RECIPE OF THE MONTH: Balinese-style Paella




So here it is! Casa Luna’s signature dish, which was inspired by – you guessed it – a trip to
Spain. I devoured paella nearly every day when I visited in 1991, and in Madrid in the
midst of probably my tenth version, I had an epiphany, or rather one of those ‘what’s all
the fuss about this dish’ moments, and realised I could create a superb Balinese paella
adding a little mystique of the spice islands.

Our paella is an elegant celebration of seafood as well as a meeting of Bali and the
Mediterranean – the flash of the flamenco is introduced to the shimmer of the legong,
Bali’s famous traditional dance. It has been one of the most popular items on our menu
since we opened our large wooden doors in 1992. In actual fact, our dish is not truly a
paella, but a spiced mixture of fish, prawns, calamari, clams and vegetables in a rich
tomato sauce, served on a bed of fragrant yellow rice.

My advice when cooking this recipe is to be patient and walk, or rather, flamenco
through the list of ingredients. If it makes you feel more confident, do what the cooks in
the Casa Luna kitchen do, be cheeky, laugh, and crack some ribald Benny Hill-style jokes.

Add a glass of wine to that and you will make yourself a masterpiece!


1 kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste (optional, for a deeper colour)
8 garlic cloves
8 red shallots, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons oil
125 ml oil
6 raw prawns, shelled and de-veined but heads left in tact
200 g white fish fillets, cut into fat chunks
6 garlic cloves chopped
2 medium red shallots, chopped
¼ medium onion, chopped
2 long red chillies, finely sliced
3 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
200mls chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
6 clams, boiled in salted water until opened
6 calamari rings
1 small carrot, julienned
15 snow peas
4 kaffir lime leaves
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups hot Fragrant Yellow Rice (page 000)
lemon basil leaves
wedges of lime

Put the tomato sauce ingredients other than the oil in a food processor and blitz to a
chunky sauce.

Heat the oil in a wok over low heat.

Stir in the tomato sauce and bay leaves and simmer for around an hour, until the oil rises to the surface. Taste for seasoning and spoon into a bowl. Wipe out the wok.

To make the paella, heat the oil in the wok over medium heat and toss in the prawns.

Fry for a minute, or until their flesh has just turned white. Remove from the wok with a
slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Throw the chunks of fish into the wok and lower the heat a little. Toss around for
about 2 minutes, until just sealed all over. Remove to the plate of prawns.

Add the garlic, shallots, onion, chilli, lime leaves and ginger to the remaining oil in the
wok and toss around for 30 seconds.

Add 6 heaped tablespoons of the tomato sauce, along with the chicken stock ,
lime leaves and fish sauce and bring to a simmer.

Return the fish and prawns to the wok followed by the clams in their shells.

Simmer for a minute, then add the calamari, carrot and snow peas.
Cook until the calamari turns white. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the seafood and sauce on a bed of hot yellow rice. Scatter with lemon basil leaves

and serve with wedges of lime.

Serves 4

Bali The Food of My Island Home – Second Edition just released!


On the table before me lies my favourite Balinese meal: nasi campur, a serve of freshly
steamed rice topped with small helpings of delicious things. There is braised tempeh,
gently spiced smoked sardines, wok-fried water spinach with a scattering of sliced chillies,
amber-tinged chicken, warm sprouts and green amaranth tossed in peanut sauce, plus
fried sambal – which I simply can’t live without. Just a spoonful of each alongside the rice
is enough to satisfy the stomach and enliven the tastebuds.

Nasi campur is in fact nothing out of the ordinary, but simply the nourishing daily fare
that is prepared in every home, food stall and market in every Balinese village. The
selection of toppings is determined by the bountiful range of seasonal produce available.
Since I moved to Bali I have eaten nasi campur nearly every day and I will never tire of it.
It pretty well sums up Indonesia: small islands of food brought together by steamed rice.

