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.


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.


Welcome to Ambon. I’m sitting in Sari Gurih, a bright, busy restaurant in the middle of town, faced with an enormous terracotta pot of papeda, transparent, glossy, boiled sago teamed with a large bowl of ikan kuah kuning, golden, fish soup. A young woman sings jazzy numbers alongside a DJ on a small stage and she does it well. That’s right. Glen Fredly is from Ambon and this is the city of music!

Papeda with fish soup and samba at Sari Gurih

Papeda with fish soup and samba at Sari Gurih

The papeda and the fish soup are to be eaten together in a culinary marriage of sorts and it’s enough to feed a whole wedding party (but there’s only two of us!). The art of serving papeda is rather like a ceremony; the soup is ladled in first and then the papeda is scooped up with two special bamboo tongs, twirled around and pushed softly into the bowl.  The combination of the elegant, tangy broth and sweet, tender white fish combined with the silky, jelly-like sago is an extraordinary mix that gives the grace of texture a whole new meaning. The colours are glorious: an island of pearly sago floating in the middle of a sunset-gold broth. But the revelation is the belimbing wuluh, teeny starfruit-like fruit, that I thought were green tomatoes, and the confetti-style flecks of kenari, local almond, that I find bobbing in the broth, adding a soft, nutty crunch.  Eating papeda and yellow fish soup in Ambon is worth the trip alone.

On Jalan Piere Tendean we entered a bakery wonderland. Ibu Etha and Ibu Coning run a small roadside cake stall and we found them busy making bakpao unti, buns with sweet coconut filling, pancake vla coklat, light chocolate pancakes with custard filling, Ambonese kue timus, cassava cakes with coconut and other local sweets on the premises, mixing and kneading mountains of silky dough. Years of hard work and dedication has paid off and as fast as they were producing the goods, albeit at Ambonese pace, a string of loyal customers were buying them. Ibu Coning whipped up about 200 pancake vla coklat while we watched and then made 250 roti goreng, bread donuts with potato filling. “ I make these just the way my mother taught me,” she said proudly. I sampled one, still warm, and it tasted like a brioche donut, the potato adding elegance, flavour and just enough texture. I’m dreaming of it filled with salted caramel custard. Road-side stalls sell cakes in Ambonuntil the wee hours. ‘People here love sweet things,’ laughed Ibu Coning.

Roti goreng

Roti goreng


Making pancake Vla

Making pancake Vla


Me eating the chocolate pancakes - pancake vla coklat

Me eating the chocolate pancakes – pancake vla coklat

Next stop, Betarumah in Jalan Said Perintah. This charming café boasts a mouth-watering selection of Ambonese home-style cooking presented neatly on banana leaves. I decide to try everything and I’m blown away by the vitality and freshness of each dish, by the similarity and yet difference to Balinese food. It proves to be the best meal I eat in Ambon. We feast on kohu-kohu, a smoked fish salad, sayur jantung pisang, cooked banana flowers, bunga pepaya, papaya flowers with cassava leaves, ikan asin bumbu cili, salted fish with chilli, colo-colo, sambal with fresh tomato and chilli and ikan kuah kuning, braised fish in turmeric, among others.

Ambonese dishes at Betarumah - kohu-kohu in the foreground

Ambonese dishes at Betarumah – kohu-kohu in the foreground


Famous Sambal

Famous Sambal


Ambonese specialities at Betarumah

Ambonese specialities at Betarumah

Sibu-Sibu coffee house next to Betarumah offers its own brand of Ambonese chic and spiced up coffee with a colourful interior that would make Gauguin proud. Posters of famous Ambonese singers and assorted glamorous others, (circa Englebert Humperdink judging by the hairstyles,) fill the walls, right up to the turquoise-green ceiling. Coffee has always been synonymous with conversation and I read that Sibu-Sibu was the meeting place during the recent conflict for locals to discuss the fate of Ambon and probably just about everything else. It certainly feels a bit Che Guevarra here. The star attraction is their famous Rarobang coffee, scented with the legendary spices of the region and floating with a halo of slivered kenari, almonds. Coffee with crunch: I’m loving this kenari madness.  There’s an interesting menu to dine on and a selection of puffy local cakes but I chose a small banana leaf package of nasi uduk a la Ambon (in Bali we call it Nasi Jenggo) because I can’t resist it. I tucked into the moist, aromatic coconut rice that had just the right amount of seasoned grated coconut and fish. Who says you have to eat cakes with coffee?

