RECIPE OF THE MONTH: Balinese-style Paella

 

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!

TOMATO SAUCE

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

RECIPE OF THE WEEK | Javanese tofu and scallop curry (Opor tahu dan scallops)

Opor, a dish from central Java, is usually described as a white curry. However this description does not do justice to dishes’ dreamy and alluring flavours of galangal, ginger and lemongrass combined with mild green chillies. For me, opor is the quintessential Javanese dish: subtle, creamy and aromatic. In this modern interpretation I have selected scallops to partner tofu, to create what I think it a supremely elegant curry. It’s the kind of meal to serve your girlfriends for lunch, on a day when you have plenty of time and loads to chat and giggle about – alongside free-flowing bubbly of course!

Javanese-tofu_blog

  • 8 scallops
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind pulp soaked in 2 tablespoons of water, strained 3 tablespoons oil
  • 100 g tofu, cut into a size to match the scallops
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised and tied in knots
  • 3 salam leaves
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fried shallots
  • 2 teaspoons grated palm sugar
  • sea salt

SPICE PASTE

  • 3 red shallots, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 long green chillies, roughly chopped 2 small green chillies, roughly chopped 3 tablespoons chopped galangal
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 5 candlenuts
  • 3 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste

Mix the scallops with the tamarind water and set aside.
Pound the spice paste ingredients to a smooth paste in a mortar, or blitz in a food processor with a little water if necessary to get the mixture moving.
Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat and fry the spice paste for 30 seconds.

Add the lemongrass, salam leaves and lime leaves and fry for another 20 seconds, until glossy and fragrant. Strain the scallops and throw them into the wok. Toss them around until seared, then add the tofu and toss gently for a few more seconds. Add the coconut milk, fried shallots, palm sugar and some salt and simmer gently for a minute, until slightly thickened. Taste for seasoning and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

Discover more recipes in my book Bali: Food of My Island Home

RECIPE OF THE WEEK | Balinese Beef Rendang – Rendang Sapi

In keeping with Hindu dietary restrictions, beef is seldom served in a Balinese household. That doesn’t mean it’s forbidden though! Meat in Bali, is always cooked with a pile of fresh spices that tenderize, preserve, uplift and nurture. It’s also about aiding digestion and a dash of tamarind, a few sprightly gingers and lemongrass will always help that process.

Beef-Rendang_blog

This recipe is a Balinese version of rendang and spotlights the acclaimed trio of galangal, turmeric and ginger, that constantly feature in Indonesian cooking. It has all the virtues of a slow-cooked stew; comforting, full of flavour, tender and deeply aromatic. It is also a joy to cook as the aroma that floats around the house, while the curry is simmering in the pot, is glorious.

SPICE PASTE

  • 8 red shallots, roughly chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 6 long red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped 4 tablespoons chopped galangal
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 6 candlenuts, dry-roasted in a wok
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cummin
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, bruised and tied in knots
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 salam leaves
  • 500 ml coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 500 g beef topside, in curry-size chunks
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind pulp, mixed with a 1⁄4 cup water and strained
  • 2 tablespoons grated palm sugar
  • fried shallots to garnish

Pound the spice paste ingredients to a smooth paste in a mortar, or blitz in a food processor with a little water if necessary to get the mixture moving.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat and fry the spice paste for 30 seconds. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves and salam leaves and toss around for another 30 seconds, until glossy and fragrant. Pour in the coconut milk and water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for another minute, then add the sliced beef, tamarind and palm sugar. Simmer for 2 hours, until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick and reduced.

Serve with steamed rice, topped with fried shallots. Serves 4

You can discover more recipes in my book Bali: Food of My Island Home

Curry

You Are The Sunshine Of My Life
That’s Why I’ll Always Stay Around
You Are The Apple Of My Eye
Forever You’ll Stay In My Heart

Stevie Wonder.

 

Breakfast at the Four Seasons in Jakarta, the morning after the Jakarta Post 25th anniversary celebration with the effects of a few too many “sherbets” making me feel a little under par (don’t you just love parties).

