In My Kitchen, September 2019

I’m in Bali still, which reminds me of a good song about London. A long stay of about 3 months is only made possible thanks to my beautiful kitchen here, which has become an anchor and refuge, a place to make a comforting meal, making this house a home. It is a galley style kitchen, and came equipped with very few cooking tools. To the existing small saucepan and frying pan, I added a pasta pot and a small wok. It surprises me how little you really need. I did visit a huge kitchenware shop in Denpasar, Dapur Prima, for a peruse, but only bought a jug for my palm sugar syrup, a few heavy spoons, ( I despise Uri Geller light weight spoons), a soup ladle and a grater. Storage containers to hold pantry odds and ends have been re-purposed from empty 2 litre wine casks, ( we have resorted to wine casks, given the price of wine in bottles ) ice cream containers for packets of rice and pasta, along with recycled durable brown paper bags to store a few potatoes. This takes me back to the sensible way we re-used most of these items in the 70s and 80s, before kitchenware became a fashion accessory. We used large wine cask boxes to store files and magazines, often nicely covered in wrapping paper for teaching topic notes, ice-cream containers for oddments  in the pantry or for pegs in the laundry, and if we were lucky enough to buy wine in bottles, we would take them to the Scout bottle dump, where they would be sold to raise funds. A crate of lemonade in bottles was delivered occasionally in summer, then swapped when the next load was ordered. Newspaper and cardboard went to the Australian Paper Mills in Alphington to be recycled. Little plastic pots were used for plant cuttings, glass jars used for chutney and jams or for shed storage of nuts, bolts and seeds. Old suits and clothes were made into children’s overalls –  my three children wore these when crawling about on our brick floors. Handmade clothes were seen as more desirable than a piece of junk from Target. Recycling, re-purposing and re-using was a natural practice then, but now the need has become more urgent. A new generation needs to learn the ropes in this throw away era, while the older generation needs to re-acquire the values and practices it once held so dear. I hope to start afresh when I return to Australia and attempt to move closer to zero waste.

Apart from a country wide ban on single use plastic bags, Indonesia, and Bali in particular, has a scheme in place for collecting plastic bottles and cans. I save mine for one of the collectors at the beach. See Plastic bank in Indonesia. Over the past few years, I’ve often met an ancient woman, poor and dressed in a faded tattered sarong and white shirt, walking up and down the beach path all day, rifling through rubbish bins, dragging a huge bag of rubbish behind her. She is a street recycler and is part of the local scheme that offers a cash incentive for returning plastic bottles and cans. When her bag is full, she takes it to one of the plastic banks a couple of kilometers away, and then returns to start another round. Her toothless smile is radiant, as she greets us with a selamat siang /sore ( good afternoon). I find her enchanting, beautiful and her energy amazes me. I sometimes wait around on the beach in the afternoon, with my bag of recycling, to add to hers. Since this scheme was put in place, Sanur, a beach suburb of Denpasar, has radically improved. Primary schools also have recycling days for bottles and cans. Slowly the banana leaf wrappings are returning. Indonesia is determined to change it’s relationship with plastic. With a population of over 270 million, their need is even greater.


In my Balinese kitchen, I spend as much time sorting through flowers as I do preparing food. One of the morning routines I’ve adopted since coming here in July is collecting spent flowers along the paths in the morning before the gardeners sweep them away. These flowers last for one day. They are arranged in a saucer, bowl or platter, and placed on a fabric background: I then photograph them and post to Facebook, my daily antidote to bad news. Called the Dharma project, I have now posted 31 arrangements: each photo is chosen from a selection of 10, and explores the way colour changes with different backgrounds in the morning light. It is also a spiritual meditation on life, death, order, and transience.  If I miss a day or two, the cleaning staff bring me flowers. I am touched. Balinese make daily floral offerings: canang sari follow set rules in terms of arrangement and colour whereas my arrangements are usually based on what falls from above each day, although I sometimes resort to a little selective pruning.

I’m very partial to kue tradisional, traditional Indonesian cakes. These sweet morning treats were available at the market last week- boiled sweet agar- agar ‘snakes’ with freshly grated coconut. I remember buying them in the 80s and 90s when they came wrapped in banana leaves: now they come in little cellophane containers.

These little sachets of Terasi come in chocolate wrappers, each one containing the right quantity to toast before adding to your sambal. Made from dried prawn, Terasi is a very stinky condiment and an acquired taste. I have very fond memories of my children as teenagers, taunting each other with an open block of Terasi. There is nothing more rousing than a putrid block of compressed fish waived under your nose while dosing in the morning. Now my eldest two children, who are in their late 40s, still play Terasi and fish sauce games when they get together at the beach camp.

