In my last entry, I said that my next public appearance would be on 19th February for “Sri Owen’s Indonesian Tea-time Treats” at Asia House, part of their Food of Asia Festival. For that occasion, I specified a maximum of 30 people to attend, so there was space for everyone to sit at tables with white tablecloths, and I had a long table on the podium where I could cook and talk. I made pisang goreng (fried bananas) on the gas stove, and steamed my lemper manis. Lemper is usually a savoury snack, a glutinous rice cake, filled with shredded chicken breasts cooked in coconut milk with a spice mixture of crushed candlenuts (kemiri), garlic, and white pepper. But as I was to serve only sweet things with the tea, I filled the lemper with sweet grated coconut instead, and rolled it in a Japanese sushi mat.
This went down well, but the star turn was the lapis legit, also known as spekkoek. The original Dutch recipe, followed by my mother and her friends in Magelang (Central Java), used 18 egg yolks and 8 whites of the eggs, plus loads of sugar and almost a kilogram of butter, with only about 500 grams of plain flour. The result was rich, delicious, and of course, as everybody nowadays would say, ‘full of cholesterol’. I made such a lapis legit years ago, when I was a guest chef, working with a team of their regular chefs, for an Indonesian Food Festival at the Intercontinental Hotel in London – and the cake was very popular. For my Asia House tea-party, I made the spekkoek using my friend Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra’s recipe from her book, ‘Warm Bread & Honey Cake’, published by Anova Books. You will find this recipe, for spekkoek or kue lapis as Gaitri called it, in the recipe part of this website – it uses only 5 eggs. I think I really must start to review recent cookbooks that I've enjoyed reading and cooking from.
Then there was a really busy day, the 24th February. It started at Books for Cooks in Blenheim Crescent, with a talk and cookery demo at 11 am, in which I was splendidly helped and looked after by Eric Treuillé, the co-proprietor. Books for Cooks is a wonderful bookshop selling food and cookery books, with an excellent café and a cooking school. My show-off recipe for our lunch was Bebek Betutu or Balinese Duck, for which Eric gallantly and expertly boned a fine free-range duck from Heal Farm in Devonshire. I cooked this quite differently from my original bebek betutu recipe whch appears in my Indonesian Regional Food and Cookery published in 1995. Again, go to the recipe section of this website to find this updated Balinese Duck recipe. I later received several very charming e-mails from my lunch guests, praising the deliciousness of the duck cooked in this Balinese style.
That same evening I gave a talk on Indonesian Food for the Anglo-Indonesian Society at the Indonesian Embassy in Grosvenor Square. This was attended by more people than I expected, including several of the senior Indonesian diplomats – one of whom later asked me if I would agree to have my talk reported in the Indonesian press. This was music to my ears, because my whole aim is to make Indonesians more aware and appreciative of our good food; however, I was caught out by the fact that I never have a script or notes when I speak, and no one filmed or recorded my presentation. What I tried to do was to find reasons why Indonesian food is not as well known or as highly regarded as, for example, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, or Chinese Food. It's quite a large topic … and I'll try to return to it in some of my future web postings. Meanwhile, enjoy my new takes on traditional recipes that you'll find elsewhere on this site!