About janet

Australian-born Janet DeNeefe has lived in Bali for 30 years. Together with her husband, Ketut, Janet runs three restaurants, Casa Luna, Indus and Bar Luna, as well as, the Casa Luna Cooking School and Honeymoon Guesthouse. She is also the founder and director of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival and Ubud Food Festival. Janet lives at the Honeymoon Guesthouse in Ubud with her husband and family. She is also the author of Fragrant Rice and the cookbook, Bali: The Food of My Island Home.

Bakso and the Fasting Month!

Late in the afternoon, village streets across the archipelago become a moveable feast. Above the din of cars, motorbikes, children and the cranking, cooing and raucous sounds of nature, distinctive local music heralds a most comforting message – it’s time to eat. The percussion of knives, spoons, bowls, plates, glasses all become part of a culinary orchestra and as the sun starts to descend it’s on with the show as a chorus line of street vendors appears on the horizon.


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Recipes from the Banda Islands: Nutmeg Fish Soup

Nutmeg Fish soup

2 tbs oil

4 lemongrass 5 lime leaves

9 red shallots, sliced lengthwise

7 garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise, finely

1-2 mild red chilli, sliced finely

2 cups water


40gms galangal, smashed

10 nutmeg fruit or 10 wild starfruit

1 kg fish such as trevally, snapper, sliced into 5cmx5cm pieces 2 tomatoes, sliced into 8 kemangi or Thai basil, chopped

Heat the oil over a medium flame. Fry the lemongrass with the lime leaves for a minute. Add the red shallots and garlic and fry for 20 seconds, then add the mild chilli. Add the water and bring to the boil and simmer 3 minutes. Then add the nutmeg fruit or wild starfruit or lime juice. Add the fish and lower the heat a little. Simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the sliced tomato and cook for 2 minutes.

Before serving add a handful of chopped kemangi. Check seasonings.

Recipes from the Banda Islands: Ulang-Ulang

Gado-gado with local almonds

200gms tuna or makerrel

1 tbs oil (sunflower, safflower )

¼ tsp terasi /shrimp paste (optl)


9 red shallots, finely sliced

1-2 mild red chilli, finely sliced

½ cup kenari or almonds, ground

2 tsp white or raw sugar

  • tbs mild white vinegar
  • medium cucumber, very finely sliced

½ cup mung sprouts (cleaned if possible)

  • cup long beans, shaved in super thin slivers

½ cup carrot, grated

¼ cabbage, finely sliced


Slice the fish into bite-sized chunks approx 5cmx5cm. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the fish until dry. Add the terasi at the end and fry for 2 minutes. Grind the fish until dry with the terasi. Mix all the ingredients together, including the vegetables.

Garnish with thinly sliced red shallots.

Black-rice risotto with Salmon

salmon + Rissotto 2018 xsThis is a totally unorthodox but delicious and interesting way of serving black rice. In Bali, black rice is normally eaten as a sweet snack in the morning or afternoon, but, in this case I have matched the nutty chewiness of the rice with the full-bodied flavour of salmon – the salmon gloriously coral against the midnight black of the grain. (In fact, I have mixed the black rice with a little white rice as we do with rice pudding, to create a more complex and interesting flavour and texture.) Beyond visuals, there is the added bonus of omega-3 oils in the salmon and vital minerals in the black rice. Serves 4.

1 cup steamed black rice

3 tablespoons steamed white rice

600ml water

4 x 150 g salmon fillet, skin on

sea salt

5 tablespoons butter

4 medium leeks, finely sliced

3 tablespoons seeded mustard

2 tablespoons lime juice

4 kaffir lime leaves

500 ml chicken stock

white pepper

oil for frying salmon

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons cream

1 teaspoon grated coconut sugar

2 tablespoons fried shallots

chopped chives, to garnish

Pat the salmon fillets dry. Pour a layer of salt onto a plate and press the skin side of the fillets onto it. Set aside for up to one hour. The salt will dry the skin out a little and will be wiped off before cooking. Set aside while you make the risotto.

