Living and Loving in a Balinese Garden

As some parts of Bali become more urban, the importance of enclosed green spaces and lush tropical gardens becomes paramount. Finding accommodation within a well established, older garden is one of my priorities when staying here. There are many well tended gardens around Sanur, a beach suburb of Denpasar: some are grand in size, others small but inviting. They are usually found in the grounds of older and more traditional Balinese hotels. Gardens are tended daily: the role of the local gardener is one of utmost importance. They are up at first light, sweeping paths and removing fallen leaves. I rise with them, and gather the fallen frangipani blossom ( Jepun in Balinese) before they are swept up. Each day a new fall brings a different coloured blossom, some deep yellow tinted with maroon and pink, others creamy white, or pure yellow.

Later the gardeners prune and shape fecund vines, removing spent branches from palms, separating some for new plantings, or trimming unruly hedges. They work silently, usually with simple hand tools, clippers, scythes and knives. Tropical growth demands constant attention. I’ve always been keen to copy some¬†of these elements in my garden in Australia, a harsh environment cursed by wind and fierce heat in summer and frost in winter. The key element I would like to emulate is infrastructure. Walls feature often throughout Balinese gardens, along with doorways, small pavilions, pathways, and statues. Plain brick or concrete walls provide protection from the wind, shade and a structure for climbing plants. An ugly wall is soon softened with foreground planting and climbers.

Other elements of a Balinese Garden are worth noting. Small spaces, even in a terraced back yard or balcony, can be turned Balinese through selecting some of the elements that suit your space.

  • Gates. Decorative gateways are common features. They provide a focal point leading the eye to a feature in the distance. Various styles of gates are used, but the most evocative are intricately carved. They make perfect supports for climbers such as Bougainvillea and other climbers.
  • Paths. Often different paving materials are combined to create decorative effects. Note that things are not perfectly symmetrical or edged too thoroughly. A little randomness is part of the Balinese appeal. A formal garden is often followed by a very natural and organic corner.
  • Statues .¬†Statues of people, animals, religious and mythical figures are common in gardens. They are always raised, never placed at ground level. As they age, they they blend in with the surrounding planting and can be appreciated when passing by.¬† Balinese statues are often carved out of stone and can be seen in the thousand in the carving villages along the main road from Denpasar to Ubud. The tropical environment in Bali antiques walls, statues and pots rather quickly. A garden can look established in no time at all.

  • Water. Ponds and fountains are common in Balinese gardens, a place to grow¬†lotus and other water leafy plants.

Pavilions. Roofed and open sided with a raised floor, a shady pavilion is an inviting spot for an afternoon read or a place to reflect.

Plants. The indigenous plants of Bali have been mixed with introduced species for over 1,000 years. Palms, tropical fruits and  large Banyan trees give shade and height while lower growing plants including Ginger and Hibiscus provide colour. Plants are often grown in decorative containers to create features, especially different coloured Bougainvillea which are kept well pruned. The aim is to create height and layers of growth, as well as open grassy areas for contrast.

For Peter D, tropical gardener in Far North Queensland, who could name all of these plants, and Helen and Rosalie, who also love a good traditional garden space in Bali. And also for my wall building son, Jack, who might have some time to add some garden infrastructure on his return from Bali. Ohm.

Nangka or Jackfruit, carefully tended in a nearby garden.

 

In My Kitchen, April 2018.

Autumn in Melbourne, most would agree, is the best season of the year. Days are warm and still while evenings are crisp. A few small logs burning in the wood stove symbolise a seasonal turning point in the calendar: the first cosy fire is the most evocative of all. Other Autumnal markers are the slow ripening of the quinces, with a few falling each day, the late season heritage apples, the Rome Beauty and Akane varieties now ready, and the fat green olives beginning to blush purple-black. Keeping a productive vegetable patch and orchard may seem demanding to some- an abundant harvest can be a hard task master. This extra time in the kitchen is offset by time spent away from supermarkets. In my kitchen, the garden is featuring more each month and will continue to do so. Out of My Garden and into the Kitchen perhaps?