My first visit to Bali was in 1974 as a Melbourne secondary-school student. It was a
trip that made an impact from which I’ve never recovered. I felt like Alice stepping into
a surreal wonderland of startling beauty and wild energy. I tasted food that defied
description, watched dance movements that resembled the fl utter of gilded butterflies,
and saw processions that took my breath away.

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Smoked Duck

I’m at the home of Pak Rimpin, the man who makes the finest smoked duck in Ubud. Pak Rimpin lives in an area known as the Jungut, just a stone’s throw from Casa Luna, tucked away in the back streets. He has been making smoked duck for as long as I can remember and when we have a ceremony we always order from him.

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A way with words

One hundred and twenty authors will appear this year including singer and writer Nick Cave, expatriate Australian writer John Pilger and former East Timor president José Ramos Horta.

The festival is the brainwave of Australian Janet de Neefe and has attracted many outstanding writers over the years, including Kiran Desai and her mother Anita Desai, Amitav Ghosh, Michael Ondaatje, former frontline journalist Kate Adie and Ma Jian. From Australia, writers have included Richard Flanagan, Thomas Keneally, travel writer and historian William Dalrymple, Cate Kennedy, Sophie Cunningham, Frank Moorhouse and Christos Tsiolkas, whose multi-award-winningThe Slap was long-listed for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.

De Neefe is a human powerhouse, and she needs to be. This is the ninth time she has pulled this massive event together virtually single-handed. And when you run several businesses in this beautiful Balinese town and write cookbooks, it’s a busy life.

The idea for the festival struck de Neefe after the bombings in Bali in 2002. She wanted to reclaim the island from the terrorists, and invited writers from around the world to the inaugural event. The first year was a shambles, she says, but she powerered on, persuading corporations to offer sponsorship money and asking friends to volunteer.

“It’s always a struggle to garner enough sponsorship, and this year is no exception … (but) something always turns up. It’s distressing because of course a literature festival is on the bottom rung. If it was a sports event or some sort of marathon I’d be getting millions. It’s just the nature of the beast. In this country it’s like ‘What? A reading festival?’,” says de Neefe.

De Neefe uses her renowned charm to woo writers from around the world. “I write and say ‘Hey, would you like a holiday in Bali?’” she says.

The festival funds as many writers as possible through grants from the Australia Council and various foundations. In 2009, about 16,000 people attended at 42 venues across Ubud, including the local soccer field. In 2011, the festival attracted around 25,000 people and featured more than 100 writers, a third of them Indonesian, the rest from more than 20 countries.

The events are staged right across Ubud. “We have loads of different events happening over the four days – panel sessions, literary lunches, workshops, book launches, readings, performances and cocktail parties,” de Neefe says.

“There are tonnes of local volunteers helping us. And we use lots of local venues so that everyone benefits. People go shopping, eat in the local restaurants and stay in the local hotels. You can’t do better than that.”

De Neefe is passionate about keeping the festival going even though the workload as she sustains her other businesses can be crushing. “Next year is our 10-year anniversary so I can’t really get beyond that right now,” she says. “The work involved never ends. I dream of a year when I won’t lose sleep over funding.”

One hundred and twenty authors will appear this year at the writers festival including singer and writer Nick Cave. “That for me is really special,” she says. Also appearing are expatriate Australian writer John Pilger and former East Timor president José Ramos Horta. “We felt we needed an East Timorese presence because of the anniversary of their independence,” she says.

The festival has been a boon to local businesses. “Of course the festival has been great for local businesses and from all reports they can now really feel the difference when the festival is in town,” de Neefe says. “We have put Ubud on the international literary circuit which is pretty exciting.”

Original article from :

Australia Unlimited

How a Brief Bali Escape Changed One Woman’s Life

by : Joni Sweet | November 06, 2012

What started as a brief holiday in Bali in 1984 ended up transforming Janet DeNeefe’s life. She fell in love, not only with a man she would marry five years later, but also with the community, culture and especially cuisine of the island oasis. Almost 30 years later, Janet proudly calls Ubud — where she runs a cooking school, a cafe, two restaurants, a popular guesthouse and the famed Ubud Writers and Readers Festival — her home.

