RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Coconut Pannacottas

Elegant, ivory white and melt in the mouth, this sublime treat is a blend of coconut and pandan – Asia’s classic dessert duo – tinged with the seductive surprise of orange. There is just enough gelatine to make the pannacottas voluptuous and not too firm (but if you live in the tropics as I do, you might need to add more). I love these served with a drizzle of palm-sugar syrup, but I also sometimes serve them topped with a spoonful of Black Rice Pudding (page 208) for a dramatic colour contrast. Either way, it is a dessert you almost have to dress up for!

The pannacottas set overnight so you need to begin this recipe a day ahead.

1½ tablespoons white sugar
3 tablespoons water
310 ml coconut milk
2 pandan leaves, tied together in a loose knot
2 wide strips of orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 titanium-strength gelatine leaf
400 ml cream
Palm sugar syrup
250 g palm sugar, roughly chopped
250 ml water

Put the white sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the coconut milk, pandan leaves, orange zest and vanilla and simmer over
low heat for 15 minutes to infuse the flavours into the milk.

Meanwhile, soften the gelatine in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and add to the hot coconut milk, stirring to dissolve the gelatine.

Pour the cream into a large bowl. Strain the coconut milk onto the cream, removing the pandan leaves and orange zest, and stir to combine.

Lightly oil 6 x 125 ml-capacity dariole moulds, ramekins or elegant glasses. Place them on a tray and fill with the cream mixture. Refrigerate overnight.

To make the palm sugar syrup, put the sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then simmer without stirring for around 15 minutes, until roughly reduced by half. When small bubbles appear on the surface, remove from the heat immediately. Strain into a jug and leave to cool.

To serve the pannacottas, run a knife around the insides of the moulds and turn onto plates. (Or if using glasses you can serve them as they are.) Drizzle with a little palm sugar syrup.

> Makes 6


All the ways to enjoy coconut in Bali

Coconut, grated In Bali, fresh coconut is always the starting point for recipes featuring coconut – whether it is grated or in the form of coconut milk. A coconut is split open and the flesh is priced out from the shell. The pieces are either left raw or roasted over a flame before being grated to add to salads or to use to make coconut milk. Away from the tropics, frozen pre-grated coconut is acceptable in recipes that call for grated coconut and can be found at Asian grocers. However, in recipes calling for fresh coconut to be roasted, it is best to seek out the real thing. Coconut milk Making coconut milk from grated coconut is a simple process that involves mixing the coconut with water and wringing it out to produce milk. See the recipe for Roasted Coconut Milk on page 40 for full instructions. The process is second nature in Bali, but coconut milk in a tin or carton is acceptable elsewhere of course. Kara is a good brand and is found in a carton. Or, as a better match to the texture of homemade coconut milk, you can buy light coconut milk if desired. Coconut oil Coconut oil is probably the most common cooking oil in Bali and is generally made at home. It has a mellow, sweet flavour and distinct aroma and is one of the keys to traditional roasted duck or suckling pig as well as many sambals. While it is comprised of mainly saturated fats, studies have shown that the particular saturated fats (namely lauric acid) are beneficial, boosting the immune system. Make sure you buy virgin coconut oil that is unprocessed and unhydrogenated, because hydrogenated oils have trans-fats that cause health problems. Coconut oil is also a luscious skin moisturiser and hair conditioner and is preferred by older Balinese women for keeping their hair glossy and lustrous.

Coconut Crepes with Warm Mango Filing (Dadar Mango)

