Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for mushroom and tempeh rendang

Rendang is a vote for slowing down. It isn’t a dish you can knock up in 20 minutes by whizzing around the kitchen like a pinball. Traditionally, it’s made with a slow and gentle braise of buffalo meat, but here I cook mushrooms and tempeh in coconut milk with lemongrass and lime leaves. Over time, the flavours are teased out and the coconut milk reduces to a point where it clings on to the mushrooms and tempeh for dear life. The result is a slick, sticky, delicious mess that tastes exactly as if it took proper time and wasn’t just thrown together in a hurry.

Mushroom and tempeh rendang
You’ll need a blender to make this, while tongs will come in handy to scoop out the lime leaves and tempeh. Tempeh is widely available these days – I like Tofoo and Club Cultured – while you can freeze any extra chillies and lime leaves you buy to use another time.

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr 20 min
Serves 4

4 banana shallots (300g), peeled and roughly chopped
3cm-piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 long red chillies, roughly chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, bottom third of the root end only, chopped
2 tsp galangal paste – I like Bart’s
2 x 400ml tins coconut milk
1 tsp fine sea salt
Rapeseed oil
10 fresh makrut lime leaves, shredded
200g tempeh, cut into 1cm-thick slices
1kg mixed mushrooms (eg, 500g king oyster or exotic and 500g chestnut), sliced
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Put the shallots, ginger, garlic, chillies, lemongrass, galangal paste and a third of a tin of coconut milk in a blender, and blitz to a smooth paste.

Scrape the paste into a large pan and place on a medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, fry, stirring regularly, for five minutes, then add the rest of the coconut milk and the salt, turn the heat to low and leave to bubble in the background.

Heat a tablespoon of rapeseed oil in a frying pan over a medium to high heat. Once hot, add the lime leaves, let them sizzle for a minute, then take out of the pan and put on a large plate (they’re for decorating the dish at the end). Add the tempeh slices to the hot oil, fry for two minutes on each side, or until golden brown, then transfer to the same plate and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, turn up the heat to high and, when smoking hot, add the mushrooms in batches (depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably need to cook a quarter to a third of them at a time). Leave for a couple of minutes, then stir and cook for about five minutes, until reduced and hopefully a little burnished. Scrape out on to the plate and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.

Add the mushrooms and tempeh to the bubbling coconut milk mixture and simmer uncovered on a low heat for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is dark, greatly reduced to almost nothing and burping slow, thick bubbles. Serve the curry over freshly steamed jasmine rice with a scattering of the fried lime leaves over the top.