2015 in review

Here’s the completed “Year in Review” post!

Happy New Year!! As we start the new year I thought I’d reflect on the first six months of my Free Spirit Food blog. It’s certainly been very interesting starting this blogging journey and I was amazed to receive my “annual report” from WordPress telling me that there had been almost 5,000 views since June 2015 – apparently almost the equivalent of four full New York subway trains!

My aim when I started was to get to 100 followers by the end of the year and as we enter the new year I would like to say thank you to the 105 people who find my recipes and reviews of interest. Some of you are friends and family, but the majority of you are from around Australia and the world with very informative, interesting and beautiful blogs of your own.

I wanted to say a special thank you to my most loyal supporters and give their great blogs a plug:

From the family table
What’s Bec Cooking
My little space in the sun
Delights of the Algarve
Arpita’s Travelogue

I also thought you might be interested in the top 5 most popular posts from Free Spirit Food in 2015.

  1. Roasted eggplant with cummin and yoghurt
Roasted eggplant
Roasted eggplant with cummin and yoghurt

2. Pulled pork with garlic, thyme and chilli

Pulled pork

3. Lamb and potato curry

Lamb and potato curry with rice and red lentil dhal

4.Durban style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry

Durban-style mince and pea Samosas
Durban-style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry

5.Review: Pau Sat: Satay Street in Singapore

Lau pa Sat Market Building
Beautiful colonial architecture of Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, originally a wet market

And that’s the wrap of 2015!

Looking forward to another year of great foodie and travel adventures which began with an amazing seven course meal at Mozaic restaurant in Ubud last night.

Bali Review: A real Babi Guling experience at Warung Ibu Suna, Kedewatan

image
Campuhan Bridge from the river’s edge

Having set out at 7.30am to do the Campuhan Ridge walk in Ubud before the sun got too hot, we decided we would have breakfast/brunch on the way back to Penestanan. The walk starts from stairs near the Campuhan Bridge that take you down to the river bed where you negotiate crossing over rocks to more stairs that lead up to the impressive temple on the other side, and the actual start of the “trek” up the ridge.

We were lucky to have the aid of a makeshift bamboo “bridge” to get us across. The walk itself up the ridge affords stunning views across valleys on both sides.

After about 3km of rolling hill climbs, you reach the village of Tegallalang with it’s rice fields and then walk another 4kms or so through the village of Kedawatan towards Jalan Sangiangan, the main route into Ubud. This stretch involves very steep hill walks between Tegallalang and Kedwatan and we certainly worked up a sweat and an appetite!

Just as we leaving Kedawatan heading towards Ubud, we noticed a spotless Warung with a freshly delivered Babi Guling pig being chopped up for the day’s servings. We couldn’t resist knowing that most local warungs only serve Babi Guling fresh in the mornings and run out by midday. We were also keen to sample Babi Guling outside the now-world famous and tourist focussed Ibu Oka in Ubud central.

Having been to Ibu Oka many times in the last decade, from it’s original dirt floor premises opposite the Ubud Palace, to the now massive hall-like venue occupied by Ibu Oka 2, the sight of the small and spotlessly clean, local Warung Ibu Suna with locals tucking in, was very appealing. So, in we went and we were not to be disappointed.

The Babi Guling was served with rice, hot chilli sambal, a delicious spicy lawar (mixture of green ferns and finely chopped green/snake beans and porky bits, juicy pieces of pork, crispy innard bits and brilliantly crispy, “glassy” crackling. The soup accompanying the Babi Guling was one of the best we have ever tried and included pork pieces on the bone, cooked in the soup to a melt in your mouth texture. All this, and a bottle of Rasa Temulawak Beruap (see below for info)for only IR65,000 for the 2 of us!

Rasa Temulawak Beruap - sweet and gingery drink at Warung Ibu Suna
Rasa Temulawak Beruap – sweet and gingery drink at Warung Ibu Suna

Literally translated Rasa Temulawak Beruap means “ginger flavour steamy”, but tastewise it’s like a sharper, richer flavoured non-alcoholic ginger beer. According to an article in the Jakarta Post, Temulawak is Javanese turmeric which has excellent cholesterol reducing properties, even better than turmeric. We of course didn’t know all this at the time but the spicy sweetness of the icy cold drink certainly went very well with our Babi Guling. Here’s the link to The Jakarta Post article:
http://m.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/11/25/‘temulawak’-another-wonder-healer.html

There are no menu choices here but they definitley do their speciality very well.