Last of the sweet Akane apples

If you grow your own chillies, you will probably end up with way too many but really, count this as a blessing. There are little saucers of chillies lying about in my kitchen and on sunny ledges, slowly drying out for the year’s supply. Once ready, they will be whizzed in an electric spice grinder then stored stored for the year in jars. Some dried chilli flakes also go into the making of chilli oil, an essential condiment on a southern Italian table. Soup bowls proliferate in my kitchen. Because I love soup so much, I have preferred bowls for certain soups. Fine purees tend to go into old-fashioned 1940s small bowls, onion soup into rustic terracotta bowls, Italian bean and pasta soups lounge around in shallow but very wide bowls and so on. It’s obsessive I know, and my soup bowl collection is being reviewed as I address the issue of downsizing. A few new irregular shaped bowls recently snuck into my kitchen.

A new soup bowl, with zucchini soup and pesto.

And when it comes to soup, the garden produce usually dictates the recipe. I always start with a soffritto, a very finely chopped selection of onion, celery, herbs and garlic sauted in olive oil, and then the soup is built on this base. It is artistic expression for me- not just a bowl of soup.

Late March garden pickings for soup, with our garlic from December.

The soup that followed the picking.

Zuppa dell’orto con quadretti.

I get nervous if the dried bean and pulse supplies fall too low. Sourced from¬†Bas Foods, most of these are Australian grown and are packed fresh in the warehouse next door. There’s nothing worse than woody old dried beans: no soaking and long cooking will revive them. Another essential soup ingredient is Farro, and it’s great to see the Australian variety on the market made by Mt Zero olives.

Dried beans and pulses

Autumn fruits, and a few stored plums from late summer, make fine fruit crumbles. My favourite mixture is apple, plum, orange, lemon peel, sugar, cloves and marsala. This batch is ready to be topped with crumble.

As we have been running between two kitchens for the last two months, we have discovered some interesting fresh supplies near our campsite on the Mornington Peninsula. These mussels are grown in the bay off Mt Martha where the water is deep and pristine. They are not available commercially in Melbourne as Point Lonsdale black mussels tend to dominate the markets. They can be bought at Safety Beach and also in Dromana. They are really the best mussels I have ever tasted.

Fresh Mt Martha Mussels.

I made a quick smoky chowder last night and a few of these briny molluscs went into the soup. Today’s Pizza lunch demanded a few more- and I still have half a bag left for some Pasta con Cozze tonight. Not bad for $7.50 a kilo.

Pizza Amore. ( cozze, pomodori piccoli, basilico, olive)

For the monthly series, In My Kitchen, organised and collated by Sherry, from Sherry’s Pickings. Strangely enough, this series keeps me on track and up to date with my garden life too.

Apologies to Eha, Debi and others for my earlier draft which suddenly appeared without my knowledge. Gremlins!

Minestra di Verdure Estive/ Summer Vegetable Soup

I like to eat soups in the height of summer, not necessarily cold soups, but light minestre of vegetables in season. They are thrown together and take around 20 minutes to cook, using whatever is abundant in the garden.

Summertime soup
Summertime soup. Keeping photos real with lots of red slurp.

This vegetable soup is similar to the French Soupe au Pistou in many ways, but I am waiting on the garden’s fresh borlotti, i fagioli scritti,¬†and green beans, before I go down that Proven√ßal path.

Ingredients.

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic, finely chopped,
  • 2 tablespoons EV olive oil
  • 4-5 chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely sliced
  • 1 can of drained and well rinsed chick peas or white cannellini beans
  • ¬ľ¬†jar of home-made or purchased tomato passata
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • small¬†broken¬†pieces of Mafaldine (flat ribbon) pasta or other dried pasta on hand
  • salt and pepper
  • freshly made pesto from a handful of basil leaves, two cloves garlic, salt, olive oil and pecorino, bashed to a pulp in a mortar and pestle. (Leave the nuts out when serving with soup.)
  • grilled bruschetta to go with¬†the soup.

In a large heavy pot, add a generous slurp of olive oil and gently cook a sliced onion and a chopped garlic until soft but not coloured. Then add the vegetables as listed, stirring each new addition for a minute or so as you go. When they are almost cooked, after around 15 -20 minutes. add the some broken pieces of Mafladine and cook until the pasta is al dente. Season well. Serve in wide bowls with a dollop of freshly made basil pesto.

Paranzo All'aperto.
Pranzo all’aperto. Minestra di verdure estive.

The pasta Mafaldine was named in honour of Princess Mafaldine of Savoy, daughter of King Vittorio Emmanuele 111, and is also known as reginette or “little queens”.