These delicate crepes are one of my favourite desserts. Traditionally filled with warm banana or grated coconut (and I make savoury fillings too), I have taken the liberty to fill them with one of Bali’s favourite fruits – mango. Mango trees are a feature of most Balinese household compounds and are synonymous with the wet season. The fruit is eaten either slightly unripe with lashings of chilli and shrimp paste, or ripe and sliced into cheeks. If you wish to add the distinct flavour and aroma of pandan to the crepes (as well as colour them green), add a teaspoon of pandan essence. Crepes 150 g (1 cup) plain flour 1½ tablespoons white sugar ½ teaspoon sea salt 1 egg, lightly beaten 200 ml coconut milk ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon lime juice (optional) vegetable oil, for frying Filling 3 large mangoes, sliced 3 tablespoons grated palm sugar 125 ml coconut milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons grated lime zest Put the crepe ingredients other than the oil in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and free of lumps. Set aside while you make the filling. Put the filling ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, or until the mango is soft. Set aside. Heat a non-stick frying pan over low heat. Add a little oil and spread it across the base of the pan (I like to use a pastry brush), then add 1–2 tablespoons of the crepe batter and tilt the pan to spread the batter towards the edges, forming a thin crepe. When bubbles appear on the surface, flip the crepe over and cook briefly on the other side. Remove to a plate and continue cooking crepes with the remaining batter, adding a drop more oil when necessary. Top each crepe with 2–3 tablespoons of warm filling and fold in half. > Makes 8 crepes


Food as Medicine Spice Tour

25 Nov-3 Dec

Early Bird Ends 31 Aug

Janet Banda Trip


It’s the year of the humble nutmeg and the Banda Islands. Join me on a cruise to the legendary spice islands and the island of Banda Neira and Run, inhaling history that changed the world, in between glorious Indonesian meals, trekking, snorkelling, swimming, and simply relaxing on pristine waters. Early bird special prices of AUD 3,900 ends 30 Aug. Deposit required. Contact for more information.


RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Chargrilled Squid

chargrilled squid


















This is one of the many barbecued dishes that are served by the sea at Jimbaran. In what
was formally a rustic coastal eating place dotted with simple grass huts, there are now
hundreds of bamboo tables and chairs perched on the sand, and tonnes of seafood being
served, from prawns to lobster and snapper to squid, for eager tourists. The secret at
Jimbaran is cooking the seafood over coconut husks for a delectable smokiness, and the
moist heat of the husks creates tender meat with glazed and burnished skin without
dryness. If you are flying into Denpasar at night, the smoke from the barbecues at
Jimbaran bay looks like an enormous bushfire.
This is a simple marinade and you can add any additional herbs. A bonus is that the
marinade can be prepared up to two weeks in advance and kept in the refrigerator.

100 ml vegetable or peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1–2 tablespoons kecap manis
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
5 kaffir lime leaves, rolled into a bundle and finely shredded
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 kg squid, cleaned
Tomato Sambal (page 000) to serve
lime wedges to serve
Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
Cut the squid into 10 cm tubes and quarter the tentacles lengthwise. Add to the
marinade, coating well, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Heat a barbecue grill. Lift the squid out of the marinade and place on the grill. Cook,
turning occasionally and basting with the marinade, until golden brown and just cooked.
It should only take a few minutes.
Serve with tomato sambal and wedges of lime.

Serves 4

Bakmi Mania

I’m crazy about mie. Not mie as in me but mie as in Bakmi. I confess I am not an expert and I only like bakmi ayam, but, hey, that’s ok. I can think of worse addictions.

The secret is in the unctuous, full-flavoured, sweetly meaty, slow-brewed chicken stock . Then there is the quality of the noodles. Homemade are best and they should be not too fat, not too slender, somewhere between Hong Kong and Udon, and cooked al-soft-dente.  From what I have seen, most mie sellers have the stock on a constant roll so the flavour intensifies into golden, brothy, velvety heaven.

Bakmi Roxy, in Cikini Raya, is a favourite and with a punchy name like that, how can you go wrong? Bryan Ferry and “Let’s stick together “ always comes to mind. (Did you hear Jerry Hall is getting married again?) I love the simple charm of this food cart-meets-café noodle house, with its green-turquoise walls, soft orange pillars and plastic furniture. Established in 1991, they now have about five branches in Jakarta and serve my idea of chicken noodle perfection. But what I love most is the chunky, moist, coarsely chopped meat that sits on top of the noodles. It creates this thigh-rich journey that dark meat chicken lovers like me adore. I notice that white pepper and a few drops of chilli oil are first poured into the bowl, followed by noodles, Chinese greens and the all-important chopped chicken. Served with bakso ayam, chicken broth with chicken meatballs, and pangsit rebus, it is sheer perfection.

