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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My favourite places to shop in Ubud

From unique boutiques to covetable keepsakes and handcrafted creations, Ubud has treasures aplenty. Here are just some of my personal favourite places to shop in the local area.

Blue Stone Botanicals in Ubud offers a glorious range of soaps, essential oils, balms and burners. You can find the perfect aromatherapy present here or something to soothe and scent your world.


Nava Bali Ceramics in Monkey Forest Road has theee cutest tea-pots and zen-style cups, plates and accessories in matt ivory-white with teak trimmings with tea spoons and other accessories to match.


Lilla Lane on Monkey Forest Road near the soccer field is where I always buy my summery sandals. They are elegant, super comfortable and a great price.


For homewares in Ubud I have to say my own store, The Emporium, next to Casa Luna. It has the best bed linen in town with batik or plain trimmings. You can find quilts, cushions, napkins and table runners here too.


Find us at:

The Emporium
Jalan Raya (next to Casa Luna)
Ubud, Bali
Indonesia 80571


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Long-table dinners at Honeymoon Guesthouse

It’s on again! My long-table dinners at home celebrating some of my favourite Balinese food will be held during the month of July. Recipes from my cookbook, Bali:The Food of My Island Home, will be featured, made fresh from my own kitchen, using organic local produce where possible.
Dinner will be followed by a range of luscious desserts. Every Saturday in July we will gather upstairs at Honeymoon Guesthouse, while the sun descends over Jalan Bisma, to enjoy a feast of champions. To book, please contact:
One of my most cherished desserts, Black Rice and Tangerine Tart, will be on the menu. Here is the recipe:
Black Rice and Tangerine  Tart
This unusual dessert combines the classic ingredients of black-rice pudding with a few elegant surprises. The rice is cooked with coconut milk and blended to a velvety puree; the grated tangerine adds an uplifting citrus kick without overpowering; and the ground almonds add body. If you are longing for a different sort of tart with a seductive filling, then this is for you. I would serve this with a jug of clotted cream as I am a shameless cream lover, but you might also like to carry on the citrus theme and serve it with orange ice-cream or preserved orange peel. You can even forego the pastry entirely and serve it as Asian-inspired pannacotta with a teeny scoop of bitter chocolate gelato.



1/3 cup black rice

4 tablespoons white rice

750 ml Kara coconut milk

1 tablespoon butter

3 teaspoons grated tangerine or orange zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons caster sugar

50 g (1/2 cup) ground almonds

1 tablespoon plain flour

3 large eggs PASTRY

225 g (1 ½ cups) plain flour

1/3 cup grated palm sugar

75 g (1/3 cup) caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

145 g chilled unsalted butter, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons cold tap water

1 pandan leaves, tied in a knot

icing sugar to dust

To make the filling: Place the black rice in a medium saucepan with the pandan leaf and cover with roughly two finger joints or five centimeters of water. Bring to the boil and cook uncovered for at least 1 hour, until the rice is soft but still chewy (you may need to top up the water during cooking). Add the white rice and cook for another 20 minutes. Allow the water to evaporate without topping it up towards the end. While the rice is cooking, make the pastry.

To make the pastry:Put the flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla and orange zest in a food processor and blitz to combine. Add the butter and pulse 3–4 times, until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle in the cold water and pulse another 4 times. Tip the crumbly mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and form it into a dough. Knead briefly, then shape it into a disc. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When the rice is cooked, drain off any excess water if necessary. Add the coconut milk, butter, 1/2 cup sugar and remaining salt. Bring the rice back to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the rice is almost a creamy risotto. Put the saucepan into a large bowl of iced water for 10 minutes to cool the rice to tepid. Pour the rice into a food processor and blitz to a puree. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the zest, vanilla, ground almonds and flour. Stir in the eggs one at a time, mixing well.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and butter a 25 cm springform cake tin. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to a thin circle about 30 cm in diameter. Lay it inside the tin, covering the base and going up the sides. Trim the excess pastry flush with the top of the tin. Refridgerate for ten minutes. Pour the rice filling into the pastry base. Bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for at least 35 minutes, until the filling is set and golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar before serving. Serves 10–12

Perth Writers Festival : Andrea Hirata in conversation with Janet DeNeefe

Andrea Hirata: The Rainbow Troops

source : ABC Australia |


Indonesian writer Andrea Hirata has had spectacular success with his debut novel, The Rainbow Troops, selling 5 million copies in Indonesia alone. But he’s a modest man, pointing out that the population of Indonesia is 247 million.

Born on the island of Gantong in east Sumatra, he did graduate studies in economic theory at Sheffield University in the UK. This book The Rainbow Troops is based on his primary school education and the overwhelming desire and motivation to learn no matter how poor the resources.

The school in his book is Muhammadiyah Elementary – they’ve got nothing! But what they do have is a few brilliant students and a couple of great teachers. In the long run, it’s not the school buildings – in this instance there aren’t even toilets, the kids use the bush – but they do have the educational basic building blocks: inspiring teachers and dedicated kids. The rainbow troops are the 10 kids in this elementary school.

This book has been a publishing phenomenon, translated and distributed across 78 countries and the theme is a significant departure from some of the more gut wrenching third world post colonial novels.

Hirata is in conversation at the 2013 Perth Writers Festival with Janet de Neefe, the co founder of the Ubud Writers Festival.