Well it’s been a while. I have to admit that a very busy autumn has led to the sad neglect of my blog. But new years being what they are, it seems only right to start this one with a resolution. Which is, of course, to try and update it more often.
I do have quite a lot of news to tell you about, but I thought for now I’d at least make a start by wishing all my friends and customers a very happy new year. I hope to see you during the next twelve months; meanwhile here are just a few pictures from the last twelve. (Click on one to see them bigger, in a carousel.)
I’ll be back soon. I promise!
I planned months ago to escape England for a few weeks in horrid January to travel back to Indonesia. Firstly, to visit my family, secondly, to learn more about my mum’s cooking and lastly, to travel a little bit with my old friends from school who are all very much into food and eating. Therefore, many places and varied types of food were visited, tasted, commented on, and copied but there was still a lot more missed because of time and waist availability! Next trip beckons…
A typical food from Jogja/Yogyakarta – GUDEG – jack fruit based stew with all the trimmings (chicken, egg, tofu) cooked in thick spicy coconut milk.
My friends and I were taken by a local driver to a well known Gudeg place on the day we arrived In Yogyakarta or Jogja (Central Java). The only snag was that this place only starts taking orders from 10.30pm-ish. We got there a good ten minutes before opening time (and we thought we were early!), but the queue was already a kilometre long – and that was just outside this private house. As we got closer to the door, we realised that there was also a queue inside the house, and there were only three people serving these hungry people! They were serving in a typical Javanese way, i.e. very, very slow and with no pressure whatsoever. They were all very charming and friendly, joking kindly to the punters. I wished then I’d had a good lunch that day as we landed in Jogja at around 2pm. It was a long time before supper!
It was worth the wait in every sense, even though some of the trimmings had finished by the time we got to the front of the queue and it was just before midnight. We sat on a mat on the floor as there were not many tables and chairs available: the owners just spread bamboo mats in their sitting area and around the patio in the garden. We finished eating and took notice that there were people still in line inside the house. Surely there couldn’t be anything else to eat. Then we realised that they were University students who were quite happy to eat whatever was left at a very discounted price. This local food cannot be kept, especially as many people still don’t own refrigerators, so as soon as it’s ready, it has to be consumed. It takes ages to cook this, then for the food to develop its flavour, hence the opening time!
The queue and queueing
The next day we searched for other things that would remind us of our childhood.
Markets! Open air markets… they are now much more orderly and controlled, but still sell food that we remembered. Street food, cemilan (nibbles or small snacks) can be found everywhere. I find it difficult to differentiate snacks and main food as my people and most Asian people eat all day long and you can eat whatever you fancy at any time of the day. I miss this style of living!
Street food and vegetable market
Another typical restaurant and dish in West Java. This dish is called Nasi Uduk, all on one plate. May look a bit intimidating, but yummy.
I’ve been back home for over a month now, and my trip back to Indonesia already seems like a distant memory. But at least I can keep the memory alive in my kitchen!
If you are keen to taste Nasi Uduk and/or other Indonesian/Asian cooking at my house, please let me know. See ‘Dinner at mine’.
We had The Olympics, we had the sun, we had the A-level results… and our first proper holiday in this country. Yorkshire had been on my holiday list, almost at the top, for a long time. We finally made it this year. What a lovely, beautiful county it is. So much to see and to explore. The West and the East side of Yorkshire are so different. The countryside didn’t disappoint, the cities were buzzing. I loved Leeds, especially the indoor market, which is the biggest in Europe. Kirkgate Market, as it’s called, has hundreds of stalls selling everything from fresh food to fashion and jewellery, and plenty of little places to sit and sample all sorts of different kind of food.
We sampled local food, either from a market or in pubs. Not all worth writing home about, but the one that really impressed us was our supper of fish and chips from a pub in Hull, called Minerva, in Nelson St. Four of us had haddock and chips and we all agreed that our fish was the freshest and tastiest we’d had for a long time. We were recommended to go to a fish & chip place along the East Coast, but being a week-end there was a queue wherever we went: but not at the this pub, which at first we thought was a bad sign.
