Balinese Spiced Roast Chicken – Ayam Betutu

I adore the beautiful island of Bali, and although it has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades owing to tourism, the heart and soul of this island is still very much apparent. I had Bali in mind this part weekend. The weather was being a little unpredictable and somewhat cooler than the beautiful balmy days we have been having, so we felt a roast would be perfect at some point over the weekend. Instead of going for a traditional roast chicken or one with a Middle Eastern rub – I’m a huge fan of sumac, I opted for a Balinese version, which is fondly called ‘ayam betutu’. This spiced roasted chicken dish is hugely popular in Indonesia – especially in Bali and Lombok.


The ingredients blend into a deliciously flavoursome paste that you literally slather all over the chicken. I like to spatchcock the chicken, which is simply removing the backbone, allowing the chicken to be flattened out. If you have bought the chicken from a butcher they will do this for you. Otherwise it is pretty straightforward. You just need a sharp pair of kitchen scissors to remove the spine and press down on the back bone. You can see step-by-step instructions here if you are unsure.

After you have made the paste it is important to warm it in a pan and cook gently for 5 minutes to allow the raw taste of the shallots and garlic to dissipate and all the flavours to blend together. You then need to let it cool completely – I put mine in a bowl, which then sits in a larger bowl of iced water – before slathering it on the chicken.

In Bali they warp the bird in banana leaves, but I find tin foil works equally well, although perhaps not as visually attractive. You need to wrap it up like a parcel so that all the sides are folded tightly so that the juices don’t run out.

I cook mine for 1h30 mins in a fan oven at 180 degrees. If you have a larger chicken then cook it for 1h 45mins. Either way allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

You will  find the chicken really moist and falling away from the bone. All the flavours will have fused together nicely and the juice is wonderful to pour over the chicken. It works really well with rice and some greens Рwhatever you have to hand: pak choi, choy sum, kale, spinach, cabbage, cavolo nero. Simple add a little garlic and soy sauce to the greens and the combination of the the spiced chicken, rice and greens will just sing.



Balinese Spiced Roast Chicken

serves 4-6

1 whole chicken, spatchcocked ideally

1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 lemongrass sticks, the bulbous ends only (the other part is too fibrous)
3 banana shallots
5 garlic cloves
3 red Thai chillies
10g galangal, peeled (leave out if you can’t find any)
20g ginger, peeled
1 tbsp palm sugar/jaggery/caster sugar
1 heaped tbsp coconut oil, if firm (if oil consistency then add a couple of tbsp)
1 tsp fresh or powdered turmeric
2 limes, juice
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp salt

1. First finely grind the coriander seeds and black peppercorns and then the lemongrass sticks (bulbous end only) in a grinder/pestle and mortar.

2. In another chopper, add all the other ingredients (including the ground peppercorns/coriander/lemongrass) EXCEPT the fresh limes and kaffir limes leaves.

3. Heat the paste in a pan for up to five minutes, to release the flavours and remove the raw taste of the shallots and garlic. Allow to cool completely before moving on to the next stage.

4. In a large bowl, rub the now cooled paste all over the chicken. Add the juice of the two limes and leave the limes in the bowl too. Add the salt. Place the 4 kaffir limes leaves on top the chicken and then cover and leave in the fridge for 4 hours to overnight.

5. Bring the chicken to room temperature and preheat your oven to 180 degrees fan.

6. Place foil in a roasting tin and place the chicken on top. Cover the chicken completely with the foil, so that it looks like a wrapped parcel.

7. Place in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes or if you have a large chicken 1 hour 45 minutes.

8. Once cooked remove from the oven and leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving. There will be lots of juice that you can use to pour oven the chicken.

Serve with white rice and some greens – pak choi, choi sum or greens with a little garlic and soy sauce.

Balinese Black Rice Pudding – it certainly caught my attention

balinese black rice pudding

balinese black rice pudding

For those of you who have been following my blog, you’ll know how much I LOVE my savoury food and tend to dismiss the sweeter things in life. Other than being pregnant the first time round where I craved pain au chocolat fairly regularly, I have never particularly had a sweet tooth. Even as a child I was definitely more of a crisps than sweets gal. However, occasionally, very occasionally, a dessert grabs my attention and makes me sit up and go wow. I had one of these wow moments recently when I was holidaying in Bali.