Bakmi Boy in Jakarta is legendary. I visit the branch in Mayestik that is comfortably squeezed between hundreds of fabric stores (good thinking BB!) We arrive early to beat the mother’s lunchtime frenzy. No painted walls, cute posters or fancy lights. Bakmi Boy is no-frills par excellence or maybe it’s minimalist.  The only careful branding is the sambal on every table that live in recycled coca-cola bottles but my noodles are sublime and I am not surpised! I detect a hint of ginger, cinnamon and that dazzling show stopper, Star Anise, in the prized stock. We opt for a plate of tostada-crisp pangsit, fried wontons, to complete the dish. Grandpa Bakmi Boy, or Bakmi Grandpa, is in the kitchen, leaning over a huge pot of boiling stock and supervising service. No photos I’m told. Grandma Bakmi Boy, or Bakmi Grandma, is the cashier. Maybe the secret of these long-running businesses is a lifelong commitment and I lament the thought of no early retirement from Casa Luna.

Bakmi GM is a noodle institution offering the usual suspects, as well as, some creative interpretations with snappy, efficient service. My favourite is Bakmi Spesial GM Pangsit Goreng but they have an interesting range to choose from. This is fast food noodle bliss with images to select and noodles served in boxes on trays. When I can’t get a flight to Bali on Garuda, and am forced to take another airline (sigh) I head straight for Bakmi GM. Might as well eat and be happy.

Warung Lele, or Wale, in Dago, Bandung, is another noodle nirvana and gets the coveted cute award. But then, this is Bandung, where art is a way of life. Located in a cosy joglo with a view of the rambling countryside, people come from near and far to sip and slurp on their specialties. I opt for the Yamin Baso, my regular of mie ayam with bakso ayam. Finely shredded chicken replaces the glossy chunks of meat with an elegant toss of sliced spring onion alongside the Chinese greens. I notice other dishes, such as, ayam rica-rica with noodles or mushrooms, but I’m a noodle “purist” and only like mine the old-fashioned way. I watch the staff swirling the chilli oil and white pepper through each bowl of noodles with chopsticks, before loading them up with Chinese greens, meat and spring onion. Fastidious attention obviously pays off, because the place is jam-packed. My noodles are glorious and the overall experience is one of the highlights of my recent trip to Bandung (that’s another story).

Bakmi, and bakso, is perhaps Indonesia’s all-time favourite comfort food. Essentially Chinese, it has been embraced by an entire nation and can be found in every corner of the archipelago. And it has wheels! Grobak and now, Go-jek, bring it straight to your door. But the name says it all. It is often branded with a youthful, playful, masculine spirit that suggests even rock stars love mi. So that’s it. I have decided to open my own Bakmi noodle house and call it Bakmi Bowie. Let’s Dance!

-originally published for Garuda’s magazine, March Edition.

The Ubud Organic Movement

Never before has the word “organic” been more powerful in Ubud. Now a raw, vegan, fresh food destination, Ubud is spearheading the global “green” phenomena with world-class establishments dishing up their own versions of all that is healthy, chemical-free and locally grown.

Bali Buda has been serving vegetarian food for as long as I remember and have been a force behind the island-wide organic movement. They have so many tasty favourites, a range of gluten-free, raw cakes, breads and a health-food store alongside. If you are seeking anything organic, this is where you will find it.

Established in 2011, Alchemy is one of Bali’s first raw, vegan cafés. Salads bowls are the mainstay and are piled high in generous mountains of goodness alongside other hearty raw fare and smoothies in every colour. But one of their greatest attractions, well for me anyway, are their creamy, dreamy, delicious raw desserts. “We created Alchemy with the intention of bringing inner healing and transformation to Ubud’s visitors and residents. Our products and menu promote consciousness and wellbeing for all of earth’s inhabitants” state the glowing owners, Shanti and Elena.

Sari Organik is an Ubud institution and is located down a winding path in the middle of the rice fields behind the Pura Dalem. Fruits and vegetables are grown on site and dished up in all sorts of vegetarian ways, in fact, you can even pick them yourself. Lounge on comfy cushions, munch on organic nasi campur and enjoy an expansive view over the Tjampuhan ridge and a never-ending sea of green.