Heat a wok or saucepan over low heat and add the butter. Once it has melted, throw in the leek and fry for one minute, or until wilted. Add the rice, mustard, lime juice, lime leaves and chicken stock. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the rice is soft and the stock is absorbed.

Towards the end of the cooking time, heat a frying pan over medium heat. Rub the salt vigorously off the skin of the salmon and pat dry. Season the skin with pepper and the flesh with salt and pepper. Heat a thin layer of oil in the pan with the tablespoon of butter over medium heat and add the salmon skin-side down. Weight them down gently with a small plate or with your frying utensil, pressing the skin against the base of the pan. Cook for up to 3-5 minutes until you can see the flesh is cooked barely half-cooked. The flip the salmon over and turn off the heat, allowing the fish to cook slowly for another 30 seconds or so. (If you prefer well-cooked salmon let it cook longer on a low flame). Remove from the heat and set aside.

Finish the risotto by stirring in the cream, coconut sugar, salt and pepper to taste and fried shallots.

Serve the crisp-skinned salmon on top of the risotto and scatter with chives.




Fish in Tomato and Lemongrass Sauce (Ikan Mekuah)

Fresh Fish Indus
This is an elegant dish that celebrates the flavours of fresh fish, tomato and lemongrass – and torch ginger if it is available. A favourite in my cooking classes, it has a relatively simple method with most of the work being in the spice paste – after making that, the rest is quick. I have made the dish with salmon, Spanish mackerel, flake, mixed seafood and chicken, and even added tofu, and have never been disappointed. The delicate sauce of tomato and coconut milk is a refreshing alternative to the usual turmeric-laced curries.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 lemongrass stalks, bruised and tied together in a loose knot
1 torch ginger shoot about 15 cm long, bruised (if available)
2 salam leaves
3 kaffir lime leaves
500 g firm fish fillets, such as Spanish mackerel, cut into bite-sized chunks
sea salt
250–375 ml light coconut milk
2 teaspoons wet tamarind pulp dissolved by hand in 3 tablespoons water, strained
1 tablespoon fried shallots, plus extra to garnish
steamed rice, to serve (page 74)

Spice paste
3 candlenuts
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
3 red shallots, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves
5 long red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
2 small red chillies, roughly chopped
1 thumb of galangal, roughly chopped
1 torch ginger shoot about 15 cm long, roughly chopped (if available)
1 large or 2 small lemongrass stalks, white part only, roughly chopped
2–3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
slice of shrimp paste equivalent to ½ teaspoon
1 tablespoon grated palm sugar

Pound the spice paste ingredients to a smooth paste in a large mortar, or blitz in a blender or food processor.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat and fry the spice paste for at least 1 minute, or until fragrant and sticky. Add the bruised lemongrass and torch ginger, salam leaves and lime leaves and toss for another minute, then lower the heat and add the fish and some salt. Fry for a minute, gently tossing the fish around until sealed. Add the coconut milk and tamarind water and simmer for 3 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked. Stir in the shallots and taste for seasoning. Garnish with extra fried shallots and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4–8



Native to South East Asia, lemongrass is a tropical grass, related to citronella, with a bulbous root and thin blade-like leaves. It has a distinctive, aromatic lemon flavour and is a good source of vitamins A and D. Only the bulb is used and this can be ground, chopped or tied into a knot.


Both the fruit and the leaves are used in cooking. The fruit is only small and has a concentrated lime flavour. The leaves, known as daun jeruk purut or daun lemu, are dark green and glossy, and when finely chopped add the same distinctive flavour as the fruit. The Balinese also use a type of lime called Calamondin or Kalamansi, as it is known in the Philippines, and this is smaller, juicier and more


An especially tall, wild ginger, with an intriguing flavour and delicate pink flower. In Bali, both the young shoot, bongkot and bud, kecicang, is used in the cooking. The bud is eaten raw in certain sambals or added as an aromatic to curries and soups, while the young shoot can either be ground into a paste or bruised an added whole like lemongrass. Torch ginger is particularly delicious with seafood.