I have googled to find other reviews of Warung Ibu Suna and cannot find any mentions on Trip advisor or anywhere. I doubt very much that we are the first tourists to visit and enjoy Ibu Suna’s hospitality and delicious Babi Guling but I suspect they might not have wanted to share this very tasty secret with the world just as yet.

Ps. We then walked the rest of the 3.5km back to Penestanan energised by our power breakfast/brunch!

Javanese dining in Ubud – Warung Mendez Penestanan

image
Display of spices at Warung Mendez

After a wonderful Christmas eating lots of delicious traditional English and Australian food, we are now in Bali for a fortnight of feasting and relaxation up in the hills of Ubud. There won’t be too much cooking but certainly a lot of eating planned.

We have been regulars to Bali over the last ten years and can’t help but feel instantly relaxed when we get here through the combination of the warm Balinese hospitality, heat of the tropical sun and diversity and quality of the food.

This visit we are staying in the village of Penestanan on the edge of the rice fields, once quite a sleepy part of Ubud but which has now been populated with great cafes and restaurants, spas and villas.

We started our first day here lazing by our pool before choosing to lunch at Warung Mendez, a restaurant specialising in Javanese cuisine. From tempting appetisers and soups to specials such as slow cooked goat’s leg and Tempe fried in a special spring onion batter, deciding on what to eat is not an easy task so we immediately ordered Bintang beer to cool us down as we made the tough choices.

Adrian often talks about Rawon soup which he had previously enjoyed in Jakarta. The dark almost black, beef soup is made that colour and given it’s unique earthy flavour from the use of the kelucak seed. It is traditionally served with steamed rice and chilli sambal, which is known as Nasi Rawon. At Warung Mendez, we ordered it just as a soup to shar alongside our individual mains of Nasi Goreng and Rica Rica Mackerel.

Rawon black beef soup at Warung Mendez
Rawon black beef soup at Warung Mendez

Whilst the Rawon soup was delicious, it felt like it had been “toned down” to suit the largely tourist palate of the diners that frequent the restaurant. However the nutty taste of the ground kelucak seeds did shine through and with the addition of some of the tasty homemade chilli sambal we had certainly would get Warung Mendez at least 3.5 stars for their version.

Of course it is difficult to pass by a Nasi Goreng or the Balinese version known as Nasi Campur when in Bali. The Warung Mendez version comes with the traditional fried rice, freshly bed chicken satays, pickled carrot, crispy shredded cabbage, a perfectly fried egg and prawn crackers. Adrian’s verdict is that it was “very nice”. We could see, smell and hear the rice being wok tossed and the stays being barbecued!

My Rica Rica Mackerel was not quite as I expected having had the more “tomatoey” Chicken Rica-Rica before. The Warung Mendez Mackerel version omits the tomatoes but features delicious grilled and then shredded fish mixed with the spicy chilli and shallot Rica Rica spice paste. The inclusion of small pieces of tangy Balines lime and the accompaniments of the fern and coconut salad and turmeric rice made for a light and tasty lunch dish.

Rica Rica mackerel at Warung Mendez
Rica Rica mackerel at Warung Mendez

All in all we would recommend Warung Mendez if you’d like to get an authentic taste of Javanese food in Ubud at an extremely good price. Our lunch cost us less than AUD$20. We will definitely be returning for dinner to try the goat’s leg and tempeh, and some desserts.

Pan-fried Scallops on pea purée with crispy proscuitto

Red, white and green. These sweet scallops just pan-fried with a golden brown crust on the bright green pea purée topped with salty, red crispy proscuitto bits are a great Christmas starter or entree. The pea purée can be made ahead of time so it’s easy to assemble just before serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes cooking time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:

Pea purée
2 small eschallots finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic finely sliced
2 cups frozen peas defrosted
1/2 cup chicken stock
50g butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and finely crushed black pepper

Scallops
16-24 scallops (4-6 per person)
Olive oil spray

Proscuitto
4-6 slices very thin slices of proscuitto

Method
Pea purée
Heat butter or oil over medium heat
Add eschallots and garlic and sauté gently until soft and transparent
Add defrosted peas and chicken stock, bring to gentle simmer
Cook for maximum 5-7 minutes until peas are tender but still bright green
Add salt and pepper to taste
Process with stick blender or in food processor until purée forms
Pass through a sieve to remove husks, leaving smooth creamy and bright green purée

Proscuitto
Put proscuitto in non-stick frying pan and bring up to medium heat to allow fat to render slowly
Fry for 10 minutes or so until proscuitto is really crispy turning up heat slightly if needed but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn

Scallops
Pat dry each scallop with paper towel
Heat a non-stick pan on high heat, then turn down heat slightly, spray very lightly with olive oil if necessary to ensure non-stick
Add scallops to pan in 2-3 batches
Pan fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden crust forms and scallops are cooked. If too much liquid comes out of scallops, remove scallops from pan, clean pan and then add scallops back to achieve golden colour

Assembly
Spoon 2 tablespoons pea purée on individual plates
Spread purée with a spoon to form a “strip” on which to place scallops
Place 4-6 scallops on purée
Scatter with crispy proscuitto bits
Serve with a crisp white wine

Christmas Turkey Stuffing

It’s been a very busy lead up to Christmas so there hasn’t been much time to post recipes but there has been a lot of cooking going on! We have already celebrated Christmas with family  in Melbourne and Sydney. And the now the requests are coming in for the ham glaze and turkey stuffing recipes are coming in so I thought I’d share with everyone.

This stuffing recipe has been in my family forever and I don’t know where it originated from. It doesn’t have fruit or nuts in it but the carrots and onions add sweetness and the finely chopped chicken liver adds texture and an almost gamey flavour. White pepper is essential and adds a tangy spiciness quite different to black pepper.

I use the stuffing in full turkey roast, turkey breast roll and also whole chicken roast. Highly advisable to make a seperate dish of it in the oven at the same time as it goes pretty quickly.

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cooking time: depends on what you are stuffing but at least 1 hour in the oven.

Ingredients:
4 carrots grated
2 brown onions finely diced
4 cloves of garlic crushed to a paste
200g chicken livers with skin and sinew removed and very finely chopped, almost minced
1.5-2 cups white breadcrumbs freshly torn in little chunks from 1/2 a baguette, can include crusts
100g butter
1/2 bunch of thyme leaves stripped from stalk
2 sprigs of sage finely chopped
salt to taste
1.5-2 teaspoons white pepper

image
Finely chopped liver

 

Method:

Melt butter in non-stick frying pan over medium heat
Add onions and cook slowly until transparent
Add garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes
Add chicken livers and cook slowly until browned and colour changes

image
Sauté chicken livers over medium heat until colour changes

Add carrots, thyme and sage and pepper and cook until carrots are softened
Remove from heat and put into a bowl, then add breadcrumbs and salt to taste, mix well so the bread absorbs the juices and butterCool thoroughly before stuffing bird
Put extra stuffing in a ovenproof dish and bake alongside the roast

image

Hunters style Indian roast leg of lamb

Indian Hunters style Roast Leg of Lamb

This is my version of the traditional Jungli Maas – the roast meat cooked by hunters using game. The original version of this recipe does not include ginger, garlic or curry leaves but I’ve adjusted the recipe to add further depth to the flavours. Delicious with a cooling cucumber and tomato kachumber salad or a green salad, and roast potatoes – even better as leftovers the next day. Don’t be scared off by the number of chillies they provide flavour rather than too much heat unless of course you decide to eat them which I wouldn’t advise for any other than those with serious chilli tolerance. The juices left in the pan are rich, spicy and delicious in moderation. Ghee is essential.

Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 2.5-3 hours
Ingredients:

1 2-2.5 kg leg of lamb, with bone in, that will fit in your largest casserole dish with a lid or get your butcher to cut in half
35 dried red chillies, preferably Kashmiri
200g ghee
Handful of curry leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons ginger and garlic crushed into a paste
1 tsp salt
250ml hot chicken stock
Coriander or parsley for garnish

Method
Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees celcius
Remove seeds from 25 of the chillies, slicing them in half (wear gloves or ensure you wash your hands well after)
Make deep incisions with a sharp knife
Rub lamb well with the ginger and garlic paste, massaging the paste into the incisions (those gloves are probably advisable at this point too)

Put the ghee in the casserole dish and melt over medium heat

Add the cinnamon and curry leaves to flavour ghee
Add the lamb and brown all over
Add chillies and salt to the pot, then carefully add hot stock as the mixture might spit when adding to ghee
Bring to simmer, cover with the lid and put carefully into oven
Cook for 2-5-3 hours until lamb is falling off the bone

Hunters style Indian roast leg of lamb
Hunter style Indian roast leg of lamb

You will need to baste the lamb every half an hour and add more boiling water if the mixture is getting too dry
Rest the lamb for 15-20 minutes
Pull the lamb off the bone and serve with juices spooned over the top
Garnish with coriander or parsley