January 29, 2011

Kalio and Rendang

The rain is enveloping us and even if I tell myself every day that it is  wonderful to receive water from the sky, I do miss the sun and the happiness it brings to the day. At this time of the year, the end of the rainy season, I always feel like cooking long simmered dishes and spending time in the kitchen. 
Of course, the first thought I have is to cook a daube, maybe a coq au vin or a blanquette; all  dishes of my childhood. The daube and the coq au vin require wine, plentiful in Bordeaux but expensive in Bali, and the blanquette requires veal, unheard of here since Sapi, the cow, is too precious to kill at a young age and I do not want to buy expensive imported meat for a stew, which principle is to transform cheap cuts into tender and flavorful morsels.

We live in a coconut grove and we do have an abundance of coconuts though and there is a stall in the nearby market of Amlapura where I like to buy local beef. I love Rendang, a traditional long simmered dish from West Sumatra, cooked in spices and coconut milk.
The process is interesting in the sense that, instead of sauteing the meat first and adding a liquid as in traditional western stews, the meat, the spices and the coconut milk are all cooked together until the coconut milk reduces into oil and the meat slowly fries in it. The result is a very rich dish, subtly spiced and redolent of coconut sweetness.
The downside, for me at least, is there is not much sauce left in the finished dish and I love sauces. Kalio is simply Rendang which hasn't been cooked all the way. If the cooking is stopped before the coconut milk turns into oil and starts to fry the meat, you have Kalio, a delicious soupy dish where there is plenty of sauce for the rice or bread (or for mashing the potatoes cooked in it along the meat).
And this is what we will have for dinner tonight!

Beef Kalio
serve 6

2lbs, about 1kg of stewing beef, rump, brisket or top round
1 quart 1/2 of fresh coconut milk or good canned coconut milk
6 small potatoes, cut into chunks and parboiled 5 minutes

For the spice paste:
8 shallots, peeled and chopped
7 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, inner part, sliced
2in/5cm fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3in/8cm fresh galangal, peeled and chopped
2in/5cm fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped
8 long red chilies, chopped
1tsp black peppercorns
3 cloves
4 or 5 gratings of nutmeg

Flavorings for the Coconut Milk:
2 salam leaves
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 turmeric leaves, tied in a knot
1 cinnamon stick
2 lemongrass stems, bruised with the flat blade of a heavy knife
1 Tbs palm sugar, chopped
1tsp sea salt
Place all the ingredients for the spice paste with 2 Tbs of coconut milk in a blender until a smooth paste is formed.
Place in a shallow pan the coconut milk, the spice paste and the meat.

Stir and start cooking on a medium heat. As soon as the coconut milk is about to boil, lower the heat (otherwise it will curdle), add the potatoes and let the stew bubble gently for 1 1/2 hour, maybe a little more. 
The coconut milk should have reduced and the sauce should be thick.

At that point, you have Kalio. If you let the milk reduce to the point it starts to turn into oil oil, you are making rendang and you should watch carefully and stir to avoid scorching. It will take another hour or so, until the meat has absorbed most of the coconut oil and turns brown.
Either way, Kalio or Rendang, serve hot with bread or rice, topped with finely sliced kaffir lime leaves and fried shallots.

January 27, 2011

Rice, two ways: Nasi goreng and Nasi Kuning

One of the first things we prepare every morning is the rice. My mother in-law, Ibu Boni, still makes Nasi for the day the traditional way: soaked, steamed in a conical bamboo basket in an aluminium pot set over a wood fire, soaked again and steamed one last time.

This rice has a wonderful flavor, due to the firewood and the method of cooking, resulting in a delicious and perfect rice, fluffy with each grain separate; a lifetime of experience that I have yet to master.
We use an electric rice cooker and the results, if different, are quite good. Think a crusty sourdough Pain de Campagne versus a supermarket one!
When we have left over rice, Komang makes Nasi Goreng (his way) and when we have lots of time, I make Nasi Kuning (my way).

Nasi Goreng is simply fried rice, done the Indonesian way. Every family has their own recipe and way to prepare it.

