Everyone has at least a couple of comfort food dishes that will, without fail make you feel better when you're sad, sick or just needing the gastronomic equivalent of a hug. Many of mine are deeply connected to my family's Singaporean roots, and include things like pork and century egg congee (with plenty of crunchy, fried wonton chips on top), pork and prawn wontons...and my mum's aromatic, spice-laden, fork-tender beef rendang.
When I moved out of home during my university days, this recipe became a much called on heirloom for when I was homesick. Despite being a very basic cook at the time, I learned that 1. Making curry paste is a lot easier than you'd think to make. 2. Fresh curry paste tastes SO MUCH better than store bought (though there is no shame in using a good one in a pinch).
Equipment-wise, you will need:
1. A blender/food processor
2. A heavy based, oven friendlysaucepan with a tight fitting lid (a cast-iron pot like a La Creuset is perfect)
1 tbs coriander seeds
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh turmeric
1 generous knob of galangal, coarsely chopped
2 red eschallots, peeled and halved
3 bird's eye chillis (de-seeded if you prefer a milder heat)
1 thumb-sized piece of young ginger,
1/2 stalk of lemongrass, coarsely chopped
2 green shallots (scallions), topped and tailed
1 tsp white mustard seeds
1/2 cinnamon stick
500g beef oyster blade, chopped into large chunks (beef chuck, lamb neck or shanks also work)
200ml coconut cream
1 tbs kecap manis
1 medium eggplant, cut unto large chunks
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 kaffir lime leaf, very finely sliced (chiffonade, like this)
4-6 Brussels sprouts, finely shaved using a mandoline
Sea salt flakes
Fried shallots (they come in jars in the Asian aisle at the supermarket, or any Asian grocer)
Brown rice, cooked
Preheat an oven to 180c. Blitz the paste ingredients in the blender until you achieve a rough paste. Add a small amount of water to the paste if it has issues combining. In a heavy based pot on a medium heat, add a slug of olive oil and stir fry the paste for 2-3 minutes, until aromatic. Stir the mixture continuously to prevent it catching on the bottom. Remove the paste from the pot and set aside while you brown the meat.
Add a little more oil, then in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Once all the meat is browned, return all of the meat to the pot, along with the paste and stir to combine. Add in the coconut cream and ketchup manis and combine well. Bring the curry to a simmer, then season with salt and ground white pepper to taste and place the lid on the pot. Place the pot in oven and reduce the temperature to 120c for 4 hours. At the third hour, add the eggplant pieces and stir to combine, replace the lid and return to the oven.
When the time is up, remove the pot from the oven and check the meat. The meat should be soft enough to break apart with a spoon. If the meat is still a bit tough, place back in the oven for another half hour until tender. If the meat is done, place the pot on the stove on high heat with the lid on for 15-20 minutes to thicken the sauce. Once thickened, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary, then set aside to cool slightly.
To serve, combine the sprouts and kaffir lime leaf, then dress with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice and season with salt, to taste. Serve the curry with brown rice, the sprouts and garnish with fried shallots and a lime wedge.