The Wisdom of the Contadini. Spring Garden Diary

An old Italian proverb advises,”¬†Quando i mandorli fioriscono, le¬†donne impazziscono“- when the almond tree blooms, women go crazy.¬†I can safely say that I missed this arboricultural, aphrodisiacal or psychotic event a few weeks ago. The almonds already have fruit! Mr Tranquillo is looking for a later flowering variety to extend the season.

My productive organic¬†orto reminds me of the wisdom contained in old Italian proverbs, based on the experience of centuries of vegetable growing by the Italian¬†contadini, the¬†rural peasants, who depended on a productive home garden for crops to be eaten fresh, stored, pickled or dried. Given that this class of farmer was often at the mercy of the landowner, working under the mezzadria,¬†the¬†traditional¬†share cropping system, a productive ‘home’ patch would have been essential to their survival.

Earrly zucchini plantings- another round wll be planted in late December
Early zucchini planting- another round will be planted in late December.

With each turn around the garden, I can hear the vecchi, the old folk, reciting advice in the form of rhymes, the oral history of food and planting. ¬†I have selected a few gems to go with this season’s verdant bounty.

Masses of herbs
Masses of herbs for salsa and pesto
  • Chi pianta le fave senza concime,¬†le raccoglie senza baccello –¬†Those who plant broadbeans without fertiliser, picks them without pods.
Waiting for the first Fave Beans
Waiting for the first fave beans.
  • Chi ha un buon orto, ha un buon porco. Those who have a good vegetable garden, have a good pig. We find this to be the case with chooks also: they love wild rocket and silverbeet.
    The girls are excited when the big gates are opened. Springtime meeans more eggs.
    Let me out…stamp, stamp, stamp.
  • Un piatto di lattuga l’insonnia mette in fuga. ¬†A¬†plate of lettuce chases away insomnia.

    cos and radicchio
    cos and radicchio
  • L’insalata vuole il sale da un sapiente, l’aceto da un avaro, l’olio da un prodigo, vuol essere mescolata da un matto e mangiata da un affamato. ¬†A salad wants salt from a wise man, vinegar from a miser and oil from a squanderer, mixed by¬†a madman and eaten by the¬†hungry.
  • Wild rocket pops up anywhere in the garden: enough for us and the chooks.
    Wild rocket pops up anywhere in the garden: enough for us and the chooks.
  • Lattuga romanella ripulisce la¬†budella. Cos lettuce cleans the gut.

    Abundant Cos lettuce seedlings from saved seed
    Abundant Cos lettuce seedlings from saved seed

Simple dishes star this season, the cucina povera of the Italian contadini: 

  • freshly made egg pasta with sage leaves browned in butter
  • frittata stuffed with herbs and wild greens, with ricotta saltata
  • orecchiette with turnip tops, garlic and anchovies
  • green salads wisely dressed
  • pies and tarts with silverbeet, dill, spring onions and mint, along with fetta
  • silver beet dolmades
  • salsa verde to dress fish or dill and walnut pesto to dress hard-boiled eggs
  • risotto with cavolo nero or radicchio
Radiccho grows everywhere, as well as in the path!
Radiccho grows everywhere, as well as in the path!

It’s all very green with the odd touch of bitter crimson. The planting of the summer fruiting vegetables has begun.

The most versatile vegetable, the humble silver beet.
The most versatile vegetable, the humble silver beet.

Julie’s Spring garden in the North Island of New Zealand is always inspiring, especially given her brilliant photography. Find her at¬†frogpondfarm

I am also linking in with Lizzie’s Garden Share Collective this month.

Garden Gado Gado

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On numerous visits to the Indonesian archipelago over the years, my taste buds and I have searched for the perfect Gado Gado. This classic Indonesian salad is constructed from various cooked vegetables and salad ingredients, then covered with peanut sauce. My research has led to one conclusion: they are all different.  The term Gado Gado means mix- mix in Bahasa Indonesian and the dish is usually made with a mix of vegetables (such as potatoes, green beans, bean sprouts, spinach, lettuce, and cabbage), with tofu, tempeh and hard-boiled eggs, then topped with peanut sauce dressing, and tapioca krupuk on the side. The versions I have tried in Indonesia often include vegetable greens and no egg, some have wetter peanut sauces and some dry and dark sauces, resembling the Javanese pecel sauce. The salad components seem to be vanishing from the modern Indonesian Gado Gado, but were definitely a component throughout the 80s.