I love these ceremonial dishes used by Balinese women to carry flowers  offerings at small temples. The silver ones are usually left on top of family shrines and contain all sorts of oddities- everything a spirit could want, perhaps a cigarette, wrapped sweet, crackers, a jar of soy sauce, or a favourite drink. I use these bowls constantly in my kitchen, for washing vegetables or prepping the myriad of ingredients required for an Indonesian sambal cooking paste, for collecting flowers, or to store shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, galangal, white pepper and chili.

Candlenuts and garlic ( above) are an interesting substitute for pine nuts in pesto, made in the uleg.


One dish I enjoyed making recently was Terong dan Tahu Balado, eggplant and tofu balado. Balado is a Sumatran word, a Padang cooking term meaning red sambal. I love the long thin green eggplants here and hope to grown them when I return to Australia. They don’t carry any bitterness, and soften easily when cooked. They are also the perfect eggplant for light smoking. I used my Aldi fake Nutribullet for making the balado sambal. It churned through the shallots, garlic, long mild chilies, terasi and tomato in seconds. My stone Uleg looked on dejectedly, feeling suddenly obsolete, a kitchenware anachronism.

The two photos above are not from my kitchen but from Massimo’s Italian restaurant in Sanur. On the left, is Amarena ice cream with Chantilly cream and Amarena cherry syrup, served in lust- worthy Amarena blue and white bowls. And on the right, burrata with rugola. This cheese is made daily and served with home made chunky bread, and a bottle of EV olive oil and balsamic to apply your own dressing.  In between this entree and shared dessert, we ate a wood fired Napolitana pizza. This is the sweet Italian-Indonesian life, la dolce vita,  away from my kitchen. I have a regular table, naturally. Massimo is from Salento in Puglia, but has been operating his Italian restaurant in Sanur for more than 25 years, is married to a Balinese, and has Balinese- Italian children. Many of his recipes emanate from Salento. His business now includes many sidelines, including the production of gelato, hand rolled pasta, wood fire pizza and cheese- making, including some hard cheeses. A booking is required at night, but I like to pop down there at lunchtime when the big barn of a place is almost empty.

Easy Indonesian style Tomato so

This Indonesian style tomato soup featured in my recent post. A quick and easy soup, it really does require luscious vine ripened tomatoes and fresh stalks of lemongrass.

On our verandah, parpardelle con napoli, a good old fashioned standby, and a bottle of Two Islands Pinot Grigio, a wine made from Barossa grapes in Bali.

If you’ve read this long rambling post, thank you. I know, it seems to be more about the urgency of dealing with recycling than kitchen things. But then, most of our recycling problems start in the kitchen, ours or someone else’s, if you  happen to eat in restaurants. I usually try to make my posts ‘plastic free’, but not wishing to appear hypocritical, I’ve included some lovely Balinese items that came wrapped in plastic, cellophane or plastic foil.  It happens here and it happens at home, and then I wonder where it’s going to go. The header photo was chosen after Dale, from daleleelife.101, mentioned recently that it looked like a fruit salad of flowers. And thanks once again Madame Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings for hosting the monthly In My Kitchen series.

20 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, September 2019”

  1. Well, Fran Morgan, just in case you have not looked, I am sitting on your sofa and have just poured us another glass of di Bortoli’s Verdelho ! Would love to ramble on until the sun sets . . . you bring such warmth and joy and fun and knowledge into the local ‘every’day’ . . . . First of all, thank you for the flowers . . . remember being in Fiji on my honeymoon and everyone laughing for my daily pick-up of blossoms, many of which got pinned at the back of my hair ! The pink frangipani are mine, please ! Your whole post makes such wondrous sense . . . and I would love to be able to walk out to the beach to the old lady, smile and hand her all the stuff I had collected throughout the day . . . at the moment I do wish I was there . . . .

