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.

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