lives so easy. Most recipes involve spice mixes that are ground…and when they say ground they mean that they been pounded into a juicy rubble with a pestle and mortar.

What also might be worth pointing out is that while pounding produces an authentic roughness to the mix (some bits are pounded more finely than others) the pounding itself is hard physical labour. I have done this in an authentic a fashion as possible but in the interests of getting you to try this, I think it will be perfectly acceptable to use a blender to get the spice mix made. Don’t keep pulverising everything to a smooth paste, though, try and keep a certain roughness to it.

Also, if you are trying this and don’t have access to the same fresh ingredients that I can get here in Kuala Lumpur, don’t worry. Do your best. Supermarkets sell jars of ready prepared ginger, lemon grass and garlic. Use them if you can get them…it will be a lot easier than pounding.

The important thing is that you try to make this. If you like it enough you can always attempt pounding on the next go. Or maybe if you like it enough you can carry on using the prepared spices because that will mean you can make it quickly and easily. Just make it, right?

What you’ll need to make this is first of all 600g (1lb 5 oz) of beef.

The first time I made it was with deep frozen Indian buffalo which is all I could find in the supermarket and the resulting rendang was delicious but tough. Eventually, I found some nice beef cubes that made a deliciously tender rendang. Rendang is not cooked for a long time so try and avoid those cuts that will need hours of slow cooking.

You’ll need some dried chillies (maybe 8 or 10, say) and some thick dark soy sauce (this has a roasted almost caramel taste)

4 stalks of lemon grass (I think that 4 teaspoons of the prepared lemongrass in a jar would be the equivalent); a can of coconut cream ; some tamarind paste; and some kerisik (essentially grated coconut, roasted in a pan until golden brown and then ground finely. I think you could use desiccated coconut instead. It is important you make this, though there’s no real work involved, because it adds a gloriously rich, deep and sludgy level to the sauce surrounding the meat )

The next set of ingredients are classed as the ones that are to be ground – 300g/11 oz shallots, 4 garlic cloves and a 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled.

So, once you have everything assembled, you’re ready for the off. This is really a simple recipe and now I have done this a few times I can prepare it quickly. I make the ground spice mix first and put it in the fridge so I can split the work. If you were using  prepared spices you’ll be able to do this really quickly.

First, cut the beef into strips, maybe a quarter of an inch thick and one and a half inches long.

Fry the beef over a moderate heat in 125 ml/4 fl oz/ half a cup of oil, for 15 minutes.

Take the beef out, leaving the oil in the pan as you’ll need this later.

The beef needs to be pounded lightly while it is still hot – I use the pestle that I used in grinding the spices. Use a steak hammer if you have one….what you are aiming for is a flattening of the pieces of beef, breaking down the meat fibres so they can absorb the flavours better and the beef becomes more tender.

This really is just a light pummelling so don’t go mad and destroy the beef pieces.

Then pour a tablespoon of thick, dark soy over the meat, stirring it round so the pieces get covered, then pop the meat into the fridge for at least an hour. I’ve done this the night before when I have been cooking this for guests and it works out pretty well.

Then, start on preparing the ground ingredients. Either do it with a pestle and mortar or use a blender or use prepared spices. The garlic and shallots and ginger get crushed to a gritty paste. If you use a blender don’t go as far as a smooth mush… part of the joy of this is in the texture of the sauce.

Dried chillies need soaking separately until they are soft and then need pounding or blitzing. It’s easier if you chop them first before pounding them and make sure you keep  your hand over the top of the mortar to keep chilli splashes away from your eyes. I speak from experience.

Fry the ground chillies for two to three minutes in the oil left over from the beef

Then add the ground ingredients (shallots, garlic and ginger and the lemongrass).If you decide to pound the lemongrass first, it’s easier if you chop it into little pieces. Otherwise use the prepared lemongrass in a jar. Fry the mix until it is fragrant and the oil starts to separate out. This will take maybe 8 to 10 minutes over a gentle heat.

Once this is done, add the beef and stir it round well.

Add the coconut cream.

One tablespoon of tamarind paste needs adding to 5 tablespoons of water and stirring round and then strained off, leaving the pulp and stone residue behind. Add that liquid to the beef and stir in. You will probably be able to buy tamarind paste without the seeds in… here, I can’t  get that and I have to sieve out the seeds. You do need the tamarind though because it adds a sharp hint that brightens the deep and satisfying richness of the meat.

Bring everything to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer gently until the colour has darkened and it is almost dry. In that picture I had just crushed the lenongrass and I had to pick it out later. It’s better when you either use the ready crushed into a paste version or chop it into small pices and then pound the living daylights out of it.

Next you need the kerisik. This is toasted and ground coconut.

I can buy bags of freshly grated coconut  but you could manage with some dessicated coconut, I reckon. My Malay friends think it will be OK, so I’d go along with that.

I dry fry a cup full until it browns

Be careful because it can suddenly go from white to burnt, so do stand and stir and keep checking  while you are roasting and toasting the coconut.

and then I grind it to a fine powder. The first time I did it I used the pestle and mortar….after that I used the Bamix and the spice grinding attachment. Far quicker.

Anyway….add in the kerisik, a teaspoon or so of sugar and some salt to taste. Stir it all in and keep stirring until it begins to look like this….

And that’s it. Taste it. Realise you have made the most delicious rendang…..

I serve it over plain boiled rice that I have added some of the fresh grated coconut to and some chopped coriander.

And then all I do is hope that there will be some left over to either eat the next day or freeze. It is a rich and deliciously tasting meat with layers of flavour becoming apparent as you eat it.