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  2. Your discussion of how we habitually reused things took me back to my childhood when all our glasses were repurposed jars… they were made that way for that purpose… no fancy matching sets for daily use in my family’s households. It becomes a habit, this morning I found myself rummaging around the shed for something to use as potted plant saucers, and I found a tub containing our stash of disposable party plates accumulated over many years which turned up a stack of plastic dinner plates which were just right. We find wine casks more convenient, economical and at the higher end drinkable, I must remember to consider the usefulness of the box. Your daily Dharmas have been a wonderful visual of Bali for me… I decided a while back I prefer eating cake made by someone else, and now also flower arrangements… beholding not eating, although the fruit salad Dharma was quite tempting. Not because I can’t or don’t like to do either but I enjoy appreciating the composition by another. What a great post, both beautiful and useful x

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    1. i remember those cute reusable jars. Every kitchen cupboard had them too. Nothing like an old fashioned cordial in a coloured etched vegemite jar. I think my Dharma arrangements happen more easily here as the flowers seem to shed so many blooms overnight and I feel the need to gather them, not wanted them to end up in the gardener’s compost bag too quickly. When you think about it, the frangipani tree is so ugly to look at, with all that stunning beauty and perfume saved for the tips of each bough. The usual dichotomy of life.


  3. Just as I was twitching for your blog. voila! And what a beauty! The international variety of fare available now is a long way from when I first visited in the early 80s. To select a country of choice and follow up with a wander through the streets for your fill. Tummy heaven. Still, no matter how I try to cook Indonesian, it’s never the same as a feast in Bali. A wish is to join you one year and spend time learning.
    All’s well in FNQ with the dry only just arrived.
    Happy holidays to you both

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  4. I loved reading about your kitchen, Francesca. We have been in our house for just over a year and we’re just now renovating the kitchen. It’s not fancy, but i love it, I love ‘dressing’ it and look forward each day to cooking our meals in it. I love sitting in it at night time, when the ‘drawbridge’ is pulled up, sharing wine and food with Himself – and veg from the garden. There’s such peace and contentment in that. I love your flower offerings plus the description of Balinese life and food. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Your thoughts on recycling are most welcome, and I am fascinated by the report on what the Bali government is doing to reduce waste. The planet is in such trouble, where to start? is a huge question. I love reading about your exotic dishes, which I think could not be made outside their native environment.

    thank you for all your interesting info and all the Instagram pics!

    best… mae at

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We struggle all over the world with these big questions on recycling and waste. I think things are slowly improving, well at least on that front.
      Most of the exotic dishes of Bali are available in Australia as these ingredients are grown in the tropical north, Queensland. As Australia is Indonesia’s nearest neighbour, the language is taught in many schools, and we have some migration from Indonesia, though there aren’t many Indonesian restaurants in Melbourne. I am fortunate to have a close friend who teaches me Indo cooking- he had a famous restaurant in an inner suburb of Melbourne some years ago. As he also has a holiday house in west Java, we sometimes stay with him, and the whole week is one eternal Indonesian cooking class. There’s only one ingredient, a local leaf, we can’t get in Australia and so I just leave it out.
      Thanks Mae for your comment.


  6. Your flower photos are beautiful and I love the description of the dishes you cook with local ingredients. You can never write too much about recycling and the need to reduce waste. We all need constant reminding. It’s a shame that here, although we have eliminated single use grocery bags, they still use them for produce in the stores. I love the burrata at your Italian restaurant, it’s one my seasonal treats. I have never been to Bali but it is on my bucket list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it is the same the world over.While there’s a ban on single use plastic bags at the checkout, the other little produce bags are still available. I think this next step is about to be implemented. I carry my mesh produce bags with me here in Bali, as at home, but a few plastic bags slip through into the shopping. It’s a battle.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed being taken back to yesteryear … when things were reused, handed down and much came in paper bags. Milk arrived in bottles, my clothes were hand made and things were repaired. It was not a throw away society. I loathe plastic ..saddens me to see its use and I agree that much of it is from the Kitchen! Ah cask wine … 🙂 Enjoy Bali Francesca ..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Another inspirational post Francesca. I had forgotten all about candlenuts and their use in Balinese cuisine. Great idea to adapt for a pesto. Lol – wine! Yes, it’s so expensive. We took a bottle with us, knowing the cost. As we drank that and also left a book behind, we are probably the only people who have ever left Bali with less luggage weight than they arrived with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to leave books behind. I picked a good one up at the Opshop in sanur and added my unwanted clothes there. One nice ganesha statue has been added to my luggage along with a few pieces of silver. As that famous line from Blackbooks goes,’ whores will have their trinkets ‘.


  9. Just glorious, and from another world, even though the Italian goings-on at the end ring a bell.

    Just a note that I tracked you down on Facebook to see your flower arrangements but I guess they are only visible to your friends. Alas, no friend request button that I can see…

    Liked by 1 person

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