The new Clear Cafe is now sitting pretty in a bamboo treehouse-chic river-view abode in Tjampuhan. Sit back, relax , sip on kambucha and eat raw Pad Thai, while overlooking the ancient temple, Pura Gunung Lebah, that lies below. Their philosophy is “eat the food you wish to be” and if you can’t decide on that one, they will certainly lead you to a path of good, clean health. Their creative menu includes “Raw and Macro”, “World Flavors” and “Tonics and Elixers”.

The Elephant in Sanggingan is a relatively new organic kid on the block but already has a enthusiastic following. Brandishing “earth friendly” food, they serve elegant, beautifully colourful renditions of classics, such as homemade potato gnocchi, alongside crisp Vietnamese pancakes and many new creations in a breezy eco-bohemian space on the edge of a tropical jungle.

Moksa. Pic by Katie from

Moksa. Pic by Katie from

Moksa is another newbie that is located near Sayan. Led by chef extraordinaire, Made Runatha, they serve just about the finest raw, organic, plant-based food this side of the equator. Produce from their extensive onsite permaculture garden is hand-picked and beautifully presented in soups, salads, desserts and more. If you’re spoiled for choice, you can graze on a Moksa sampler plate. And speaking of plates, theirs are straight from the nearby Gaya ceramics kiln.

Taksu is another organic eatery lead by Chef Arif Springs. “Healthy eating isn’t about discipline, it’s about celebrating life. The flavour and freshness of in-season produce is a joy for the cook and for his guest.” Says Springs. Taksu grows most of its produce in their aquaponic gardens that surround the café and guests are invited to wander through this living wonderland before tucking into a raw feast.

Locavore is considered Ubud’s most exciting dining establishment. Run by Eelke Plasjmeijer and Ray Adriansyah, they are fierce advocates of seasonal, local produce, as suggested in their mantra “go local or go home”. The meat they use is only from ethically fed animals with much of their organic and chemical-free produce coming from their own farm. Each course (you can choose 5 or 7) is a finely hand-crafted work of art and you can taste their integrity with every outstanding bite. By the way, don’t forget to try their cocktails!


Bambu Indah at Slow Food Bali. Photo by Mila Shwaiko


Bambu Indah at Slow Food Bali. Photo by Mila Shwaiko

Healthy and raw delicacies from Bambu Indah at Slow Food Bali. Photo by Mila Shwaiko


Fresh greens from Bambu Indah! Photo by Mila Shwaiko


Bambu Indah is a sustainable boutique hotel with charming teak grass-rooved cabins set in a lush Tarzan-meets-Jane garden, complete with swinging tree rope and a breathtaking view across the Ayung valley. Their lofty bamboo restaurant serves organic Indonesian food par excellence with an ever-changing seasonal menu and the ingredients are plucked straight from their sprawling garden.

The Fivelements Wellness Retreat is one of Bali’s award-winning eco-friendly bamboo spa resorts with an acclaimed riverside café that presents innovative, organic, raw food with a focus on Indonesian flavours. The chef at Bisma Eight’s restaurant, Copper, believes in “waste not, want not” and creates soulful, organic artisan food using produce from their garden with a low waste philosophy. Quail with puffed rice and handpicked rosella, pumpkin with bocconcini and local purslane and fresh herb-based drinks are some of their highlights.

Kafe and the Garden Café at the Yoga Barn are vegetarian, vegan, wholefood, raw food nirvanas with detox and ayurveda menus for those who are seeking post-yoga cleansing. The food and beverages at both places reflect the owners’ dedication to a healthy lifestyle, including a refusal to sell soft drinks. Bravo! Using mainly Bali harvested chemical-free & organic produce, the kitchen produces an exceptional variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options for the healthy-minded traveller.

Wander down Ubud’s laneways and you will find many more organic eateries. Cashew milk, wheatgrass shots, green coconut juice, tempe, kambucha, smoothie bowls, chia seeds and organic rice are on nearly every menu in town. Even Casa Luna has it’s fair share of organic meals together with health tonics that are guaranteed to fine-tune the mind, body and soul.

And then there are the dedicated producers who are creating all this world-class organic food. That’s a whole other story and you can meet these maestros at the 2016 Ubud Food Festival. With a heightened fervour for chemical-free, non-GMO produce, the hope is that maybe Bali will once again return to being a fully organic island. This is our mantra and it’s not such an impossible dream because these days, anything can happen. And does.