Sibu-Sibu'S famous coffee

Sibu-Sibu’S famous coffee

After lazing on the terrace of our hotel, the Natsepa Resort, and soaking in the grounds of the hotel and the magnificent ocean panorama of distant islands, home to some of the world’s best diving, we venture down to Natsepa beach to eat rujak. A string of road-side stalls, precariously perched above the sea, sell Ambonese-style spiced-up fruit salad until dusk. It’s late afternoon and we tucked into a small plate of thinly sliced pineapple, guava, papaya, star fruit and rose water apple slathered with rujak sauce. I’m gobsmacked by the peanut base; the sauce resembling Bumbu Pecel, peanut sauce, with tamarind, chilli (toned down because I’m a tourist I heard them say) and coconut sugar. “The peanuts make it so delicious, don’t you think?” said the grandma who continued to grind peanuts for the next order. The rose water apples were unbelievably soft like peaches, unlike the ones I have eaten in Bali. We ordered a second plate and watched the sun set over the expansive ocean enjoying a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours.

Natsepa resort

Natsepa resort

Ratu Gurih, in Jalan Diponoegoro, serves the full gamut of seafood cooked with different sauces. I opt for char-grilled baronang and wok-fried sprouts flecked with smoked fish and chilli. The regulation fresh tomato sambal, green tomato sambal with lemon basil and peanut sauce served alongside. With sambals like these, you only need rice as an accompaniment.

Grilled baronang at Ratu Gurih

Grilled baronang at Ratu Gurih


Me at Amsterdam Fort

Me at Amsterdam Fort

But the highlight of my trip was a cooking lesson at Natsepa Resort with the gracious Ibu Ratih and staff. In the spacious downstairs dining room with an ocean view hard to beat, they kindly prepared a breakfast of champions; ikan kuah kuning, my new favourite fish dish, kohu-kohu, smoked fish with grated coconut, lime and fresh chilli, sambal mangga, green mango sambal and colo colo, sambal with tomato, red shallots and lemon basil. I always measure a place by the people and the Ambonese are supremely sweet and hospitable; my daughter deemed them the friendliest she has met in Indonesia. And then, of course, the food is spectacular too. Two good reasons to visitAmbon,,,,and if Glen Fredly is performing in Ambon, that makes three!

Ingredients for making kahu kahu at Natsepa resort

Ingredients for making kahu kahu at Natsepa resort


Cooking Ikan kuah kinking at Natsepa resort

Cooking Ikan kuah kinking at Natsepa resort


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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Welcome to 2014

Welcome to the New Year!

I hope that you have all had a restful and rejuvenating holiday period.

I have spent the festive season reflecting on the hidden joys and beauty to be found on the island that I am lucky enough to call home (while also enjoying a few too many succulent sate sticks!).

With an abundance of fresh produce including glorious spices, fragrant rice, cashews and coffee, Bali truly is a foodies paradise.

This year I want to tell you more about the magic of Bali and the stories behind the ingredients in my cooking. I will be sharing stories and images from Ubud and across Bali so that you can enjoy and appreciate¬ how fresh organic produce and local ingredients make their way into my kitchens.

Seasonal ingredients, fresh herbs, aromatics and spices are the mainstay of our menu and many are purchased at the Ubud market, others with minimal food miles. Our pasta, breads and spice pastes are homemade and most of the salad greens we use are organic. We are passionate about the local food culture and only buy produce from people we like, for in Bali, it’s all about the relationships you foster with growers and producers.

At Casa Luna, we pride ourselves on our commitment to provide the freshest and safest produce available. My kitchens use these ingredients to create recipes that have been handed down through generations of my husband’s family and the family of my staff.

We believe that food should not only taste great but should be implicitly good for you.

I am passionate about sharing this knowledge and am working on a few projects to help you experience the magic of Bali, no matter where you are in the world. I will be posting my favourite recipe each week, hosting long-table lunches and dinners in Ubud and inviting you into my kitchen at The Casa Luna Cooking School.

I look forward to spending this year sharing the seduction of Bali with you, my friends around the world.

See you soon!



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