Building the salad. Gado Gado undressed.
Building the salad. Gado Gado undressed.

My garden version is based on current garden pickings. I think many Indonesian cooks use what’s on hand and aren’t too fussed with following a formula. A very successful version can be made with the following summer produce:

  • Cos lettuce, chopped
  • silver beet leaves, green only, steamed
  • new yellow fleshed potatoes, cooked, sliced
  • mini tomatoes, halved
  • cucumber, sliced

To this, I have added,

  • hard boiled eggs, quartered
  • fried strips of tofu
  • peanut sauce

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The Peanut Sauce.

This is a wonderful cheat’s peanut sauce and I am indebted to Celia for this recipe. It is really tasty and cuts out a lot of work.

  • 60g Jimmy‚Äôs Sat√© Sauce
  • 50g smooth peanut butter
  • 60g coconut milk (or to taste)
  • ¬ľ¬†teaspoon sesame oil
  • 10g dark sweet soy (Kecap Manis)
  • 15g lime juice (or tamarind if limes are scarce)
  • 10g brown sugar (or any sugar)

Whisk all the ingredients together until combined and then taste and adjust as needed. ¬†I like to cook the sauce down a little to make a thicker sauce as I am not a fan of the ‘drenched’ version of Gado Gado. The sauce has deep notes of three spice powder and is hot and sweet and tastes pretty authentic!

The magic sauce, Jimmys
The magic sauce, Jimmys

I like to build this salad, starting with the lettuce ( Cos or Iceberg) then adding the steamed vegetable greens, followed by cooked potatoes, then green beans if available, then arrange the tomato and cucumber slices or chunks around the sides, interspersed with hard-boiled eggs. Then cover with the sauce, followed by any extra lovely things you may have hanging out in your pantry, such as tapioca krupuk, or fried shallots, or fresh, lightly steamed bean shoots.

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This version is based on my resolution to use what’s on hand, just like the good ibu of Java would do. No more running to the shops for one or two rogue ingredients. But I wish I had some krupuk!

An authentic version of peanut sauce can be found in Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food. ¬† I like the cheat’s version equally well.

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Pizza Dell’Orto. Cheap Eats.

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One of my New Year’s¬†resolutions included a desire to eat more frugally and to shop less.

My aim is to produce meals that cost close to $1.00 per person on a regular basis. Can this be done with a large pizza for two?  The following costing is based on my free garden produce, which at this time of the year, is dominated by the prolific zucchini crop, followed by cucumbers, tomatoes and basil.

A casual table setting under the trees.
A casual table setting under the trees.

A Pizza dell’ Orto is my favourite vegetable garden pizza¬†in summer, especially on a hot evening, in giardino, outside under the trees.

The following costing is pretty accurate, without pedantically weighing the olives, anchovies and so on. I buy Extra Virgin Australian olive oil,  Cobram 3 litres @ $24.00 a tin), Italian anchovy fillets in oil@ $11.00 for 750 gr and Laucke bakers flour @$11.00 for 5 kilo, pitted black olives @ $16.oo a kilo,and Mozzarella cheese, sliced finely @ $11.00 a kilo.

The dough.  ( recipe found here),

  • 500 grams of strong bakers flour = $1.10.
  • dried active yeast, Olive oil, salt=3o cents.
  • half of the¬†dough is¬†used to make a large 35 cm/15 inch pizza for two . The rest is stashed for tomorrow’s foccaccia.
  • total cost of pizza dough= 70 cents

The Tomato Sauce

  • Can of tomatoes,¬†Italian¬†brand, 60 cents.
  • Home grown garlic and oregano.
  • Half used on pizza. The rest of the sauce is stashed for another use.
  • total cost= 30c

    Mr T grills the zuchini and cooks the sauce.
    Mr T grills the zucchini and cooks the sauce.

The topping.

  • 10 thin slices of Mozzarella,¬†around $1.00
  • anchovies from bulk jar and pitted black olives,¬†a handful, around 50 cents.
  • Garden produce includes zucchini, cherry tomatoes, basil.
  • total cost= $1.50

Total Cost for this Pizza= $2.5o

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  • grilling the zucchini and sauce,¬†10 minutes.
  • weighing and mixing the dough,¬†10 minutes
  • rising time ( summer),1.5 hours.
  • cooking time,¬†15 minutes.