Obtained from the candleberry tree, the candlenut is an oily nut similar to the macadamia. It is soft and therefore easy to work into a paste and is used for thickening sauces, adding a pleasant nutty flavour. It is one of the few nuts that should not be eaten raw and is rich in protein, calories, and fats.Substitute: Macadamias, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts


A member of the ginger family and similar in appearance, but larger. The aromatic root of the plant has a sweet, woody fragrance and is used mainly to disguise fishy odors. Substitute: Frozen, dried galangal


A pungent seasoning essential to Southeast Asian cooking and made up mainly of fermented crustaceans. In Bali shrimp paste is either fried or roasted. Store it wrapped in foil in a glass jar and leave it in the refrigerator and don’t forget to open the windows while cooking! Shrimp paste is rich in protein.

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Jackfruit curry (Jukut nangka)

Jackfruit curry is commonly served at ceremonies because it lasts a few days, but unlike some other ceremonial dishes, this is also everyday fare. Slow-simmered with spices, the jackfruit develops a soft, chewy texture not unlike tender beef. The optional addition of slaked or hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide), which may seem unusual but is a traditional ingredient, and it is also a feature of Indian and Latin American cooking, gives the curry a distinctive pinkish glow while adding a dose of calcium. Jackfruit can be found at Asian grocers, but if unavailable you can experiment with choko or green papaya. Canned jackfruit just won’t be the same.

1 kg piece green jackfruit
1 teaspoon slaked or hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide) mixed
with 1 litre water (optional)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons
Base Genep (page 4)
3 salam leaves
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 lemongrass stalks, bruised and tied together in a loose knot
200 g pork bones or 1 –2 chicken thighs on the bone (optional)
1 litre water, extra
2 tablespoons grated palm sugar
sea salt
3 tablespoons coconut milk (optional)
fried shallots, to garnish

Wear gloves to prepare the jackfruit to avoid being covered in the rubbery liquid that seeps out. Cut off the rind and chop the fruit including the seeds into bite-sized chunks. Mix the jackfruit with the lime water (if using) and leave for 10 minutes before draining. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Fry the base genep with the salam leaves, lime leaves and lemongrass for at least 30 seconds, stirring constantly, or until fragrant and glossy.  Add the pork bones or chicken thighs (if using) and toss for about a minute until just sealed. Add the jackfruit chunks and toss for another minute. Add the extra water, palm sugar and salt to taste and simmer for around 1 hour, until the jackfruit is tender. Add more water if necessary. If you want a creamy fi nish, add the coconut milk and simmer for a further minute or two. Taste for seasoning, adjusting with extra palm sugar or salt if needed. Serve garnished with fried shallots.

Serves 4–8

Jackfruit cooked on a plate that is made of wood and placed on a wooden floor.

Jackfruit cooked on a plate that is made of wood and placed on a wooden floor.


Suna-Cekoh and Base Wangen Recipe

bali spices


Garlic and kencur paste (Suna-cekoh)

Suna-cekoh consists of four main ingredients – garlic and kencur are the primary components, combined with turmeric and candlenuts. You can also add a pinch of Base Wangen  (page 9) if you love peppery flavours. The intense, vibrant yellow paste has the most alluring, unusual fragrance. A small amount works wonders in peanut sauce and adds an element of luxury to vegetables, soy products and meat, especially chicken. Simmered with coconut milk and extra aromatics, it forms a divine glossy sauce to make you purr. At Casa Luna, we make the paste every morning and add it to many dishes on the menu to add extra flavour and a distinct aroma.

Pound the ingredients other than the oil to a smooth paste in a mortar, or blitz in a blender, adding a splash of water to get the mixture moving if needed.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat and gently sauté the paste for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn. Add more oil if necessary. When the paste is ready, it should smell fragrant, the oil should rise to the surface, and the paste should look a little curdled. Leave to cool, then spoon into a jar and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for at least a week.

