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Lamb martabak from Coconut and Sambal.
Coconut and Sambal is London-based chef Lara Lee’s first cookbook.
Our cookbook of the week is Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen by Lara Lee. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with the author.
Martabak daging (lamb martabak) is one of the first dishes chef Lara Lee learned under the tuition of Sri Owen. “She is a martabak queen,” says Lee of the London-based, West Sumatra-born authority on Indonesian food .
Using spring roll wrappers instead of “extravagantly made martabak dough,” as Owen does, is much easier for home cooks than the traditional version available at street food stalls in most parts of Indonesia, Lee says.
“Spring roll wrappers still do it justice and you get that incredible crunch of the pastry with that gorgeous spiced filling inside,” she adds. “It’s the most amazing street food to eat. It’s really theatrical to watch. And learning to create that in the home with Sri Owen was pretty special.”
Rolling out homemade dough on an oiled surface, flicking it until it forms a large, translucent, circular sheet of dough, martabak-making “is just magical to watch,” Lee says.
Stuffed “with anything and everything” — from spiced ground meat to an egg and scallion mixture — the vendors then pan-fry the martabak in a cast-iron pan and serve it with sambal for dipping.
(In addition to the variations below, Lee also includes a version using homemade dough in Coconut & Sambal .)
“What I love about martabak is that the fillings are always so flavourful. You’ve got really lovely fragrance of garlic, ginger or shallots, or whatever the street food vendor might put in there. It’s just a really delicious, moreish, crispy, golden snack,” says Lee.
“And I call it a snack but actually when you get it, it’s pretty much a main meal. But when you’re in Indonesia, everything’s considered a snack because you’re going to eat something else in about 10 minutes’ time.”
Popular all over Indonesia
Sambal suggestion: Caramelized shallot sambal bawang
30 spring roll wrappers, 15-cm square
1 banana or 1 beaten egg, for sealing
Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for pan-frying
Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
For the filling:
450 g ground lamb
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and finely chopped
8-cm piece of ginger (about 40 g), peeled and finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 bunch of chives, finely chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix well. Heat 1–2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, add the lamb filling and cook, stirring, until it is cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
Line a tray with parchment paper. Place one spring roll wrapper on a chopping board, storing any unused wrappers under a clean tea towel so they do not dry out. Spread 1–2 tablespoons of the filling over one half of the wrapper, leaving a 1-cm border. Cut a thick slice of the banana with the skin on and rub the banana flesh over the edges of the wrapper to help seal the skin together (if you prefer, you can brush with beaten egg). Fold the other half of the wrapper over the filling and press all the edges down. Place on the tray. Repeat until all the filling has been used up.
Fill a deep saucepan one-third full with sunflower oil and heat to 160°C (320°F). (If you do not have a kitchen thermometer, check the oil is at temperature by adding a cube of bread; it should turn golden in 25–30 seconds.) Fry the martabak in batches for 2–3 minutes until golden. Transfer to a tray lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
Cut the martabak in half so the filling can be seen, then serve.
Makes: 30 pieces
Vegan martabak: If you want to make the recipe vegan, replace the lamb with 225 g potato and 225 g butternut squash. Peel them both, removing the seeds of the butternut squash and cut into 5-mm cubes. Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F). Place on a flat baking sheet, drizzle all over with oil and season with salt. Place two garlic bulb halves on the tray to add flavour. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Meanwhile, cook the remaining filling ingredients with 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until softened, then stir through the roasted squash and potato. Fill the spring roll wrappers, then cook and serve them as described in the main recipe.
Pan-fried martabak: Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, gently place the martabak in the oil, cooking in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Continue turning in the oil until they are golden all over, about 5 minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Place on a tray lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and finish cooking in the oven for 7–10 minutes.
Oven-baked martabak pie: If you prefer to bake rather than fry the martabak, substitute the spring roll wrappers with ready-made filo pastry (fresh or frozen). This version of martabak is baked as a rectangular pie, so you will need an oiled large, flat baking sheet. Make the filling following the main recipe. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Place the filo pastry sheets on a work surface and cover with a clean, damp cloth to prevent the pastry from drying out. Using a sharp knife, trim 5 sheets so they are just smaller than your baking sheet. Place a sheet of filo pastry on the baking sheet and brush with oil or melted butter, and repeat with four more filo layers, brushing oil or butter on every sheet. Spread the filling on top of the pastry, leaving a 3-cm border around the edges. Fold the 4 edges into the middle to enclose the filling. Trim 5 more sheets of filo to match the size of the folded-in base. Place one of the trimmed sheets on top, brushing it with oil or butter, then repeat with the remaining layers. Bake for 45–50 minutes or until the filo pastry is deep golden brown. To serve, carefully transfer the martabak to a chopping board and cut into 5-cm squares.
Recipe and image excerpted from Coconut & Sambal: Recipes from my Indonesian Kitchen by Lara Lee. Food photography by Louise Hagger © 2020 Reproduced by permission of Bloomsbury. All rights reserved.
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