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The little children and their parents visit often over the lazy summer months. Five large pizzas are enough for a family meal for 8 adults and 5 young children. I usually work on 3- 4 slices per adult and 2-3 slices per child. One of the family favourites is a pissaladiere, the budget South of France model and a pepperoni version for the meat lovers, which is a slightly more costly version.

Feeding my Pizza loving family costs around $15.00 so long as I have the ingredients on hand. The only items purchased from the duopoly chain of Australian  supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, were the flour and the yeast.

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Garden Monthly. June 2014

This is a quick round up of my June garden.  More importantly, it is my garden diary which compels me to record the seasonality of my own produce, as well as enjoying other garden stories from around the globe.

                                                The Harvest.

Firstly, the Asians:  limes, lemon grass, chilli, coriander and Kaffir lime leaves. I can see a curry or guacamole coming up soon. Or perhaps some lemon grass tea.

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The baby turnips and pepper were baked with some other ( stored ) home produce.ImageImage

                                            The Veggie Garden

These two beds below were seeded on March 25th and are now ready to pick ( except for the broccoli). Young turnips, tatsoi, lettuce, radish, dill and coriander, silverbeet, and self sown bok choi are now abundant.Image

ImageThese strawberries think it is Spring, due to the unseasonable warm weather we have experienced this May. Will they have a chance to colour? The crazy yellow eggplants refuse to die. Shame that I don’t really like them.ImageImage

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†The ‘TO DO’ list.

  • plant broad beans in patches that could benefit from a nitrogen fix.
  • finish off planting out the garlic ( an endless task)
  • make a few more beds of winter lettuce and rocket.
  • remind the family to pick the broccoli heads in our absence, ensuring a future supply of side shoots.
  • protect the lemon grass from future frost.

In the photo below, Renato farewells the girls, my Dexter cows, Delilah, Derry and Duffy. Renato has been working as a volunteer Wwoofer on our property, on and off for two months. From Milano and a high tech working world, he loves farming and Australia and is always researching interesting approaches to everyday tasks. He has gathered endless quantities of manure from these paddocks, spreading it on all the fruit trees and olives and adding it to the compost.  Good gardening depends on good compost and manure.  Grazie Mille Renato.

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Garden Monthly. May 2014.

As April draws to a close, it’s time to take a spin around the veggie garden. The seeds I planted on March 25th are up and nearly ready for transplanting or thinning out. In this bed are: radicchio, cavolo nero ¬†(Tuscan kale), rainbow chard, beetroot, French radish, cos lettuce, mixed lettuce, spinach and turnips. Lots of good things for winter soups and salads.ImageThe next bed is my Surprise bed. I had too many packets of out of date seeds, most dating back to 2009, so I threw the whole lot in this bed. So far, the results are good, with tatsoi, mustard, coriander, and other mysteries popping up.Image¬†You have to congratulate the zucchini plants. They bear from late November to late April-that’s five months and still producing. I picked another three this morning, which formed the basis of a grilled zucchini and marinated fetta salad.

ImageThe chilli are so slow to colour. If we stay frost-free, they will hang on for a few more months and finally turn red.ImageThe raspberries are putting on a repeat performance, some as big as strawberries. First up, best dressed.  When there are so few, they never quite make it to the table.ImageThe Greek Basil bushes remain healthy and the Cavolo Nero from last winter is having a renaissance.ImageImageTo do list includes:

  • preparing beds for garlic planting. I prefer to plant garlic cloves in May, but so long as they go in before Winter Solstice, June 21st, they will be fine. I have a huge stash tucked away in a dark corner of my pantry. My new trick is to bury some whole bulbs under the cold earth in May, ( weather depending) and when I see green shoots, I lift the bulbs and separate the cloves into neat rows. I attempt to grow around 300 plus a year- one whole bulb for every day plus more for planting out the year after. Garlic loves rich soil and requires Winter and Spring watering if the season turns dry.
  • cleaning up the last remaining tomato bushes and adding the stalks to the bonfire stack (not safe to compost old tomato vines, they say) and tying up the stakes for next year.
  • Preparing the beds for sowing broad bean seeds. More manure and more compost needed. Our Wwoofer, Renato, is happy to help.
  • Thinning out and/or transplanting seedlings from last month’s sowing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA