Across the internet and the world of recipe books, there are pages and pages dedicated to days-long projects and complicated recipes that result in dishes so extravagant, such as Lou Fassum, sous-vide turducken, or anything else that emulates a 17th century feast.

For a simple person as myself, I seek advice on what to cook right now. Recipes that are appetising, inspiring, but most importantly nourishing and approachable.

On my way to Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport last week, I had a rather engaging conversation with my Irish cab driver about the cultural diversity in Melbourne. Though all of us migrated from different places across the world, never did we find ourselves isolated or alienated. There was a place for everybody to feel like they belong.

As if on cue, half-way through a wonderful conversation on food, we passed by an Irish flag while the radio was blasting that ’80s Aussie classic, “Down Under”. Food is a topic that never eludes me, and in our discussion about traditional food, we discovered that we shared the same love for a dish that was almost identical. Although unbeknownst to us, they had different names and came from opposite ends of the world.

The stobhach gaelach is a beloved Irish stew of meat and root vegetables, eaten for dinner when the wind and rain proved too much for the Irish. I must have been jumping up and down in my seat telling the taxi driver about daging rebus merah, a dish we have back home in Brunei that is among my favourites.

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Daging rebus merah is essentially a stew, enveloping the vegetables in delicious waves of beef broth, mixing chilli with tomato sauce for a thick sauce. Carrots are added near the end of the cooking to provide a beautiful pop of color and a slight crunch. Finished with some tarragon leaves, it really is an incredibly balanced one-dish meal that everyone will be eager to eat again and again.

For years, I had the misguided notion that the consistency of stews was difficult to perfect and concluded that they were better left in the hands of more seasoned cooks. But for busy students or parents running tight schedules, trust me when I say that an easy stew recipe is your best option.

 Daging Rebus Merah  

Ingredients for daging rebus merah. Photo: Zulaikha Ishak

INGREDIENTS:

 1kg of beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
 Tomatoes, sliced
 Potatoes, chopped
 Carrots, chopped
 2 large onions, sliced
 A whole bulb of garlic, chopped
 Soy sauce
 Tomato and chilli sauce
 Turmeric
• Tarragon leaves
 Salt and pepper

 

METHOD:

1. Sautee the onions, garlic and turmeric powder in a large pot

2. Fill the pot with water and place meat and potatoes inside. Leave to boil.
3. Mid-way, add in everything else in the pot except for the diced carrots.

4. Finally, toss in the carrots and leave to stew for at least an hour (or if you’re impatient like myself, until the potatoes cook through).

 

While I love having this dish with warm rice, an additional plate of roti jala to dip in the sauce is too wonderful to pass up.

 Roti Jala  

Roti Jala. Photo: Zulaikha Ishak

INGREDIENTS:

 1 cup of plain purpose flour
¾ cup of evaporated milk
 1 egg
 1 cup of water
 Turmeric powder
 Salt

METHOD:

1. Mix all ingredients together and place in a ziplock bag with the edge neatly cut for the tiniest hole.
2. Fill bag with batter and heat pan with a teaspoon of butter.
3. Squeeze the batter on to the hot pan, designing a flower. Flip when cooked on one side. (If a flower sounds too intimidating making a pancake out of the mixture works as well.)
4. Fold into triangles and served hot.