Picture this:

We had stopped to rest for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the impressive Mount Batur, Bali’s largest active volcano.


The restaurant offered a buffet service, which allowed Mr B, big A, little Z and me to try a range of authentic Balinese cuisine. Normally I would stop after the mains, but for some reason I was tempted to try a rather sultry and gloopy looking black rice dish, which had a purple crimson hue to it.


I don’t know why, because it certainly wouldn’t win a beauty contest, but I think I was curious to see what it would taste like and what the red lumps were exactly (see photo above).

We’ve all had white rice pudding, but black? Settled back in my seat, enjoying the vista I tried a small mouthful and to my utter surprise it tasted REALLY good. I starred into the bowl, trying to figure out why it tasted so heavenly. Within the rice pudding the ‘red lumps’ turned out to be mouthful size chunks of banana, which had been stained deep crimson due to the rice. They tasted delicious and worked so well with the chewy sweet and slightly nutty black rice. It was sweet, but not sickly sweet, and I was able to polish off a small bowl.

I was so impressed by the dish that I managed to find the chef who had actually cooked it and he talked me through how he had made it. I tend to have a habit of doing this when I eat a dish that is sensational and that I think I can replicate back at home. I figure that chefs must quite like it when occasionally someone¬†takes a great interest in a dish that they prepare. I imagine if everyone followed suit then it would be annoying, but I am hoping that I’m in a minority so they don’t mind telling me!

Anyway where were we…….

Taking down a mental note of the ingredients, and a couple of photographs as reminders, I left the restaurant completely won over by this understated dessert that certainly packs a punch. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and thats coming from a savoury eater!

Balinese black rice pudding with banana

Serves 6

200g/8oz, black glutinous rice (ketan itam), can be found in Asian stores

100g palm sugar, can be found in general supermarkets

600ml of water

1 vanilla pod

2 bananas, chopped to mouth sized pieces

coconut milk/cream, for serving (optional)

1. Place the black glutinous rice in a bowl and rinse it through with water a couple of times so as to clean it throughly and dispense of loose husks. Then leave it to stand overnight soaking in water, so that the water is sufficiently above the rice.

2. Empty the water from the rice bowl and place the rice in a pan along with 600ml of boiling water. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 45-55 minutes, stirring intermittently so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

3. After 20 minutes, place the chopped banana pieces into the pan, along with the palm sugar (I use granules, but palm sugar blocks would work equally well. As an alternative brown sugar is an option but does not have the same sweet tones of palm sugar).

4. At this stage also add the vanilla from the vanilla pod. To do this use a sharp knife to cut open the pod and then, with a teaspoon, scrap out the vanilla contents. A teaspoon of vanilla essence could be used as a replacement to a vanilla pod.

5. Around 45-55 minutes of simmering all the water will have been absorbed and the rice will be soft.

6. Serve immediately. A spoonful of coconut milk compliments this dessert perfectly.

black glutinous rice (ketan itam)

black glutinous rice (ketan itam)

Stunning Bali – in every sense

Bali Landscape

We returned very late last night from our galavanting in the tropics. Bali continues to be heavenly and a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan London. Although we have only been away for just over two weeks it seriously feels that we have been away for a month or so. We have experienced so much and met some wonderful characters who added to the charm of the trip. The slower pace of life, the culture, landscape, food and general cheeriness of the Balinese people makes Bali a fantastic holiday destination if you are seeking some serious time out and a change of scenery. Our taste buds went into overdrive sampling local cuisine: from babi guling (suckling pig) to tongkol sambal matah (grilled tuna in shallot and lemongrass dressing) to burbur injin (Balinese black rice porridge with banana) – yes can you believe it I actually really liked a pudding. Watch this space and I will be sharing some of these recipes with you over the coming months. I may pass on the babi guling as that may be tricky for me to replicate quite so easily, but I will certainly be showing you a number of other dishes, as well as sambals and marinades.