I think this has become one of our favourite Malaysian dishes and when we get back to the UK I will use (because I’ll have to) the shortcuts I’ve told you about. I’ll do anything, really to keep on eating this. It is rich and delicious, spicy but not mouth burningly so and the simple mix of spices blend together to make a complex, mouth-filling in its intensity, taste. It is deeply satisfying.

Try it… try it then tell me what you think of it. I’ve done my best to make it easy for you… now you do your best to make it!

Bear Bars

The Bear travels a lot and often has to get up early (really early, like 3 am) to get a flight somewhere. He needs his breakfast, but with the best will in the world, it takes a bit of stamina to have porridge before dawn… or to transport porridge to eat later while he waits in an airport.

We tried buying those cereal bars, thinking they would do the trick – packed full of nuts and seeds and fruit…. and, as I realised when I looked at the labels, packed full of unwanted sugars and fats.  Surely it couldn’t be that difficult to make them? OK, so they wouldn’t be wrapped as nicely but that’s why we buy cling film!

I worked at trying to make something tasty and healthy and I did sort out a recipe, writing down the quantities and being oh-so-specific… and then I changed it. It’s going to be much easier to show you by taking photographs of each step.

If you want to do what I am doing…  get the ingredients below. If you don’t like a particular ingredient in the second section get another. The important thing is that the consistency must be right before you put it in the oven, though I have to say this is a pretty good mixture….

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2 large eggs,  wholemeal self raising flour, porridge oats, golden granulated sugar, and then, what amounts to a smash and grab on the dried fruits and nuts shelves……




sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped mixed nuts, pistachio nuts,  sultanas (I’ll use two kinds – green and golden –  but that is because I have them and I like them), dried cranberries, goji berries, dessicated coconut, raw coconut, if I have any I will put in dried blueberries and cherries… and then, what might seem to be an odd choice, a jar of Bramley apple sauce. You can buy it in supermarkets.

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I know… I always make everything as much as possible from scratch. The thing is, these Bear Bars are incredibly quick to knock together and I always have the dried ingredients and I always have eggs.. the thing that might not be around is apple. I can square this with my conscience by knowing if I have a jar of it in the larder, the Bear is never more than an hour away from a healthy snack.

I will do this in a glass bowl so it is easier to see what I am doing. I tried to measure it out once but what a palaver it is…. I have always made this by eye and I think that is the way to do it, so watch, copy and make!

Get a your ingredients together. Get a large bowl and a spoon.

You’ll need what I would call flapjack tins… either line them with greaseproof paper or put a silicone sheet in.

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A couple of handfuls of porridge oats… and a shake over of wholemeal self raising flour( I suppose the amount would be a scoop… maybe half a cup?)  …add a pinch of salt to round out the flavour (even when making sweet things, a touch of salt just brings the flavours together. Look at the back of breakfast cereal packets – they have huge amounts of salt in them! At least here you are sticking to a minimal amount)

***If you want to make these gluten free, do as I have done for my coeliac friends and replace the flour with ground almonds and some gluten free white bread flour with some baking powder… it still tastes marvellous. In fact people don’t notice any major difference…. because this isn’t a specific quantity/ingredient recipe any minor differences would be attributed to that***

Right now you start adding the goodies! A handful or so of  sultanas… two handfuls if you are using different kinds.

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A good handful of unsalted pistachio nuts, what a beautiful colour they are and they taste so lovely…. and then a bigger handful of chopped mixed nuts (they are cheaper so that’s why I use more of them)

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Sunflower and pumpkin seeds next….

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Goji berries (because the health food store, Julian Graves were selling them and I thought I’d try them. They are incredible antioxidants, apparently… but they are also nice to eat and so pretty in the bar! (Part of the enjoyment of these bars is that when you slice them you see the incredibly beautiful mix of colours of the seeds and berries and fruits) 

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Dessicated coconut next – this keeps  moisture in the bars and adds a lovely sweetness. I’d give it a good two scoops or so…. or shake it so it makes a good layer, like this….

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Raw flaked coconut is gorgeous so if you can get some add that too






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 Now, if you look at the bowl you will see all the lovely layers of fruits and nuts………  that’s why I haven’t said quantities……  I just shake things in to make thin layers…..

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Add a scoop or so of sugar.. you don’t need much because you have added all that fruit. Sometimes I don’t bother. Now stir everything together. The flour and the porridge oats will coat the fruit and help it all mix together before you add the wet ingredients. You want all the fruits and nuts and seeds to be evenly spread throughout.

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Now, roughly whisk 2 large eggs together and pour into the mix….

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Add the jar of apple sauce and then start to stir

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You will end up with a rather solid mix but it will be wet and spreadable. If you want, give the mix a taste… is it sweet enough for you? You can add more sugar, especially if you have children who like things sweeter. I might add some agave nectar if I think it needs extra sweeteners as it is healthier alternative to sugar.

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Put the oven on to heat at 160 degrees C

Now, start to get that thick, yet spreadable mix, into the lined flapjack tins…..

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Spread it smooth so it cooks evenly

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And into the oven for maybe half an hour or so. This does depend on the amount of sugar you have in there as that will brown more quickly, so keep your eyes on it.

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When it is a good golden colour all over and feels springy to the touch, get it out and leave it to cool.






Then cut it into slices … you can freeze them (but make sure you wrap them separately so they are easy to separate)  and then you will have a ready supply of healthy bars to give to the ones you love.

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That’s better for you than one of those bought cereal bars, isn’t it?

And just perfect for when your sister in law visits and you can give her some with her coffee!