This post was sponsored by Le Creuset. They asked me to write a one pot recipe and to choose one of their pots to cook it in. I fancied something spiced, slow cooked and full of character, so I settled on a rendang inspired by my travels to Malaysia. I chose a shallow pot that would aid evaporation, caramelisation and intensification of the sauce (a 30cm shallow casserole, in lovely Marseille blue).
I have been to Malaysia twice in the past year, to the tip of it in Langkawi, and the bottom, Sabah, Borneo. I love it there for many reasons. The monkeys (who can resist?), the rainforests and the gorgeous seas, the sandy beaches and the mangrove trees. Best of all is the food, seasoned with punchy aromatics and a little spice. Where India has spices, Malysia has aroma – galangal, lime leaves, lemongrass, lots of fresh turmeric – and slow cooked tender meats, bright fish, with sometimes funky undertones from fermented fish. For this project, I settled on a chicken (ayam) rendang, the perfect food for a chilly November.
If the gorgeous yellow isn’t enough to make you cheerful, the taste will. This dish will serenade you with sunshine, and has a rich deep flavour. It seems complicated but really, most of the ingredients are for the paste, and with a food processor this is speedy. Try it!
Notes on the recipe: I use chicken thighs, which are best suited to longer cooking and also have better flavour. If you prefer breast, that is fine, but add it later in the recipe so that it doesn’t dry out. Do ensure that you reduce the sauce first. The ingredients I use are fairly easy to come by now. Galangal is like ginger, and if you can’t get it use extra ginger and a little lime zest to replicate the aromatic quality. Do try to get fresh turmeric, it makes a huge difference and I have seen it in supermarkets in the last few years. If you can’t get it, don’t despair, it will still taste great with dried turmeric. In Malaysia they season with sugar and salt. I hve chosen not to add sugar here, but if you want it to be completely authentic, add a little with some salt to offset it. Jaggery / gula melaka (palm sugar) would be best, but light brown sugar would subsitute. In Malaysia they also use toasted coconut (kerisik) which I tried to make at home, but it wasn’t worth the effort unless using fresh grated coconut, so I have excluded it. It still tastes really good..
RECIPE: Chicken Rendang
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 small shallots
2 stalks lemongrass, coarse outer layers and end removed
2 inch piece of galangal
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
3 little finger lengths of fresh turmeric, or 1 tbsp dried (use fresh if you can but not essential)
2 hot red birds eye chillies (or more if you fancy it hotter)
1kg boned skinless chicken thighs, cut into large strips
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 sticks lemongrass bruised with a pan, or in a pestle and mortar
1 x 400ml coconut milk
light oil for frying – I like coconut oil for this
sea salt to taste
to serve: a squeeze of fresh lime to taste, and some fresh coriander
I like to serve mine with rice – but up to you!
Make your paste by putting all paste ingredients in a food processor or strong blender and pulsing until a smoothish paste, or by doing it in a pestle and mortar (easier if you chop everything first, grind in the pestle and mortar and add the water at the end).
Heat a tablespoon of oil in your pan over a medium heat and add the chicken. Cook, stirring as you do, until it is white all over. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.
Add another tablespoon of oil and cook the paste for a few minutes over a medium heat. Add the chicken to the paste, stir, then add the coconut milk, lime leaves, bruised lemongrass and water.
Reduce the heat and leave to cook gently with the lid off until the sauce is sufficiently reduced and coats the chicken nicely (by about half, it should be a little wet but not soupy, as in the photo).
Put the lid on the pan and continue to cook until the chicken is tender. Season to taste with the sea salt and serve with a squeeze of lime and some fresh coriander leaves.
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