Sunday 29 July 2007

thon à la provençale

If I have calculated correctly, this is my 50th time joining Weekend Herb Blogging, an event founded and popularised by Kalyn from Kalyn’s Kitchen. More recently (so Kalyn has more free time) the hosting of this event has been shared throughout the blogosphere and this week the host is another Anna (fab name) from Anna’s Cool Finds.

My recipe this weekend is a good cross-over recipe because it’s perfect for both summer and winter.
Thon à la Provençale (Provencale Tuna)
Recipe by Andy Harris in Gourmet Traveller Magazine July 2006. Serves 4.
4 x 5cm thick tuna slices
60ml (¼ cup) red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 lemon, sliced and seed removed
5 fresh bay leaves
12 cherry tomatoes
125ml (½ cup) dry white wine
16 black Niçoise olives
250ml (1 cup) tomato passata
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leafed parsley, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 180’C.
2, Combine tuna and vinegar in a non-reactive bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand for at least 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry on paper towels.
3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the base of a large baking dish.
4. Overlap tuna, with two onion wedges, a slice of lemon and a bay leaf between them.
5. Scatter cherry tomatoes and remaining bay leaves on top.
6. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly milled black pepper, then drizzle remaining olive oil and pour over wine.
7. Cook for 30 minutes or until golden and liquid has reduced.
8. Add olives and passata to dish and cook for another 15 minutes.
9. Scatter with parsley and serve.


Saturday 21 July 2007

jamu kunyit

This post contains a recipe for a Balinese health drink, but before I get to that I thought I’d share some photos from our honeymoon in Bali (wedding photos here for those interested).

If you want to skip straight to the jamu, just scroll down to the bottom of this post. You can't miss the bright orange liquid!


This first photo, up above, is Jonas walking along a rice field at Yeh Pulu near Ubud.

Pura Dalem Agung - a holy temple in the Monkey Forest of Ubud.

This is Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) which was carved in the 11th century. During religious holidays the Balinese visit and make offerings.

Next to the Elephant Cave were these fountains of fresh water for bathing. The Balinese use the many fresh water pools and ponds to wash their clothes, do their cooking and clean themselves, but I suspect these baths spout holy water and are used for rituals since they were within the temple complex.

The spectacular rice terraces of Jatiluwih which means "truly wonderful". A farmer prepares the rice fields for planting.

In Hindu lore, Kumbakarna was said to be a giant and helped his evil brother Ravana, the demon king, to kidnap Sita then fight the god Rama and the monkey general Hanuman. Here he is fighting Hanuman's monkey soldiers.

In the village of Tapaksiring is Gunung Kawi, a series of rock cut candi (shrines) built in the 11th century. It's said to be Bali's oldest and largest monument. Each candi is said to represent various 11th century Balinese royals.

This old lady looks after this statue of Ganesh and encourages people to make offerings (ie give her cash). She flicked a lot of holy water on Jonas and I and said her only two words in English "mamma and pappa". I could tell she was a cheeky old bird!

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan - which translates to the temple at the end of lake Bratan.

The Balinese are Hindu and we happened to arrive during one of their most important religious festivals - Galungan - a time when the gods visit earth. There were a lot of ceremonies and religious procession and here you can see the Barong (a lion and dog hybrid) which is accompanied by drums and dances around like a Chinese dragon.

It's very interesting that the Balinese have no qualms about presenting statues of scary demons alongside those of friendly elephants or happy monkeys. There was something extra sinister about this lashing tongue and the terrified woman in the demon’s arms.

Pura Batu Bolong - the temple of the hole in the rock

This was our very first hotel. Barong Resort in Ubud. We had our own gorgeous courtyard and pool and they decorated our room with honeymoon flowers. Check out that massive bathtub filled with flowers!!!

And this was our second hotel, Sesari Bali in Seminyak. We had huge outdoor living spaces, a 3x7 metre pool and even an outdoor bathroom with massive tub and two showers.

Hope you enjoyed the holiday slide show ;)

Other Bali honeymoon related posts are:
Balinese cooking class
Dining out in Bali
Sirsak - soursop fruit
Salak - snakefruit

Now, onto my Weekend Herb Blogging.