Komang's Nasi Goreng
serve 2

2 cups of cooked rice, room temperature
6 oz of chicken, pork or shrimps chopped
1 cup finely sliced cabbage
1/2 carrot, chopped finely
2 pieces of bok choi, chopped
5 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 Tbs kecap manis
1 tsp fish sauce
3 tsp kecap asin or light soy sauce
sea salt and pepper to taste

For the nasi goreng sauce:
1 large red chile, chopped
3 bird's eye chile, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 Tbs coconut oil or mild oil
some water

In a pan, place all the ingredients for the nasi goreng sauce, except the water. Cook over a medium flame until fragrant, about 5/8 minutes, add some water if needed. Place in a blender and mix until smooth.
Place the rice in a bowl, add the nasi goreng sauce as well as the rice vinegar, fish sauce, kecap manis and soy sauce. Mix and set aside.
In a wok set over a medium flame, put 2 Tbs of oil and fry the meat for 2 or 3 minutes until golden, add the shallots and garlic. Then add the rice with the sauce and seasonings as well as the vegetables. Toss around until thoroughly mixed, add salt and pepper. Continue tossing with a spatula until the vegetables are wilted but still crunchy and the rice is piping hot. Serve with a garnish of fried shallots, peanuts, cucumber slices and fried egg if desired.

Nasi Kuning is rice cooked with spices, herbs and fresh coconut milk. It is, once cooked, mixed with sambal, more herbs, fried shallots, chilies and some lime juice. This dish is fragrant and delicious and my absolute favorite thing to serve with grilled fish, prawns and duck. It is truly heavenly and you should try it, at least once. 

Nasi Kuning
serve 4
To steam the rice:

3 cups of rice, washed and drained
2 1/2 cups of water
1 1/2 cup of fresh coconut milk or canned coconut milk
2 sticks of lemongrass, bruised with the flat side of a heavy knife
1 large knob of fresh turmeric, grated, juice expelled and added to the water
3 slices of fresh ginger, bruised
1 small stick of cinnamon
6 cardamom pods
3 daun salam (omit if unavailable)
1 pandan leaf (screwpine), tied in a knot (omit if unavailable)
1 leaf of turmeric (omit if unavailable)
1 large pinch of coarse sea salt

In an electric rice cooker, place all the ingredients and cook. Once cooked, un-plug the machine, open the lid and, with a rice paddle, fluff the rice. Close the lid again and wait 10 minutes.


2 Tbs turmeric, chopped (omit if unavailable and increase the kencur to 3 Tbs)
2 Tbs  kencur (cekoh) replace with galanga if unavailable
10 garlic cloves (kasuna)
3 candlenuts
In a mortar, grind all the ingredients to a paste, you could use a food processor if prefered.
In a frying pan, heat 3 Tbs of oil and fry the paste, stirring constantly until it becomes glossy and fragrant, about 4/5 minutes. Drain the oil and leave to cool.

To mix in the rice:
the prepared kasuna-cekoh
5 shallots, finely sliced, deep fried in oil until golden and drained
3 kaffir lime leaves finely, sliced
1 small bunch of lemon basil, leaves only, shredded
the juice of 2 calamondin limes or 1 regular lime
salt to taste
1 Tbs Sambal Goreng ( you could use 2 or 3 bird's eye chilies, very finely chopped)
2 Tbs Sambal Kecicang or 1 torch ginger flower, finely sliced (omit if unavailable)

Place the rice in a bowl, remove all the herbs and spices it was cooked with and add all the ingredients above. Taste, adjust if necessary and serve. Heaven!

January 24, 2011

Going Ghetto in the Jungle

 Ghetto sous-vide, that is! Louise and I have been talking a lot lately about this technique and how it can transform the texture of food. Being interested in the science behind all things, she was very curious about it after having tasted some venison cooked this way by a friend. First horrified to see the meat cooked in a water bath, she was delighted by the results. It got me thinking!
Sous-vide cooking is not a new technique, far from it since it was invented in the late 1800's (minus the elaborate apparatus and plastic bags, I suppose), but has become increasingly popular these days amongst chefs and molecular gastronomy gurus (you can read about the technique here).
Of course, it requires a rather expensive equipment but I thought that if it existed 200 years ago, there was a good chance it could be done in my small kitchen here in Bali without going "haute sous vide".
And that's when I remembered reading about ghetto sous-vide in the Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang!
All what was needed was a ziplock bag, a pot of water kept at the right temperature (130ºF) for the cooking, ice to cool down rapidly the meat afterwards and a grill to finish the meat. Then, after some research, I found this food lab entry and this one from Serious Eats. One was about guidelines for temperatures and safety, the other about using your cooler as a water bath for the cooking. Perfect!
I got a nice cut of local beef (tasty but tough), butterflied it and decided to marinate the meat with our favorite homemade barbecue sauce to which I added some pineapple and starfruit from the garden for the tenderizing effect as well as rice vinegar.