The smooth sounds of The Ireng Maulana band playing “You are the sunshine of my life” still humming in my ears. I was looking for a soft tender meal to start the day; one that would bring me back to the land of rosy cheeks and boundless energy.   Rows of bain-maries filled with  sausages, bacon, potato roesti and baked beans beckoned. I glanced at the pastry section; croissants, Danish pastries and multi-grain breads. Sliced fruits, dazzling in their arrangement, tempted me like Eve’s apple.  How to resist?

But then… like Pepé le Pew in one of those love-struck moments when stars appear in your eyes and you go all quivery at the knees, I spotted the server of my choice – Indonesian curries, beans with tempe and lontong, compressed rice cake, sambals and more. Dare I say I was smitten and love-blinded at once? I piled my breakfast plate high (sorry, Vikram, but what’s a girl to do?). The flavours were sublime and each mouthful presented a new taste sensation.

My thoughts drifted off to ‘curries’ and its many incarnations across the archipelago and beyond. Don’t you love how the mere taste of a dish can send you into a global culinary spin? The power of food does this to you, or, at least, to me. My mind floated down the Ganges, through tropical jungles, paddy fields and other exotic curry-eating destinations.

Can you imagine a world without curry? Heavens, no! But let’s start with the word “curry”.  Said to be an anglicized version of the Tamil word, kari, which is, in fact, a type of vegetable stew that is eaten with rice. The word itself is believed to simply mean “gravy”. Nowadays, in the Western world, it is synonymous with any dish that is simmered in coconut milk seasoned with a commercial curry powder or spice paste.

In Britain, the favourite curry dish is Chicken tikka masala. Marks & Spencer sells about 19 tonnes of the chicken tikka masala curry every week and 23 million portions a year are sold in Britain’s more than 8,000 Indian restaurants, many of which are located in and around London. Former foreign secretary Robin Cook announced that chicken tikka masala had become ‘Britain’s national dish’ thus demoting fish and chips to second place.

Back to the emerald isles of Indonesia. Gulai, kari, kalio and opor are what you might call Indonesian curries. In Bali, my favourite jackfruit dish, jukut nangka, is affectionately called a curry in English, although it bears no resemblance to a Indian curry and does not usually contain coconut milk. In reality, it is more like a stew but let’s face it, “curry” sounds more luscious.

There’s something about a curry that conjures up a dreamy blanket of seductive flavours, like snuggling under a duvet on a cold winter’s night, with a chilled champagne.

There are wet curries and dry curries. Rendang, from West Sumatra, is a perfect example of a slow-cooked dry curry and reigns supreme in the flavour department. You can find rendang in all Padang restaurants across Indonesia. And what a divine dish. I remember in my early days in Bali, a visit to Denpasar was always timed to include an early lunch at the Padang restaurant in Batu Bulan, just as the steaming bowls of beef and chicken rendang, cassava leaves, green chilli sambal and others were pouring forth from the kitchen.

Another favourite Indonesian curry is gulai, especially gulai kambing or goat curry. Gulai kambing is the star on the menu of the village “bazaar” events that the Balinese hold to raise money for their temples and so forth.  In my family, it goes without saying that a meal at these gatherings must include a bowl of soupy gulai kambing with rice.

Opor Ayam or white chicken curry is another perennial favourite that I overdose on every time I go to Yogjakarta. In this land of lesehan or street-side cafes, I sit back and relish each mouthful of tender chicken bathed in a gentle coconut milk gravy while serenading street musicians hover around strumming their guitars. As for lontong cap gomeh – I confess I’m an addict. And then there are my favourite Balinese curries that include torch ginger or a touch of long pepper and nutmeg, the queen of sleep.

But what makes a curry so divine?  For me, it’s the delicate balance of fresh gingers: of galangal, turmeric, ginger and kencur; and the layers of subtle flavours  born of coriander seeds,  lemongrass, chilli, lime leaves and more. Coconut milk adds an elegant finishing touch.

Indonesian curries are the symbol of a nation; of home-cooking that represents the bounty of Indonesia, a succinct blend of vitality and sunshine, of simmered flavours born of the Spice Islands. Unity in diversity. They capture the majesty of the East in all its finery, from sunburnt yellows to the deepest fragrant browns. So let us rejoice in a dish that charms the most jaded spirit; that hugs and kisses in the warmest way.

And if you have a favourite curry recipe to share please send it my way……..”forever you’ll stay in my heart.”

 

© Janet De Neefe 2008