4 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 large onions, peeled, and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 large knob of ginger, peeled and finely chopped (to give about 4 tbsp chopped ginger)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 small star anise
1kg beef cheeks, silverskin removed and cut into 4-5cm pieces
1/2 cup kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy)
2 tbsp palm or soft brown sugar
2 tbsp liquid tamarind concentrate
1/2 cup water (may need more)
Freshly chopped coriander, limes wedges and chilli flakes to serve
Cooked coconut rice and steamed Asian greens to serve
Pour half the oil into a large dutch oven and sit it over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onions and cook, stirring regularly, for 15 mins or until the onion has softened and coloured a little. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 5 mins being careful not to let the ginger/garlic catch. Stir in the salt, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and star anise, and cook, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes or until the spices have released their fragrance. Remove the dish from the heat and scrape the onion mixture into a bowl.
Return the dutch oven to the heat and pour in the remaining oil. Once it's hot, add a single layer of beef to the pan and brown well on all sides. Continue to brown remaining beef in batches, adding a little more oil if necessary.
While the beef is cooking, combine the kecap manis, sugar, tamarind concentrate and 500mls of boiling water in a large heatproof bowl or jug. Stir together well to dissolve the sugar.
Preheat oven to 150C. Layer the beef and onion mixture back into the dutch oven then pour the kecap manis mixture over the top. Return the casserole to the cook top over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Layer a sheet of baking paper over the surface, tucking it in around the edges, then cover with the lid. Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook for 3.5 hours or until the beef is very tender.
When it's ready, let it settle for 10 mins or so before serving.
You can also use exactly the same process when using your slow cooker, Prepare the recipe through to where you would put the meat/onion back into the dutch oven. Instead layer the meat, onion in the inner pot of your slow cooker then pour over the kecap manis mixture (minus the water). Add enough water to cover the meat by about 1 cm and stir well. Make sure there's still about 1cm of water covering the meat and add a little more if necessary. (When adjusting traditional recipes for the slow cooker, I have found it a good idea to reduce the amount of liquid as slow cookers loose much less fluid to evaporation), Set your slow cooker to medium heat and cook for 8-10 hours or until cooked.
Serve with rice, coconut rice (my favourite), simply cooked Asian greens (broccolini my favourite) and garnish.