Life got busy again as soon as we were back home. The most important date in my diary was an Indonesian Food Adventure Evening at Applegarth Farm in Grayshott, near to where I live. They have a farm shop/restaurant/cafe, and approached me to do a joint venture: we came up with the idea of my giving a cooking demo followed by a three-course dinner.
The evening started at 7 with a glass of arak (Balinese alcoholic drink) based cocktail concocted by Will Benson of Applegarth, offered to the guests. By 7.15 the place was full already so we decided to kick off the evening with the demo. To say that I was nervous, is an understatement. I’ve been giving cooking lessons for years, but never in front of more than 20 people at one time. Whilst I was introducing the ingredients to make spring rolls, the ones I prepared earlier were tasted by the guests. After the spring rolls, we then moved on to the second recipe, which is called Ikan dan Sambal Matah – Fish with uncooked salsa, another popular Balinese dish, but instead of using raw ingredients to eat the fish with, I cooked them all ever so briefly to retain the crunchiness of the shallots, garlic and lemongrass.
The last dish I demonstrated was Bubur Ketan Merah, featured in my blog back in February.
Then all guests were invited to the dining room where a chilled Sup Jagung Manis (Sweet Corn Soup) topped with duck floss, was served as an amuse-bouche, followed by Opor Ayam (Indonesian Chicken Curry) and Ikan dan Sambal Matah (Fish with Balinese salsa), with Asinan (Asian coleslaw) and Nasi Kuning (Fragrant Basmati Rice). As for pudding, eveyrybody enjoyed a bowl of Bubur Ketan Merah (red sticky rice pudding) served with sweet and salty coconut milk.
Everybody seemed to enjoy the meal, and the demonstration. And if I do another one, I don’t think I’ll be so nervous!
Sup Jagung Manis (Sweet Corn Soup)
What hectic months they have been: plenty to write and talk about with what’s been happening here in our little cottage. The garden is soaked, the bottom part was flooded with water from the river and covered completely by mud and debris. Here are some pics of what it looked like the first time, at the end of April. (In June the water was about a foot higher!)
It took a good two weekends to clear it up but plenty still to do, especially with the weeds that are growing faster than any other plants.
In the kitchen I’ve been practicing new recipes and there are some which I would definitely do again and others that I’m not too impressed with. I have had fun despite the disappointingly bad weather outside.
The cooking lessons are still on. Young and adult, male and female, during school holidays or at weekends. Nothing pleases the ‘students’ more than creating their own spring rolls and tasting them once cooked. We do a three-course meal in three hours. A bit longer when the class is attended by ladies and gentlemen as wine and coffee are provided – not to mention the chatting and q&a during the lesson, which makes it quite leisurely.
There will be dates for a couple of hours of noodle cooking demo and eating in September. Space is limited to 10 people only. Please drop me a line for dates if you and friends are interested to attend.
Here we are, 2012! What a day to start a new year! It’s raining cats and dogs…bucketing outside my dining room. Definitely not a day to go out for a walk around the block, which my silly husband is doing at this moment!
Yesterday, after hearing the forecast, I took the decision to cook something comforting for lunch. Chicken in broth is always a delicious thing to have in rainy day. Happened to have all the ingredients to make Hainan chicken as my family and mother in-law love this. Well, I thought she did! When asked what she thought of the dish. Her response was: “It’s alright”! She prefers another chicken dish I make, based on a Lebanese recipe, with loads of garlic and lemon juice. These 2 chicken dishes are so healthy (there is no oil/fat added in cooking), just the right thing to start your “New Year Resolution” if you happen to have one and eating healthily is on top of the list. Once the food was cooked, I had to get it all ready to be photographed before demolishing in 10 minutes flat.
The right chilli sauce to go with Hainan chicken….loads of garlic which may not be to everybody’s liking!
This is my first real entry in my blog and I’m hoping I would be able to do it regularly. I’m also hoping to hear from any of you with any news or ideas of how I should improve my website.