Loving Mie!

I guess it’s because it’s lunchtime and I’m hungry that I’m dreaming of Mie. Not me as in me, but Mie as in noodles. Fat, soft, slurpy, deeply chicken-broth fragrant, Jakarta-style noodles. Now everyone has their favourite and feel free to overload my inbox with suggestions. When you love noodles, what to do! But I love Bakmi Roxy in Cikini, or maybe it’s the name I love (Whatever happened to Bryan Ferry?)

Bakmi Roxy noodle house

Bakmi Roxy noodle house

The meat really has to be chicken and simmered in a slow-brewed chicken stock. And when I say chicken, it has to be dark, moist, super-tasty thigh.


And it should be chunky, with attitude. A memorable thigh-rich journey.

Production line noodles.

Production line noodles.

And then there are the noodles. Soft, white, not too slender, not too fat and cooked al-over-dente in an unctuous, all important chicken stock. I detect a hint of ginger and Chinese five spice with my ever fav Star Anise in this golden, rolling brew. I wonder if there are tons of chicken bones in there and if it keeps simmering 24/7. Notice that a drop of chilli oil and white pepper is tossed first into the bowl and then the noodles. Another secret!


And then there are the other players. Sayur hijau, bakso, pangsit, spring onion or scallion and the ubiquitous fire-red sambal.

The full treat!

The full treat!

Maybe it’s because I am a bit of a baby and love soft food but I can slurp on noodles any time of day. I guess it’s the comfort factor but there is also nothing fancy or pretentious about eating noodles. It’s all about the food. Nothing more than that. Stay tuned for the recipe!

Fish in Banana Leaves

Pepes Ikan

Pepesan ikan
Grilled fish in banana leaves

Indonesians are masters at cooking fish. This photo was taken in Aceh where they are privy to an enormous variety of fish from teeny thread fish to all types of mackerel, mahi-mahi, shark and so on. Sardines, frigate tuna and Spanish mackerel are the main fish used for pepesan ikan, but you can experiment with any firm fish. Or try it with salmon – it’s to die for! In lieu of banana leaves, wrap it in baking paper followed by an outer layer of foil. And instead of grilling or steaming, the fish can also be baked in the oven.

Spice paste:
3 red shallots or 1/4 onion, roughly chopped
6 garlic gloves
4 long red chillies, seeds discarded and roughly chopped
2 small red chillies, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped galangal
3 teaspoons chopped fresh turmeric
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 candlenuts
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoons tamarind pulp, soaked in 3 tablespoons of water and strained
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon grated palm sugar

600 g firm fish fillets, cut into short, fat fingers of roughly 2 x 4 cm
2 tablespoons oil
4 kaffir lime leaves, rolled into a bundle and finely shredded
2 tablespoons fried shallots
1–2 teaspoons sea salt
banana leaves
salam leaves

Pound the spice paste ingredients to a smooth paste in a mortar or blitz in a food processor. The paste should be orange, flecked with chilli and tomato skin.
Place the fish in a bowl and mix thoroughly with the spice paste, oil, lime leaves, fried shallots and salt. If you can, taste a teeny bit of fish to check the seasonings, or fry a little as a test.
Cut the banana leaves into rectangles roughly the size of a standard envelope. Wrap three to four chunks of the fish in two layers of banana leaves with a salam leaf underneath. Roll over and secure the ends with a toothpick or tie with string. It should resemble a Christmas bonbon. Grill or steam the parcels, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until cooked.

Makes 8 parcels Serves 4

A Thirst for Balinese Coffee

Balinese Coffee

Balinese Coffee

It’s no secret that I love Balinese coffee and for nearly thirty years my day has began with a strong cup of it. A heaped teaspoon of ground coffee topped with boiling hot water, tubruk-style, is the way I like it. While the global thirst for coffee is brewing out of control, a cup of Bali’s deeply aromatic and richly flavoured single origin beans is more satisfying to me than any latte-arty frothy concoction. Most Balinese I know start their day with it: strong, hot, sweet and black, maybe served with fried bananas or jaja kukus, sticky rice cakes. Continue reading