DeNeefe will share her knowledge of Balinese cooking in a talk hosted by Jakarta’s Indonesian Heritage Society at Erasmus Huis on Tuesday at 7 p.m. She will discuss how she turned the island into a hands-on classroom by training in the kitchens of her husband’s family and becoming a “village cook.”

“I’d watch my husband’s sister and her helper cook breakfast and I was totally absorbed in it. I’d later come back to Ubud in the afternoon and then hang around his brother’s restaurant and just sit in their kitchen,” she said. “It was sort of my PhD in Balinese cooking.”

While she said she laments her lack of formal culinary training, that hasn’t stopped the “grandma-style cook” from publishing a memoir with recipes, “Fragrant Rice” in 2003, and a Balinese cookbook, “The Food of My Island Home” in 2011. She has also taught thousands of students the art of balancing spices and how to properly understand and honor the traditions behind the dishes.

“Initially I thought I was just recording recipes, but I came to realize that I was unraveling aspects of the culture and maybe the fundamental principle that the Balinese have of harmony and balance. Everything they make is sort of this extraordinary balance of a thousand ingredients,” she said.

In her classes, students can learn how to make dishes such as spiced fish in banana leaves; gado-gado, a boiled-vegetable salad with a peanut sauce dressing; smoked duck and chicken satay. DeNeefe also takes them one step further into Bali with tours of neighborhood markets.

“Asian markets are very romantic and that is where you get the most exciting food because it’s catering for the local community and there’s a lot of color and excitement and Asian ambiance,” she said.

With the belief that good food can break down cultural borders, the 53-year-old makes a point to highlight not only the cuisine, but also Balinese society and its Hindu culture.

“It’s a really beautiful religion,” she said. “There’s a lot of ritual involved, but it’s really poetic and beautiful, so it’s hard not to be attracted to that. But also within the culture is the way the communities operate and their attention to relationships, to family, community, to the way they care about people.”

The inexhaustible woman, who was originally trained as an art teacher, hosts cooking classes at the Casa Luna Cooking School seven days a week. In addition, she runs the Casa Luna and Indus restaurants, Honeymoon Guesthouses, the Bar Luna cafe, and a homewares emporium.

The mother-of-four somehow still finds time to travel around Indonesia in search of gastronomic inspiration for new recipes. She is particularly interested in writing a book about Sumatran food, which she calls “the queen of Indonesian cuisine.”

DeNeefe added that she hoped to expand her culinary repertoire by offering food tours as early as next year, a project she began planning in the early 2000s, but put on hold after the Bali bombings in 2002. The following year, her ambition took a literary turn: to ease the blow of the terror attack on Bali, she founded the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival.

“I knew it had to be something that attracted international names and audience alongside Indonesians, something that brought people together,” she said. “It had to be something of that magnitude that brings in the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, great minds that can make a difference, because terrorism is something that has such a negative impact, so it had to be something that could dissolve that negative impact with something that would transpire into a really positive thing.”

DeNeefe is planning the next literary festival, which will take place from Oct. 2-6, 2013 and again celebrate the theme of the first festival, “Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang” (“Through Darkness to Light”), in honor of a milestone year.

DeNeefe has made it her mission to nourish herself, her family and her students with the rich colors, striking flavors and depth of Balinese food and culture. The tools of her trade merely consist of “a mortar and pestle, a knife, a wok, a stirring spoon and a flame,” along with a passion, know-how and an array of simple yet satisfying ingredients.

“Cooking for people is one of the greatest joys and it’s not just about food,” she said. “It’s about pleasing people and looking after people, which for me is really important.”

Food Ways of Bali: A Love Story 
Discussion with Janet DeNeefe
Hosted by Indonesian Heritage Society
Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 7 p.m.Erasmus Huis
Jl. Rasuna Said, Kav. S-3, adjacent to the Dutch Embassy

Original article taken from : THE JAKARTA GLOBE