Makes ¹⁄³ cup

3 candlenuts
2 cloves
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon white peppercorns
3 long peppers
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

The Fragrant Spice Mix (Base wangen)

This is a peppery dry spice mix that could be described as Balinese garam masala. It was perhaps originally created as a prophylactic in ancient times, for each ingredient is charged with health properties, whether it be to aid digestion and relieve congestion (pepper and coriander seed for both) or cleanse the liver (nutmeg). Think of it as an offering from Mother Nature’s eco-friendly pharmaceutical cupboard.

Add base wangen to soups, sauces and bread mixes, or treat it like dukkah – mix it with sea salt, serve with crusty Italian bread and a bowl of glossy olive oil, and dip to your heart’s content.

For extra flavour and fragrance, you can dry-roast the ingredients first if desired.

Put the ingredients in a mortar and grind to a fine, sandy powder. (Alternatively, process in a coffee grinder.) Store  in a jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for 2 weeks.

Makes 3 tablespoons

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: The Complete Spice Mix (Base Genep)






Base genep is a multi-layered spice paste that appears in many Balinese dishes, from elaborate ceremonial foods to everyday fare. It contains all the spices that are precious to the Balinese, and virtually every ingredient is armed with healing properties.

I admit, the list is a bit daunting, but put on some groovy music, pour yourself a glass of wine and plough forth with a smile on your face. You’ll see the paste is not difficult to make – on the contrary, it is even therapeutic and uplifting (cooking is as much about feeding the soul as it is about filling the tummy).

Grind the candlenuts, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cloves and sesame seeds to a powder in a large mortar. Add the remaining ingredients and pound to a smooth paste. (Alternatively, you can blitz the dry ingredients in a coffee grinder, then transfer to a blender or food processor, add the remaining ingredients and blitz to a paste, adding a splash of water to get the mixture moving if needed.) The base genep should be fragrant, peppery and golden yellow. Spoon into a jar, cover with a thin film of oil and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for at least a week.

Makes ¾ cup

2 candlenuts
4 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons chopped kencur (or 1 tablespoon galangal
and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh turmeric
3 tablespoons vegetable oil


These waxy, cream-coloured nuts from the candlenut or candleberry tree are not unlike macadamia nuts in appearance and texture, although their flavour is somewhat milder. They are a classic Indonesian ingredient in spice pastes and sauces, used to thicken and give texture and add a light nutty flavour. Candlenuts need to be cooked before being eaten as they are toxic if consumed raw, having a powerful laxative effect. If unavailable, substitute 1 teaspoon of ground almonds for every 2 candlenuts in a recipe.


Kencur is a slender, brown, finger-shaped rhizome from a plant whose Latin name is kaempferia galanga
– it also goes by the names of resurrection lily, sand ginger and aromatic ginger. Its aroma and flavour is redolent of sweet, musky camphor. If you are unable to find it, I have specified a mixture of galangal and coriander seeds as an approximation of the flavour. Dried kencur unfortunately bears little resemblance to fresh kencur.

turmeric, fresh

This small orange rhizome tinges many Indonesian dishes yellow and adds a distinct earthy flavour not unlike mustard. It is prized for its healing properties and is used in herbal tonics. Fresh turmeric is far superior to its powdered counterpart and yields a more vital, cleaner taste. It is available alongside ginger and galangal at many Asian grocers.

Coconut Rice Recipes


Coconut Red Rice (Nasi Merah Mesanten)

This is based on a Sri Lankan milk rice that I tasted in Galle a few years ago. It is not unlike Nasi Uduk (page 78) except for the obvious difference of the grain and the fact that it is set to cool in a dish and served cut into diamonds. Red rice is wonderfully nutty and chewy and the addition of coconut milk adds a lovely creamy touch. Like brown rice, red rice is brimming with goodness and is perfect to serve to your vegetarian friends. This is especially delicious with soupy stews and creamy curries.

