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Food in Ubud

How are you going to eat INdonesian food? It’s so spicy!
Wrong! Indonesian food isn’t necessarily spicy – it can be if you want it to – but there are variety of choices!

I did my best to sample to local fare in Legian and once I have done the 5 staple dishes, I felt it was time to try more. Ubud is renound for its fabulous food and abundance of restaurants. As you walk down the street in Ubud each building is either a restaurant, cafe, accommodation or a shop. Most places are offering local dishes, artfully served and delicious in every way.

Banana pancakes, fresh fruit and Balinese coffee for breakfast
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Nasi Campur – Fairly typical lunchtime cuisine. This is the vegetarian version – meat also possible.
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Vegetable curry – know how to make this now!
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One of the only things I had planned to do was a cooking class – so I could go home with something practical other than just a suntan and a few cheap sarongs (can’t afford a lot else!) so I took a class in Bumu Bali, on Monkey Forest Road.
We started with a tour of the local market – with Made, our 18 year old tour guide/cooking teacher, myself and a German/French couple. This made things interesting as at times we had a 4 way translation going! Made might mis pronounce something, which I would re-itterate and then it was translated into French and/or German. Or vice-versa a German word was translated into French, which I figured out in English, to tell Made who told us the Indonesian word… tiring!

First stop: Ubed markets. These are partially underground and relatively quiet as far as markets go. The smell is something to note and the the place doesn’t look or feel clean in any possible way. Even Made commented on the “funky” smell! This is where most of Ubud buy their groceries and a number of them are unrecogniseable to the Western pallette. I wish I had taken a paper an pen, as I cannot remember what most of them were!

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Next we went into the darkness of the underground part of the market – a maze of darkly lit stalls, squeezing past vendors and buyers, a musty smell and rice, spice and more rice!
Made talked us through the spices that most Balinese kitchens have, where they come from and what forms you can buy them in. I realise now, having done the cooking class that a number of spice can’t be bought in the UK, so I should have invested…

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Next came the class…

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First we learnt how to make Basa Gede – which is a basic spice paste – used as the base for many dishes.
It contains all of this:
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and usually is ground by hand with a mortar and pestle. However- thankfully many modern ladies use a blender!

The next dish prepared was indeed my favourite – Tempe Manis Otherwise known as sweet tempe. I my default did a vegetarian course, which interesting though it was used tofu and tempe as the base for all the dishes. I am not sure if I can sway my family to eat “vegetarian” food, but oh my goodness if I can whip this dish up again I’ll be happily eating it all by myself!

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Next on the list was Vegetable Curry – which I forgot to photgraph as I was too busy eating it! And finally Balinese fried banana – bit of a heart attack – at least the idea is, but the batter itself uses half wheat, half rice flour, so it’s light enough to not feel too guilty…

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And not to forget palm sugar! Used in everything and it makes it all so delicious!

Watch this space readers – plenty more to come – Rice terraces, Amed coast, a whinge about solo travel, and a bit more on Candidasa and Padangbai…

What does an Au Pair do?

My day officially starts at 7:30am when I leave my “house”, that is my granny flat in the garden, and I walk about 12 steps to the back door of the house.
On a good day I will have had time for a peaceful breakfast and might even be strolling over with a cup of tea in my hand. Yorkshire Tea, purchased recently, which makes my day start an awful lot better than Bushells.

Breakfast time consists of teamwork to get T & S dressed and fed, so T can get out of the door for school on time with Dad. It doesn’t always go smoothly – Fridays are particularly painful mornings. When the TV is switched off – my preference – the morning is a breeze. When it’s on, which it usually is – it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.

After T goes to school, S and I can start our day. My morning tasks are getting S to have some breakfast, as it’s unlikely this was successful earlier, and a second attempt at dressing her. When she is pottering about with the dog, or today’s teddy, I unpack and repack the dishwasher, tidy the kitchen and make a start on the laundry, make the beds and have a think about today’s plan.

If I haven’t already had a conversation about tonight’s dinner, it will be written down somewhere. Making dinner is an important and enjoyable task for me, so it needs to be factored into the day’s plan.
Very often S and I will pop to the local shop to top up on ingredients. She will go in the pushchair, and my bag will be loaded with snacks and supplies and off we go. Sometimes we pick something up and turn around and go back. Sometimes we have coffee together in the cafe. And less recently due to bad weather, we will come home via the park.

Most sunny days lunch is a picnic at the park. We sit on the picnic benches together making crow noises and discussing what dogs are doing. We lie on the grass and find shapes in the clouds, sing songs on the swings or we go on an adventure to the wooded area of the huge park we live near to “see what we can see”. This is a general term I use for any journey we embark upon, as it seems to give it some purpose.

After lunch S usually has another energy spurt, so whizzes around the back yard on her bike if we are at home, and I use the opportunity to lock the dog away and make dinner. Not locking the dog away, as I very quickly learnt but surprisingly often forget, very often results in something or everything being stolen by the pesky Labrador.
S often helps me make dinner: I give her a bowl and she does “mixing” which consists of her collecting all the peelings and leftovers in her bowl – we often season it, add water and “taste” it to see what she has created.