I don’t know about you but when I’ve been eating the same type of food over a prolonged period (ok maybe two weeks isn’t prolonged, but you get my drift right?) no matter how tasty it is, I really yearn for different kinds of food. I recall holidaying in Italy a number of years ago and after two weeks of eating pasta – which was divine mind you – Mr B and I sneaked off to one of the Chinese restaurants in Florence to fill our bellies with some spicy food. We felt a little guilty but enjoyed our chilli kick. I am kind of getting that same feeling now that I have returned to England, so rather that rushing to replicate all those delicious dishes I experienced, I will put them up gradually.

As we are all suffering from jet lag I’ll put up a new recipe later this week. In the mean time I will leave you with a few photos taken in Bali.

Its good to back. Having hot humid weather is great, but I’m a sucker for the seasons and even though the rain has just kicked in, this temperature suits me.


I particularly like this photo of the gecko as you can see the reflection of the beach and sea if you look closely at the centre of the photo.







Ever thought your shopping bags were heavy to carry? Well spare a thought for these ladies who swiftly walked by me with their heavy loads. Incredible.

We are off to the island of the gods


Our family summer holiday beckons. We are heading to the island of the gods – or as it is more recognisably known, Bali. Its been over a decade since Mr B and I have visited this wonderful island and we felt it was time to return, this time with big A and little Z in tow. Its a long way from London town, but we feel that the marathon journey is worth it when we get to this lush green island. We are heading for the jungle first for a week where we hope to be woken by the morning calls of unfamilar wild life. There will be lots to explore and the rhythm of daily life will change considerably. It will do all of us the world of good – well that’s the plan anyway.

I am not so sure how easy it will be for me to blog, so apologies in advance if it is not as frequent as you are use to. I am hoping to adopt some new recipes on my travels and any that make the grade I will certainly share with you.

When going on a journey it is comforting to have a few home comforts or in my case, home made morsels, to nibble on during the flight/drive/sail (delete as appropriate!). These parmigiano reggiano caraway (thats quite a mouthful!) biscuits should go down a treat with the girls and Mr B in moments of hunger on the flight. You can make the same biscuits with cheddar cheese as well, just use whatever variety of hard cheese needs eating in your fridge, and in my case its parmigiano reggiano. There are a number of potential ‘extras’ you can add to the biscuits, such as caraway, sesame or poppy seeds or chilli flakes on the outer rim so experiment and see which you like the best. Within the biscuits themselves I would also add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper, but since the girls will be eating them, and we are going on a journey, I will keep them as plain and simple as possible whilst retaining their moreish quality.


They are great to freeze – pre cooking – so make a large amount and bring out the rolls as and when you need them. I also find they are great as a little canape when hosting dinners.

Parmigiano-Reggiano Caraway Biscuits

Makes between 50-60 small round biscuits

125g parmigiano reggiano (or any hard cheese – cheddar works equally well), grated

125g cold butter

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper, optional

1 egg

pinch of salt

2 tbsp of caraway seeds

1. For speed and ease I tend to use my blender and I literally put all the ingredients in together and whizz for around 30 seconds and by this time all the ingredients have come together to create a dough like ball. If you are doing it all by hand then sift the flour and then mix in the butter, cayenne pepper and salt with your finger tips to create a bread crumb consistency. Then add the grated cheese and the egg, which should then help to bind the ingredients together. If it is too dry then add a tsp of water or if it is too wet then add a little more flour to bind it all together to create a ball.

2. Place on a floured surface and knead so that the ingredients are well bound together.


3. Roll out your dough into a long sausage shape and cut in two if necessary. Then using either greaseproof paper or cling film place the rolled dough in the centre and spread the caraway seeds over the dough. It is best to gently roll then over the seeds so that they are spread as evenly as possible.



4. Wrap the dough in the greaseproof paper or cling film and either put straight into the freezer to use at a later date or place in the fridge for few hours. You will find that it holds together and is better to cut once it has had some time to rest in the fridge.


5. After some time in the fridge, unwrap the dough and slice it evenly into small biscuits using a sharp knife.

6. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and while it is heating up grease a baking tray and evenly spread out the biscuits.

7. Place in the oven between 8-10 minutes. They are ready just as they are beginning to bronze. Be careful not to overcook, so do check regularly. They are delicious warm or will store for a few days in an airtight container.

I couldn’t resist this last shot when little Z’s hand crept into the photo frame eager to try one of the biscuits.