2 cups red rice, soaked for 30 minutes
2 pandan leaves, tied together in a loose knot
3 salam leaves
400 ml coconut milk, plus 3 tablespoons extra sea salt

Strain the rice and put it into a large heavy-based saucepan with the pandan and salam leaves. Cover with 5 cm of water. Bring
to the boil and cook uncovered for around 40 minutes, or until the rice is soft and most of the water is absorbed or evaporated. Add more water if the rice dries out before it is cooked.

Add the coconut milk and salt to taste and bring the rice to the boil again. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and tip the rice into a square dish, pressing it into the corners. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and place a weight on top. Set the rice aside for 1 hour.

Remove the weight and cut the rice into diamonds. Spread
3 tablespoons of coconut milk over the top of the rice to stop
it from drying out, and cover again with plastic wrap until ready
to serve.

Serves 6–8

Nasi Sela (Sweet Potato and Rice)

This is a simple alternative to serving plain steamed rice. The idea is that the sweet potato provides interest to the rice but doesn’t completely steal the show.

To older Balinese folk, nasi sela actually indicates tough times as sweet potato has always been used to stretch out precious rice when it has been either too expensive or hard to get hold of. But even so, many people have a certain fondness for the dish, and we often serve it in our household. It’s especially popular with Fresh Sambal (page 22) for a simple meal.

100 g (or 1 small) sweet potato
2 cups long grain white rice
3 salam leaves

Peel and chop the sweet potato into small pieces roughly twice the size of the raw grains of rice. Put in a bowl and cover with water to prevent browning.

To cook the rice the traditional way, by steaming, soak the
rice for 30 minutes, then strain and place in a steamer with
the salam leaves. Make a funnel or hole in the middle of the rice to allow steam to escape and steam for 30 minutes. Strain the sweet potato and stir it into the rice, make another funnel, and steam for a further 20–30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked
and fluffy.

Alternatively, put the rice and salam leaves in a large heavy-based saucepan. Rest a finger on top of the rice and add fresh water to just over the first joint of your finger. Bring to the boil. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes, then strain the sweet potato and stir it into the boiling rice. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until only a little water remains and the surface of the rice is covered with tiny holes. Cover the rice with a tight-fitting lid and lower the heat to the barest minimum. Cook without removing the lid for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes before serving.

You can also cook the rice in a rice cooker, adding a little less water (just to the first joint of your finger). If the rice cooker permits, take the lid off after 5 minutes and stir in the sweet potato. Otherwise, boil the sweet potato separately and add
it to the rice when the rice is just cooked.

> Serves 6–8

Coconut Rice (Nasi Uduk)

Hailing from Java, nasi uduk is an aromatic and luscious rice that is normally dished up with your choice of fried chicken, liver, tempeh or tofu, and a modest serve of peanut sauce. I first tasted it several years ago at a warung (food stall) aptly named Nasi Uduk on Jalan Teuku Umar in Denpasar – which is fast becoming a culinary goldmine for sampling the glory of Indonesian food from Manado to Sumatra. My first mouthful was a euphoric experience to say the least. I was intrigued and enraptured all at once and ploughed through about four serves of the rice in one sitting. It was served in small triangular banana-leaf parcels, adding to the perfection. Sadly, the increased cost of banana leaves has seen an end to this beautiful presentation, but the flavour of the rice is still just as glorious.

500 g white long-grain rice
200 ml coconut milk
700 ml water
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 salam leaves
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 pandan leaf, tied in a loose knot
2 lemongrass stalks, bruised and tied together in a loose knot

Put all the ingredients in a wide heavy-based saucepan. Stir thoroughly and set aside for 20 minutes.

Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down as low as possible. Cook for 30–40 minutes (lifting the lid and stirring the rice after the first 20 minutes), or
until the liquid is fully absorbed and the rice is cooked. Don’t venture far near the end of the cooking time as you want to keep an eye on the rice and make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to eat.

Alternatively, you can put all the ingredients in a rice cooker.

> Serves 6–10