Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bali's traditional "Basa Gede" - Basic spice paste....

At a recent Balinese (Ubud) cooking school we were privileged to learn the art of making "Basa Gede" or Basic Spice Paste. Basa Gede is used as the basis for many dishes in Bali and Indonesia generally. The ingredients are invariably used fresh and are kept seasonally in most households for ready use. Once mixed together these ingredients offer a beautifully rich and complex flavour that com-pliments whichever protein you wish to cook with. It is great to make a large batch and freeze in portions for ready use - it lasts for 2 weeks in the fridge or up to 6 weeks in the freezer.

The ingredients for Basa Gede (enough to make 6 cups) are;

25 Shallots or 2 onions, peeled & chopped
2 cloves of (asian) garlic, peeled & chopped - or 8-9 cloves regular garlic
7 large red chillies, seeded & chopped (for the adventurous try 2-3 small red or green chillies)
5cm large Galangal, peeled & chopped, (like ginger but spicier and woodier)
5cm small Galangal, peeled & chopped (also known as Kencur root)
(Galangal can be found in most Asian grocers in Australia)
10cm of fresh Tumeric, skin on & chopped
1 tbs dried Coriander seeds
6 Candle Nuts or your choice of Walnut, Brazil Nut, Chestnut or 10-15 almonds
2 tsp dried shrimp paste - an essential ingredient in many Asian dishes
1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns
1/2 tsp White Peppercorns
1 pinch freshly grated Nutmeg - or 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
3 Cloves or 1/4 tsp Clove Powder
4 tbs Coconut or Palm Oil ( Can also use Rice Bran, Peanut Oil, Canola Oil or Grape seed Oil - do not use  Olive Oil)
1 pinch of Cumin powder
1/4 tsp sesame seeds - you can add more of you wish to taste - 1, 2 or 3 tbs
1/2 Bay leaf

In a Mortar & Pestle pound together all of the above ingredients - except the oil (or for cheats, you can use a blender - just add 1/2 a cup or less of water).

Yes we cheated this time around!
Heat the oil in a wok or large pan. Add the blended spice mix and cook over a high heat, stirring frequently for 5 mins until the mixture becomes golden, add pinch salt and you're done (See below). 
Cool before using. The mixture can be frozen for up to 6 weeks or refrigerated for 2 weeks.

Blended spice mix turning golden.
Basa Gede can be added to a variety of foods to create wonderful dishes. As below we have added the mixture to fresh uncooked prawns to make Sambal Gorang Udang (Fried Prawns). A basic way of determining how much Basa Gede mixture to use is to lay the meat, fish, poultry or veggies on a plate and cover 1/4 of the portion with the mixture as below.

Cover 1/4 of the food you wish to cook with Basa Gede.

Recently we made Sambal Gorang Udang and added the following to the Basa Gede spice portion;

(we used about 3 tbs basic spice paste for this dish)
9 uncooked Tiger Prawns - your choice to leave on head, shell or not 
Marinade prawns (for 15-20mins covered in fridge) with;
Juice of one big juicy lime
I tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Meanwhile start chopping the following;
1-3 small green chillies seeded and sliced (depending on your love of all things spicy)
1 onion thinly sliced
1 capsicum thinly sliced
1 large red chilli seeded and sliced
1 tomato peeled and thinly sliced (try to peel the tomato from top to bottom in circle motion keeping skin in one piece...if you are successful you can use it to make a rose presentation on plate later)

You will also need 1 cup coconut milk

Once prawns are marinated and out of the fridge, add to them;
3 tbs of Basic Spice mix
1 tbs Kaffir lime leaf (very "finely" sliced)
1 1/2 tbs grated palm sugar

Heat 2 tbs coconut oil in pan over high heat - you want it nice and hot, but be careful!
Pour prawns and mixture into pan for 1 minute
Pour in coconut milk
Add green chilli, red chilli, capsicum, onion to pan
cook for a further 4-5 minutes MAX as below.

Sambal Gorang Udang cooking

Arrange cooked dish on plate with your tomato skin (rose) and some lettuce. 
Your guests will be impressed! A side serve of rice to compliment the dish and you're done.

Sambal Gorang Udang presented and ready to eat

*Please note all ingredients highlighted will also make a Garam Masala spice powder.
Simply roast those ingredients on a low heat for 2 mins, then ground in mortar and pestle (or blend in blender)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Ubud Central Market - Bali, Indonesia

Over the past 10 years we have travelled the world soaking up cultural richness, meeting wonderful people with amazing stories and eating fantastic food until we can eat no more! We have been drawn to people, cultures, food and photography like moths to a flame - or in our case a hungry traveller to a great curry. 

We love the warmth, depth and strength of families in rich cultures around the world. They always find a reason to come together - bringing food, music and love to the table. No matter their financial realities, people find a reason and a way to come together and share their love. These are the richest people in the world for they understand the meaning of life - there is no calling higher in this world than to share our love with others.

Over the past few years, our view of these life influences has changed. We recognize as Australians, the reason why we are so attracted to rich international cultures is both their reflection in our young country's patchwork society - but also their beautiful cultural depth developed over generations. As a young country Australia lacks this cultural depth - we know it will come in time - but for now we will travel the world and also inject ourselves into local cultural groups with a view to bringing this beauty to our lives and to you!

This is what we love, and live for.