Rahasia Barbecue Sauce
make 1 cup

1 medium onion, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 lemongrass stick, sliced
1 Tbs palm sugar, chopped
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs kecap manis
2 Tbs rice vinegar
5 Tbs tomato ketchup
2 Tbs hoisin sauce
2 small slices of pineapple, chopped
1 small starfruit, chopped
2 long red chilies, chopped
4 bird's eye chilies
Juice of one lime
3 kaffir limes leaves finely sliced

Fry the onion in a pan with some olive oil, add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft. Put all the ingredients except the lime in a blender until almost smooth; it should retain some texture.

Cook gently and turn often with a spoon to prevent scorching, it should take about 10 minutes to reach a jammy consistency. Add the lime juice and the kaffir lime leaves. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. It should be sweet, hot and a little sour. Let cool and store in the fridge.

Ghetto Sous-Vide Steak with Barbecue Sauce

1-1lb 1/2 of beef (sirloin, hanger, striploin and flank are good)
1 cup rahasia barbecue sauce (recipe above)

Coat the meat with about 1/2 cup of the sauce. Place in a ziplock bag, seal and marinate overnight in the fridge.
Three hours before you plan to grill the meat, pour enough water in a cooler (cool and hot) to reach a temperature of 135ºF or 58ºC (the meat will cool the water a few degrees). Lower the bag with the meat in it, 2/3 of the way closed, with the zipper part just above the water line and push the air out; this should approximate a sous-vide effect with the plastic tightening around the meat. Seal the bag, lock the cooler and let it cook for 1 hour to 1 hour 1/2.
Remove the bag from the cooler after that time, place it in a sink filled cold water and ice to cool it rapidly and place in the fridge.
Fire the grill. When it's ready, grill the meat until both sides are crusty (3/4 minutes on each side) and brush more barbecue sauce on it. Once done, the meat does not need to rest. Slice against the grain. Serve with a sauce made by whisking 1Tbs of the barbecue sauce in some melted butter until emulsified. Voila!

It was meltingly tender, delicious and if kind of labor intensive, worth it. 
Now, would I do this again? I am not sure I would cook this way with an aged Porterhouse steak; it seems to me that if you have a great cut of meat, aged properly, grilling it is just as good, if not better. Now, I have never tasted the sous-vide Wagyu beef at Grant Achatz' (and certainly never will, oh well...). Given the circumstances, it was fun and the results were great! The local meat, which is very  tasty but tough, was transformed into a tender, delicious, quality imported steak, so yes, I think I will definitely use my cooler again soon. If anyone has suggestions, I would be happy to know.

January 17, 2011

Cool, crunchy and spicy on a rainy day

We have had rain for over a month here in Bali; the humidity is high, the spirits are getting low and everyone watches the sky hoping that today will be different and wondering if it will ever stop.
A visit to Komang's cousin who has a small warung up the street from our house is what I need, just seeing all the packaged goodies cheer me up. In this tiny place one can find all kind of snacks and there, I  feel like a child in a candy store, what to choose is always difficult.

I will order extra spicy rujak with tamarind, es campur with crunchy seaweed, es jeruk, little bags of krupuk and, while waiting, we will chat about the weather...


Rujak can be made with a fruit and vegetable mix of your choice: crunchy apple, snakefruit, tomato, starfruit, pineapple, mango, cucumber or carrot, all slightly under-ripe and grated or sliced in bite size pieces. It is delicious, refreshing (and slightly addictive due to the chilies) on its own but we love it with grilled meat as well. Think barbecued ribs or grilled Porterhouse steak, medium rare and thinly sliced against the grain with this salad. Haaaa, I almost forgot the rain (can't grill)!

In a mortar, grind 3 (or 5 for the hard core chili lovers) bird's eye chilies, some sea salt and 1/4 tsp roasted shrimp paste. Add 3 Tbs tamarind paste, 2 Tbs palm sugar, and lime juice. Taste and adjust to your liking, it should have a balance between sweet, sour, hot and spicy, but definitely be on the hot side.

Es Campur and Krupuk

Es Jeruk 

2 sour oranges or 1 orange and 2 limes, sugar syrup to your liking, ice cubes and water.
In a pan, melt equal parts of sugar (or palm sugar with water) with a vanilla bean, boil for one minute, turn off the heat. Once cooled, pour the strained juice of the oranges and limes in a cup, add some sugar syrup, top with ice and water. Stir, taste. It should be sweet and sour and completely delicious!

And waiting for the sun to shine again, I will make some fresh hibiscus and jasmine tea for us after snacks.

Wishing you all a beautiful day!