Jamu Kunyit

I am glad I uploaded almost all of this post on Monday, since I have been seriously ill for the past few days. Jonas and I both caught a killer flu which we still haven’t shaken even after 5 full days in bed and we’ve been getting fevers of around 40’C (104’F)! Apparently it’s hitting the young and healthy the hardest since it preys on the body’s ability to protect itself so the stronger your immune system is the worse you get hit. Very scary.

So I’m glad that I only have to jot down a few sentences on top of notes and photos I’d already uploaded or otherwise I wouldn’t be joining in this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging. My ingredient this week, turmeric, is actually a rhizome rather than a herb, so I guess I’m cheating a bit.

Given my state of health at the moment though, it’s very apt that I’m presenting a jamu, a drink recommended by the Balinese cooking instructor at Casa Luna as a cure for almost any ailment.

Jamu basically means “tonic” or “cure-all” and is a system of local healings throughout Indonesia. It seems that most jamus are elixirs, but some can be body treatments such as creams or poultices.

In this jamu, fresh turmeric root is juiced then mixed with honey, lime juice and water to create a refreshing, earthy drink.

The brightly coloured turmeric stains your tongue but you can feel it seeping through your body doing good things to you. I only wish I could get my hands on the ingredients, but since both of us are sick we’re cooped up in our home relying on home delivery.

Jamu Kunyit

Anna’s version of a Balinese medicinal drink. Serves 1.

100g fresh turmeric root
100ml lime juice
1 ½ tablespoons honey

1. Juice turmeric.
2. Mix with honey and lime juice.
3. Top with water, mix and drink.

Turmeric is heavily used in Ayurvedic medicine. It has antiseptic and antibacterial qualities, takes on similar effects as fluoride for teeth, heals psoriasis and joint inflammation, helps with digestive problems and more recently is being used to treat depression.

In the West they are realising that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can help all matter if ailments including pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer's and cystic fibrosis.

Tumeric is also used in the cosmetic industry in sunscreens, hair removal products and scar treatments.

It’s nice that this Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by The Chocolate Lady at In Mol Araan, because I imagine she’ll enjoy this Balinese tonic.


Wednesday 18 July 2007

chorizo w apple cider vinegar

Chorizo is a strong, flavoursome sausage from Spain.

The spicy kick and fatty texture complement each other perfectly and the fresh, crisp apple in this recipe adds extra zing for a perfect tapas dish.

Chorizo w Apple Cider Vinegar
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4-6.
4 chorizo sausages, sliced on the diagonal
1 apple, peeled, cored, seeded and julienned
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1. Heat a pan and fry chorizo until browned on each side.
2. Add apple cider vinegar to the hot pan and toss chorizo to coat.
3. Place in serving dish and scatter with apple pieces. Serve hot.


Saturday 14 July 2007

soupe d'avocat abidjanaise (avocado soup)

This recipe from Côte d'Ivoire seems to be all over the internet and would be great for those currently experiencing warm summer days in the northern hemisphere.

The thick soup has a wonderful creamy texture and the lime juice and spicy Tabasco cuts through perfectly.

In Côte d'Ivoire they have purple, thin skinned avocadoes which are not always readily found outside Africa, but other avocado types will do the job regardless.

Now that I've added Côte d'Ivoire, I've managed to cook and post recipes from 39 countries!

Soupe d'Avocat Abidjanaise (Abidjan Avocado Soup)

This recipe comes from Soup Song. Serves 2.

1 very ripe avocado
400ml cups cold vegetable stock
¼ cup lime juice
3 heaped tablespoons plain yoghurt
2 generous splashes of Tabasco
Salt and black pepper to taste


1. Puree avocado flesh in a blender. Gradually add the stock and continue processing until smooth.

2. Blend in the lime juice, yoghurt, Tabasco sauce, and salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

3. When ready to serve, spoon into bowls, top each with a thin lime slice, and sprinkle a little Tabasco sauce over each portion.

