Recipes from Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia


Vegetable Urap

Serves 2–4

140 g (5 oz) edible fern tips or seasonal greens, roughly chopped
100 g (3½ oz) fine green beans, cut in thirds
100 g (3½ oz) beansprouts
1 tablespoon coconut oil
6 small red Asian shallots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large red chilli, seeded and sliced
100 g (3½ oz) grated fresh coconut or 80 g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
100 g (3½ oz) cooked black-eyed beans (optional)
juice of a kaffir lime or lime
1 tablespoon crisp-fried shallots

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the fern tips and green beans. Cook for 2 minutes or until just tender. Add the beansprouts for the last 20 seconds of cooking. Drain and leave to cool. If you have used greens that retain a lot of water, gently squeeze them dry.

Set a wok or frying pan over a medium heat and add the coconut oil followed by the shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until pale golden, then add the chilli and cook to just softened. Lower the heat and add the coconut along with a good pinch of salt. If using desiccated coconut, also add a splash
of water to soften and help the flavours meld. Cook just for a minute, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Toss the vegetables and black-eyed beans (if using) with the spiced coconut and lime juice and taste for seasoning. Scatter over the crisp-fried shallots.

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Sweet Ginger Chicken

4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, finely chopped
7 garlic cloves, sliced
8 cm (3¼ inches) ginger, peeled, sliced thickly and smashed
1 large red chilli, seeded and sliced
3 spring onions (scallions), sliced
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark palm sugar (gula jawa), shaved
1 tablespoon kecap manis

Season the chicken with salt and black pepper. Prepare all the other ingredients for stir-frying as you’ll need to move quickly once it gets going.

Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan over a high heat. Stir-fry the chicken until half cooked through, then remove from the pan, leaving the oil behind.

Over a medium heat, soften the onion. Add the garlic and smashed ginger slices and cook for a minute. Then add the chilli and spring onion and stir through. Finally, in goes the tomato. Stir-fry everything for a minute more.

Return the chicken to the wok and add 175 ml (¾ cup) water. Season with oyster sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar: umami, salty, sweet.

Bubble until the chicken is cooked through and succulent and the liquid has reduced to a glossy sauce. Finally, stir through the kecap manis and taste for seasoning.

Menu ideas
Serve with Mie goreng (page 169) or make a vegetable stir-fry known in Indonesia as cap cai – wok-fry spring onions (scallions), ribbons of chilli and lots of garlic, add a colourful variety of seasonal vegetables and perhaps some black fungus. Season with oyster sauce and soy sauce.

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Beef rendang

Serves 4–6

800 ml (3¼ cups) full-fat coconut milk
900 g (2 lb) beef brisket or chuck steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon dark palm sugar (gula jawa), shaved
2 teaspoons salt
2 lime leaves
2 turmeric leaves (optional)
1 lemongrass stick, trimmed, bruised and tied in a knot
1 cinnamon stick
Bumbu spice paste
8 small red Asian shallots, peeled
5 large red chillies, seeded
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2.5 cm (1 inch) galangal, skin scrubbed
2.5 cm (1 inch) ginger, peeled
2.5 cm (1 inch) turmeric, peeled, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ nutmeg, grated
pinch of ground cloves

Roughly chop all the ingredients for the bumbu and whizz to a paste in a food processor. Add a good splash of the coconut milk to help the blades do their work. Once smooth, transfer to a large wok or large, shallow casserole pan.

Add all the other ingredients to the wok, making sure there is enough liquid to submerge the meat – add a splash of water if needed. Bring to the boil, stirring to stop the coconut milk splitting. Lower the heat and cook at a slow-medium bubble, more lively than a simmer as the liquid needs to reduce. Cook uncovered for about 2 hours, stirring from time to time. The meat should be tender, most of the liquid evaporated and the oil will have separated from the coconut milk. Remove the lemongrass and cinnamon.

At this stage, the meat and spices that have been braising will start to fry in the hot oil. This is called ‘tempering’ and needs to be done with care. For about 10 minutes, you will need to stir gently but frequently over a medium heat until the coconut oil becomes thick and brown. The stir-frying then needs to be continuous for the final 15 minutes or so, until the oil has been absorbed by the meat, which will be a dark chocolaty brown.

Leave to rest for half an hour or more before serving at room temperature. Rendang keeps well in the fridge and the flavours only improve with age.

Download printable recipe (PDF)