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!

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  • 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.

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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

RECIPE OF THE WEEK | Black-rice pudding – Bubur injin

Black rice pudding is one of Bali’s most famous desserts that, once upon a time, used to feature on the breakfast menu of most simple guesthouses around the island. Traditionally served as an in-between snack, it’s glossy blackness and almost chocolatey flavour makes it both intriguing and alluring. Mornings or afternoons, you can usually find black rice pudding on sale at simple food stalls at local markets, along with other syrupy porridge-like treats. These comforting dishes are the domain of mothers and grandmas who are the experts of all that is “sugar and spice and everything nice.”

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My sister-in-law, Karsi, taught me how to make Black rice pudding and walked me through the subtleties of achieving the perfect flavour and consistency. She liked to serve it mixed with tiny pieces of ripe jackfruit. I love it best served with sliced bananas on top. In Bali, a little white rice is cooked with the black rice to create a more interesting texture, a little softness to contrast with the chewiness of the black grain. And the final layer of smoky, roasted coconut adds another divine element.

  • 1/2 cup black glutinous rice
  • 2 tablespoons glutinous white rice or regular white rice 1 pandan leaf (1 tsp pandan essence)
  • 1 vanilla pod, split or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 200 g palm sugar, grated

ROASTED COCONUT MILK 500–750 ml coconut milk pinch of sea salt

Soak the black rice in a bowl of water for a minimum of 6 hours. Stir in the white rice and leave for another 2 hours.

Tip the rice and water into a large heavy-based saucepan and add extra water to cover the rice by 10 cm. Add the pandan leaf, vanilla pod and salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until most of the water has evaporated and the rice is soft enough to eat, with a texture like soft brown rice. This should take at least 1 hour, and you might need to top up the water during cooking. When the rice is cooked, stir

in the palm sugar and continue to simmer over low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and glossy. Check the flavour.

To serve, spoon the rice into bowls and top with the coconut milk, fruit and toasted coconut. Or serve it with coconut panna cotta.

Serves 4–6

RECIPE OF THE WEEK | Tamarind-chilli fruit salad – Rujak

One of Indonesia’s national treasures, and also found in Malaysia and Singapore, rujak, is the ubiquitous afternoon snack. When the sun starts its descent and the heat of the day starts to dull the brain, just about every Balinese I know tucks into this action-packed fruit salad with a savoury dressing that is guaranteed to slap you out of a tropical slump.

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It combines the energizing four pillars of Asian cooking: sweet, sour, spicy and salty, and it clears the mind, refreshes the palette, speeds up the metabolism and offers a generous dose of vitamin C, iron, folic acid and calcium. Pregnant women crave its strong flavours, and rightly so.

As soon as my children are home from school, they feast on rujak mixed with any amount of seasonal fruit. My son, Krishna, loves it with pomelo, grapefruit and orange, while my daughters love it with grated carrot, red papaya and tomato. Most men I know prefer to eat rujak at the local warung (food stall), so that this addictive afternoon snack includes a little cuci mata, which translates as ‘washing of the eyes’ but really means admiring the bunga desa – the village ‘flowers’ on the street, of which Bali seems to have more than its fair share!

There are several types of rujak, but in Bali it is usually based on a dressing of palm sugar, tamarind, chilli and shrimp paste. You can use fish sauce or dried prawns instead of shrimp paste, and vegetarians can leave out the fish factor altogether. Kecap manis can also be used in place of the palm sugar. The dressing can double as a superb marinade for meat, seafood, tofu, eggplant, mushrooms and more. Drizzle it over an Asian ’slaw or use it as a dip for spring rolls, chicken wings or samosas. Rujak is the perfect starter for any Indonesian meal or it can be served as a lively salad with a main course.

  • 3 cups thinly sliced fruit and certain vegetables, such as ripe mango, pineapple, apple, red papaya, pink grapefruit, orange, tomato and cucumber
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 250 ml water
  • 2 small red chillies
  • 1⁄2 – 1 teaspoon shrimp paste, roasted
  • 5 tablespoons tamarind pulp, mixed with 1/2 cup water and strained 6 tablespoons palm-sugar, grated
  • sea salt to taste

Put your choice of fruit and vegetables in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of salt and the water. Mix well and place in the refrigerator and leave for an hour. The salt will tenderise and extract any bitterness from the fruit and vegetables.

Put the chillies, shrimp paste and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a mortar and pound until the seeds of the chillies are crushed and the skin has broken down somewhat. Add the tamarind and lightly crush the pulp without breaking the seeds. Stir in the palm-sugar syrup. (Alternatively, you can make the dressing in a blender, but make sure you remove the tamarind seeds first. )

Drain the fruit and vegetables and toss with the dressing. Taste for a balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours, and adjust if needed. There will probably be tamarind seeds left behind. Make sure you don’t eat these!

Serves 4

Discover more amazing Indonesian recipes from my cookbook Bali: Food of My Island Home