Cooking Class on an Organic Farm in Bali

Let’s be honest. I don’t LOVE cooking. And this past year is the first time I’ve really gotten into eating. I hadn’t thought much about it until now, but it makes total sense. Along with the other changes in my life I have been slowly transitioning from carnivore to vegetarian to organic vegetarian. Becoming aware of the horrendously inhumane way our food animals are treated and the affects of genetically altered crops on nutrition was a start. Then learning about the chemicals and pesticides that keep the bugs away, increase yield, and make our food look pretty while poisoning us and ruining our ecosystem…well…that was the proverbial straw. Change didn’t happen overnight, but lasting change rarely does. Eating differently is a major lifestyle shift. It requires thinking in a new way about food.

Today as Dayu instructs her two eager students, Simone from Switzerland and me, she keeps saying, “Food is medicine.” I need to revise that to make it true…Dayu’s food is medicine. My story starts with a harrowing ride once again on the back of a motorbike. Dayu careens past slower moving vehicles, weaving around dogs, chickens, bicycles, and small children. For 30 agonizing minutes I grip with my knees, grit my teeth, cling to her waist, and pray. Finally we turn off the main road down a bougainvillea-lined drive and I start to breathe again.

The organic rice fields stretch lush and green into the distance. Baliwood Organic Farm grows both red and white rice. Dayu parks the bike and I gratefully and inelegantly dismount. TGTO (Thank god that’s over!) A slim Asian woman is coming out of a large house to greet us. Her name is Caroline and she’s from Singapore. She apologizes that she cannot accompany us for the cooking class because her husband’s cremation was yesterday and she has much family staying with her. But she urges us to come into her home. It is always a privilege to see how other cultures live. This is no exception.

Her back yard boasts an extremely inviting pool! Inside the house, the main room is immense. There is a ping-pong table, a flat screen TV, and a few chairs with acres of white tiled floor in between. Caroline has two very large kitchens, a wet kitchen and a dry kitchen. As I understand it, because of the heavy use of grease in Asian cooking, the wet kitchen is where all of the frying and steaming of foods takes place. The dry kitchen is for everything else. (There’s a new concept for all those Western kitchen designers out there!) She has a spacious master bedroom with a massage table and king size bed. Mosquito netting romantically drapes the sides. Back outside, dotting the perimeter of the grounds are three guest houses for family and close friends, she explains.

The tour completed we are taken through this welcoming portal into Caroline’s personal organic ‘kitchen’ garden.

Dayu collects three large bowls and garden shears. She hands one to each of us. We begin our meandering through the beds of herbs and vegetables snipping mint, bay leaf, curry leaf, lemongrass, aloe, eggplant, lettuce, radish, winged beans, pumpkin, tomato, cucumber, zucchini, and a bean pod a foot long that has huge, delicious white beans inside. Caroline snaps open the pod and we eat two or three of the juicy beans right there on the spot. Delicious!

This farm goes to great lengths to purify the water used on the garden. The water that comes from the river runs through this bed of water hyacinth to be filtered before being applied to the plants. There is also a system functioning to filter the gray and black water. The fertilizer is manure and compost. There is a machine that chops large leaves and other herbaceous material to speed up the composting process. Keep in mind a leaf here can be 2 feet wide and 8 feet long!

This greenhouse is just being finished for starting new seedlings. Papaya trees and a couple of pineapple plants stand in the foreground.

Next to the greenhouse is a drying house.

The framework is wood but the walls, doors, and shelves are heavy screen material. There are several large bamboo trays of herbs drying in the structure. Gardening is the same but different in Bali. The growing season, for instance, never ends, and what is planted seems to thrive. Dayu’s husband is the knowledgeable gardener here.

In this triangular bed slices of the trunk of a banana palm are used to shield tiny seedlings from too much direct sunlight. The creative design of the garden and the use of materials occurring naturally in the local environment to solve problems is inspirational. In this land of wildly creative people, the garden seems to be just another expression of artistic genius.

The tour takes us to a structure at the far end of the garden. To our surprise, the beautiful building is the kitchen for our class. And to our further amazement, we are the first students ever to use this facility. It was just completed this week and we are it’s the maiden voyage.

The island is this utterly stunning teak slab polished to a rich luster. Our vegetables are washed and Dayu is ready to show us how to make Green Juice.

It turns out Green Juice is one cucumber, one HUGE carrot, one green apple, one whole lime, one slice ginger and a very large amount of green leafy bok choy type vegetable. She says any leafy green will do. It is a detoxifying drink loaded with nutrients.

Dayu pours the Green Juice into glasses and we enjoy the first fruits of our labors!

Next we slice, dice and julienne jicama, beet, avocado, cucumber, winged bean, tomato, and lettuce for our salads. Dayu encourages individual creativity in the presentation!

Simone’s is truly a work of art!

Mine has the roasted coconut garnish on top. Then we make the dressing. Yum! Here’s Roasted Sesame Seed Dressing:

1/2 cup roasted sesame seeds, 1 clove garlic, a chunk of ginger, 1 T fresh basil, juice of 2 limes, pinch of sea salt, pinch of black pepper, 2 T coconut oil, 1/2 cup water. Blend thoroughly.

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing! But I did. Then we move on to Pumpkin Soup.

Here are the ingredients, all cleverly waiting in their little green banana leaf boats! This recipe is amazing. The first stage produces a pan of chunky pumpkin stew that would be divinely delicious served over rice.

The ingredients for this bounty are pumpkin, lemongrass, fresh bay leaves, ginger, garlic, sea salt, black pepper, and the secret: garam masala. I cannot tell you how good this is. But then Dayu puts half of it in the blender and adds coconut milk. Heaven! Then she puts the other half in the blender (no coconut milk this time) and adds half an avocado, one tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and blends it smooth. Just that little variation makes a totally different dish. They are all so good that even though I am utterly stuffed after all that salad, I have a bowl of EACH of the soups! But we aren’t finished yet. Now its time to make steamed tofu in banana leaf!

The basic recipe blends hard tofu, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and sea salt. This one has a little curry powder and curry leaf added to the other ingredients. Served with the steamed red rice they are a shocking burst of flavor. Yes, I’m still eating and licking my plate clean!

But there is still more. Tempe Mango Curry with rice, and for dessert, Seaweed Pudding with Passion Fruit. Not only that, Dayu makes us another detoxifying drink of young coconut water and aloe. I’m beginning to wonder how all this lovely detoxifying will manifest? Hmmm….!

Tempe Mango Curry with Red Rice

Seaweed Pudding with Passion Fruit and Roasted Coconut

If I can find Irish Moss Seaweed, I can make this at home. I don’t know where to begin to look!

Stuffed beyond what is humanly possible, we waddle back through the gardens to, OH NO! a 30 minute ride BACK to Ubud on the motorbike! But it goes without incident and I am safely home, intact. Will I ever feel hungry again?

What a gloriously indulgent day!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jessa walters
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 09:05:08

    A gorgeous experience! So much beauty and creativity. I would love to visit this garden!! Will you cook a Balinese meal for us when you return!?! Wow…delicious recipes. My mouth is watering!



  2. Sherry Bronson
    Apr 27, 2012 @ 01:11:01

    I am actually really looking forward to doing just that!



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