Oil painting by Michael Naples

Côte d'Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast, is a small West African nation bordering Liberia, Mali, Guinea, Ghana and Burkina Faso. It gained independence from France in 1960 and was then led by moderate Félix Houphouët-Boigny until the 1990s. After he died the country feel into civil war. Although this disrupted their economic development, Côte d'Ivoire is still one of the most successful West African countries.

The people in Côte d'Ivoire are culturally diverse and have around 65 different languages between them. French is the official language that unites the population.

Most people are either Catholic or another form of Christianity, although there is an animist population and increased migration from neighbouring countries means a significant Muslim population also.

According to Wikipedia, 4% of the population is of non-African ancestry (mostly descendants of French colonists as well as Vietnamese and Spanish citizens and missionaries from the United States and Canada.

The word avocado comes from an Aztec language (Nahuatl) ahuacatl, via Spanish aguacate and means “testicle”. Perhaps because of its appearance, the Aztecs believed avocadoes were an aphrodisiac and called it "the fertility fruit". Apparently during avocado harvesting, virgins were kept indoors to prevent any promiscuity taking place.

This reputation stuck with the avocado for such a long time and many people in South America wouldn’t eat it because they wanted to appear wholesome. Companies had to undertake serious PR campaigns to dispel the myths and get the fruit out to the public.

The Nahuatl word ahuacatl makes up other words like ahuacamolli, meaning "avocado soup/sauce” which the Spanish transformed into guacamole.

In 2005, the world’s top ten avocado producing nations were, in order: Mexico, Indonesia, USA, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Peru, China and Ethiopia. As trees need well aerated soils and subtropical or tropical climates to thrive, this makes sense.

Propagation by seed takes around 5 years to produce fruit and the quality is never as good as the parent tree. Commercial plantations therefore graft new seedlings.

Avocadoes mature on the tree but ripen once harvested. The fruit is high monounsaturated fat contents and contains 60% more potassium than bananas, vitamin Bs, vitamin E, vitamin K and folate.

In Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines, Jamaica and Indonesia avocadoes are blended with sugar and milk to create a milkshake.

It is also interesting to note that avocado foliage, skin and pits are said to poison animals such as birds, cats, dogs, cattle, goats, rabbits and fish.

Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by Susan from Food Blogga but if herbs and veggies don't tickle your fancy then I recommend you check out her post on the biggest lobsters I've ever seen.



Wednesday 11 July 2007

grilled chipotle oysters

I love seafood and although it seems to suit summer’s warmer weather, in the chill of winter I still crave it.

In order to satisfy my obsession with oysters I developed an amazing way of devouring these little things that just beats anything else I’ve tried.

The salty parmesan compliments the oyster and the chipotle’s smoky qualities give warmth and complexity. Delish!

Chipotle Grilled Oysters
Anna’s very own recipe. Serve 6 oysters per person.
Chipotle Tabasco
Parmesan cheese, grated finely
Oysters, natural
1. Heat the grill
2. Splash a few drops of Tabasco on the uncooked oyster.
3. Cover with a sprinkling of parmesan.
4. Grill until cheese has melted and serve immediately.

Sooooooooo good. I swear!

Saturday 7 July 2007

soursop - candy flavoured fruit

Fresh from Bali, I thought I’d bring a little tropical infusion to Weekend Herb Blogging.

Whenever Jonas and I make a visit to an Asian grocery store we’re always fascinated with the weird and wonderful selection of drinks and juices found in the cold section. We often buy a couple to try out like basil seed drink, mung bean juice and persimmon tonic.

One of my absolute favourites is soursop juice and since the brand I buy in Australia is Indonesian, I was determined to find this mysterious sirsak to eat fresh and ripe in Bali.


The soursop Annona muricata is also known as soursap, guanábana, graviola, sirsak, zuurzak, coração-da-índia, guyabano or corossol and is native to the Caribbean, Central and South America. It is related to pawpaw and custard apple and around 30 tonnes are grown in Australia every year in tropical north Queensland. In the USA it’s has limited production in Florida and it’s also grown throughout South East Asia.

In its native Caribbean it’s believed that a tea of boiled soursop leaves brings on sleep and is also used to soothe digestive problems. It’s health benefits include high levels of carbohydrates (mostly fructose), vitamin C, vitamin B1 and vitamin B2. Unfortunately recent research has seen some initial links between soursop consumption and unusual forms of Parkinson’s disease.


Alas June/July isn’t the soursop season in Bali and we wandered through markets looking for them without much luck. I came across some, but they were so blackened that I wondered if they were overripe or even rotten and couldn’t bring myself to buy one.

Later, in a Muslim market in the Tabanan province I found my prize and my helpful guide negotiated a 5000 Rupiah price – probably very expensive by Balinese standards but to me it was a ridiculous bargain (AU65c / US55c / EU40c).

The flesh was slimy, squishy and creamy: like an avocado or a custard apple and reminiscent of the starchy stickiness of a banana. I have to say the texture was a bit of a turn off.

The flavour was tropical, strong and pungent on entry but with a delicate ending and a soothing creamy aftertaste. They taste similar to lychees but also have a ripe purée pear and bitey pineapple edge to them. You could also say they taste remarkably like bold, fake watermelon flavoured candy.

Soursops are seriously delicious in flavour but terrible in texture. I wished I’d had a blender to turn the creamy flesh into a delicious juice. Instead I sat through the sliminess to devour the candy fruit.

Since the soursop has many large black seeds and a lot of fibres, it’s best puréed and strained. It can be drunk as a juice, blended into cocktails or used as a dressing for a fruit salad. It could even be made into a sauce for desserts, such as a mango sago pudding or other tropically themed dishes. The team over at Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm recommend mixing the purée through vanilla ice cream and they also have a recipe for Soursop Cheesecake.

This week’s WHB is hosted by Chris from Mele Cotte so be sure to pop on over to see what else has been going on in the world of herbs, fruits and veggies.



Thursday 5 July 2007

balinese cooking lesson

After our beautiful wedding in March, we're back from a wonderful honeymoon in Bali! And I mean wonderful.

We spent time in both Seminyak and Ubud and the villas we stayed in were absolute luxury with our own private swimming pools and canopy beds romantically draped with gauzy mosquito nets.

And the people! I’d read everywhere that the Balinese are always smiling, always helpful, always friendly – yes, yes yes, whatever, they’re friendly, I get it – but we weren’t prepared for just how friendly they were.

Of course our culinary adventures were also superb and Bali certainly offers excellent eating whether it's local Balinese, general Indonesian or fab international fusion. I hope to do a few posts about our gastronomic experiences, but to whet your appetite I think I should start with some of the most exquisite dishes I ate in the trip and – even better – they came straight from a cooking class!

When we decided on Bali the first thing I did was investigate which cooking schools were top notch and Casa Luna was raved about in every online and hardcopy guide book. I booked Jonas and I in for a vegetarian cooking class for our very first morning.

Casa Luna is a restaurant, guest house and cooking school of Australian Janet de Neefe who married a Balinese man and got hooked on local food and culture.

Her Honeymoon Guesthouse on Jalan Bisma in Ubud was a beautiful building and the class was conducted on an airy open terrace that looked out across rooftops, shrines and rice fields. It was the perfect setting to learn about Bali’s cuisine, especially in Ubud which is hailed as a stronghold of Balinese culture including food, art and dance.

Before I launch into the dishes, I have to outline a little bit about Balinese cuisine in general. The main flavours are simple, fresh and punchy. The following is what I gleaned from the cooking lesson and my 10 days of three course feasting.

Turmeric and different gingers (ie galangal or torch ginger) play a central role and coconut can be found in various forms: fresh flesh, coconut juice, coconut milk, roasted coconut, coconut sambal.

Tiny kaffir limes are used for their juice and the leaves are shredded into salads and spice pastes, as is young lemongrass. Tamarind provides another sour component to many dishes whereas palm sugar has a caramel sweetness and is said to add the magic touch to complete any dish.

Fern shoots
Belacan, or shrimp paste, is used to provide saltiness and my cheeky Balinese teacher was accurate when she said “it smells like hell but tastes like heaven”. Garam (or sea salt) is very mild in Bali and is literally used by the handful rather than the pinch. It has a very elegant flavour which I prize highly. Kecap Manis is the soy sauce of Indonesia, salty and yet thick and sweet also.

In terms of herbs, salam is an aromatic herb that’s used in much the same as European cooking employs bay leaves – although the flavour is much more delicate and bays should never be used as a substitute. Pandan leaves are also used to perfume food, both sweet and savoury, the way vanilla is used in the West.

And one cannot forget the chilli – it plays a huge role in almost all Balinese dishes whether it's included in the cooking or served on the side in a sambal. I learnt that there are three main chillis used: long, red sweet chilli; squat, orangey-green lombok chilli; and then the tiny tabia krinyi which are green birds eye bullets that will knock your socks off.

Unfortunately for my curious food blogging pals the recipes from Casa Luna’s cooking class cannot be reproduced without permission from the school, so while I find out whether I can post one or two of my favourites, I’ll tell you about each of the dishes we learned to cook.

We snacked on these crackers while we prepped our dishes for lunch.

Kare Tempe - Tempeh Curry

in Bali was just so textured and you could see the gorgeous chunky soy beans in the tempeh blocks. In this curry slices of tempeh were paired with sweet choko (chayote) and were flavoured with a gorgeous curry paste made of ginger, galangal, chilli, salam leaves, garlic, coriander seeds, tumeric, candlenut, lemongrass and tamarind. This was fried until fragrant and finished with coconut milk.

Urab Pakis - Fern Shoot Salad

Urab is a wonderful discovery for both Jonas and I. It’s a ridiculously delicious salad that alternates the vegetables but always seems to include the same ‘seasoning’ of shredded, roasted coconut and kaffir lime with sambal goreng – a fried chilli sauce of shallots, chilli, garlic and belacan. In this version they used steamed pakis (fern shoots) which tasted like mild baby spinach but looked delightful with their frilly, curly fronds.

Roasted chilli sambal

Tomatoes and chillies were roasted with garlic then chopped into this spicy condiment.

Sambal Tuwung - Roasted Eggplant Sambal

This refreshing, slippery side dish was made of eggplants roasted with tomato and garlic and then smothered in a sauce of kaffir lime, chilli and palm sugar. They made this with their hands, squishing the tomatoes to create a sauce.

Kuah Ikan - Fish w Lemongrass & Tomato

This dish was deliciously light and fragrant but yet the flavours still invaded my mouth and set up an entire civilisation. Mackerel was cooked with a spice paste of garlic, belacan, tomatoes, palm sugar, shallots, chilli, lemongrass and coriander seeds. The dish is also flavoured with torch ginger, coconut milk, tamarind and salam.

Mee Goreng - Fried Noodles

A simple, fried noodle dish is always a crowd-pleaser.

I was so sad I didn’t get a photo of the Rujak (sweet & sour salad) because it was so wonderful although admittedly not very pretty. Apparently this dish is one of the Balinese women and children’s favourite afternoon snacks. It involves steeping chunks of apple, pineapple, jicama and cucumber – or any similar, juicy fruits or vegetables – in a sauce of chilli, tamarind and palm sugar syrup that’s been pounded in a mortar and pestle. The sweet fruit was perfectly matched with the tart, spicy dressing.

We got to eat this amazing feast with a glass of coconut and lemongrass juice spiked with Indonesia’s heady booze, arak, distilled from rice, coconut and palm.

The Dadar Unti (green pancakes with coconut) was the best dessert I tasted on my whole holiday and I looked for it everywhere but to no avail. The Casa Luna staff flavoured the batter with pandan leaves and then stuffed the hot crepes with grated coconut that had been caramelised with palm sugar and pandan. It was so divine I ate it all before I took a photo!

I strongly recommend you take a cooking course on any holiday to a new location. It’s such a sensual way to introduce yourself to the new environment, flavours and ingredients and will provide you with a rich knowledge base to explore throughout the remainder of your holiday.

If you’re in Bali, try out Casa Luna’s school or at very least the restaurant!

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