On these recent boring rainy days I have been doing a number of little baking activities – scones, or cupcakes perhaps, which we later eat at a teddy bears’ picnic in my granny flat, sometimes under the table if it’s raining really heavily! Getting a 3 year old interested in baking isn’t difficult. I measure things out, she pours them in: complimented all the time on her great pouring skills. We can’t wait until it’s in the oven, so we can both be naughty and lick the bowl.

After a few stories and cup of tea it’s time to locate shoes (never an easy task, as they never stay on for long) and a cardigan, a book or two, some snacks for the ride, water and anything else I can think of before we head to school to collect T. Very often I have to do “fast walking” because the previous tasks took longer than I wanted them to and we race to school, nattering all the way, looking for things to point out, so S doesn’t fall asleep.

T gets a high 5 if he’s eaten all his lunch. If he hasn’t, “nasty nanny” makes him eat his sandwich before he plays footy. We hang out at school for as long as the weather and the caretakers allow, or we head to a park and we kick and pass the ball or have running races before heading home. Apparently I am “awesome” at this. I have tried to teach him “English football” (I refuse to call it soccer) but I can’t get him to stop picking the ball up!

Dinner comes round pretty quick, as I’m doing a few last minute adjustments and bringing in the washing, it all happens at once. Countdown is on: tidy up music is playing on my computer, play area is tidied, hands are washed, table is set and bottoms are on seats for a 5pm sit down. The 3 of us sit together and enjoy our dinner with silly conversations and mostly good manners. Politeness and table manners are greatly rewarded and seeing empty plates and smiling faces makes me happier than I can express. Dinner done, everything is put away and we might just have time for a story before mum gets home. Or if she’s stuck in traffic we run the bath and they hop in. To pass the time we sing songs about frogs, or tell stories.

When mum gets home, we have a debrief and the children turn from calm collected creatures to manic little monsters on their second, third of fourth wind of energy, so I bid my farewell and head to my room.

I later meet with a fellow au pair and friend and we go for a good stomp and a vent… often all the way to the shopping centre for frozen yoghurt.

Doesn’t sound bad? No, very often it’s wonderful. I adore T and S and on GOOD days they are my two best friends…

Perhaps I need to write a post on the trials and tribulations of life as an Au pair…

organic life

Country life

Monday 3rd Dec
Somewhere in Northern New South Wales
temp: 26C
weather: thunderstorm
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In total contrast to my cattle station experience is a week in organic bliss in Northern New South Wales. I sit here, almost on my last day, enjoying the cool breeze that a passing thunderstorm has left, contemplating the simpler things in life.
Although my host is currently working hard studying a degree, she is able to enjoy and appreciate some of these simple pleasures. Up with the sunrise before 6 am, her day starts when the animals are ready for breakfast, which is usually early. The Dexter cows, rescued horses, her funny looking chickens, her cattle dog Ruby who is scared of calves, Little Doggie who spins on his bottom and Sweatpea the not-so-innocent cat all have an important role to play in the daily happenings of this little farm. Each animal named, each loved, each with a personality and story of its own make up the cast of this wonderfully unique setting.
Playing with Spartacus, Venus, Poppy and Violet has become part of my daily routine since arriving here. These relatively new arrivals were in utero on my last visit and now enjoy having their chins scratched and their necks rubbed, whilst curiously licking my hands, undoing my shoelaces and bunting me to see what happens. Their adorable faces and fearless charm has had me in raptures all week, making them the subject of my camera and the highlight of my afternoon.
As well as the joy the animals bring into this welcome dwelling there are the pleasures of growing and harvesting your own fare. Something I have not experienced since setting food on this land is sharing a space and time with someone who has extensive knowledge and uncompromising enjoyment in food. I have been able to take part in this pleasure; learning this week how to make jam from the plums picked in the afternoon, sharing some Mediterranean memories by making Gazpacho from tomatoes in the garden and being able to use at least one ingredient everyday knowing it has been nurtured and cultivated with no added anythings right here on the property.
I have also enjoyed going on egg hunts to find the one egg that gets laid in a different location daily. Today’s egg was delivered on a scrap of hay on the floor of the barn. Neither in the hen house, nor any of the attractive egg laying places arranged this week, but right in the middle of the barn where Ruby the dog is free to gobble it up if she finds it first.
I have joined in on all activities regarding farm life here, which include the ride-on lawn mower, bathing/showering the dogs, putting the chickens to bed, praying for the rain to come and eating wholesomely and whole heartedly. There are also a great many cups of tea consumed, moments laughing at ridiculous animals and dealing with the odd unexpected disaster.
Before I sign off, it is also worth noting that I have, after nearly 14 months in Australia, encountered my first snake! I was cleaning the pool one hot afternoon and noticed a piece of hosepipe on the ground which I hadn’t seen before. Moving closer to pick it up, it moved provoking a reaction involving words rhyming with “duck” and a lot of shouting. I was told to keep still and get a look at it, whilst the snake, seeming unbothered by my outburst raised its head and slithered right past me. It was, on later investigation, discovered to be a yellow faced whip snake. A couple of days later I saw the same, but bigger chilling out on the grass as I was thundering towards it on the lawn mower. It seems my list of “only in Australia” experiences gets longer and longer.
What a lovely week on the organic farm leaving me nice and relaxed before my next adventure.