Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lobong Culinary Experience, Part 3 Cooking Lessons

We met Dewa Jana and his young son Nata in the “White Kitchen” and it was obvious they had been busy preparing for our visit as they had the ingredients all measured and laid out in readiness, it looked amazing.  
As did the pavilion which is the White Kitchen, which had been renovated and made big enough to accommodate large crowds, back in 2002 according to Made to allow them to have all the village people that assist them throughout the year over when there are ceremonies to celebrate.  It was Dewa that saw an opportunity for the family to utilise the area in conducting their cooking classes, which began approximately 14 months ago, given so many of the family have backgrounds in hospitality and Dewa is a qualified chef and this fantastic facility, they had to be off to a great start and their professionalism showed throughout the day.

I took to Dewa, like a duck to water, it is like that sometimes when you meet people, he was so very humble, patient and his skills were first class, both as a chef and as a coach, and to top it all off he has an infectious smile, just one of the many things he has passed down to his chip off the block, Nata! 
After the introductions, we were all fitted out with aprons and clothes,  to work with, I got an apron with short strings, so I could not wrap it around twice like everyone else, but the once around did the job!  Given we were now ready for work, Dewa took us over the days menu, again I was impressed, eight items listed in all, I was getting very excited now, excited to cook and to eat, today was going to be very special!

We started with Chef Dewa taking us through the various ingredients and giving us a few tips on the techniques we would be using, and a little about managing time to ensure we brought our meal all together at the right time, then he asked for a volunteer to be in charge of cooking the rice, to my surprise it was Jo that put her hand up first.   
Dewa explained the rice would take an hour and fifteen minutes to cook, and that he had soaked the rice in water for the past 20 minutes, the rice would now be steamed for 20 minutes, then removed in to a bowl and have another 2 cups of water added to it, then allowed soaked for 15 minutes, he would then add finely diced sweet potato before returning it to the steamer for another 25 – 30 minutes cooking.  He was very passionate about the way the rice was cooked and was onto Jo if she had missed the timing on any step, needless to say the rice was perfect when it was finally served.
Once the rice was on to steam we were shown to our cutting boards and the various trays of ingredients were feted out to sliced or diced, depending on which dish they were for.  I was happily slicing shallots and garlic when Dewa walked by and commented that I was doing a great job, puffing my chest out I got stuck in to show him exactly what I could do and proceeded to slice my finger, and it bled like a stuck pig, no more than 2 minutes after being told to be careful as the knifes were sharp!  Poor Ed, the other chap with us not being a cook of any sort, went to jelly be became so nervous, I was patched up and the show went on.
Having prepped all the ingredients it was time to cook, first thing on the stove was the peanuts for the satays sauce, quickly followed by the base spice paste which was going to be for the Ayam Bakar Bumbu Bali, or BBQ marinated chicken in spicy coconut sauce.  When Dewa explained this dish, he started off telling us it is best to kill and clean the chicken earlier in the morning, so the meat is at its best, I was really glad that had been done earlier!  As the ladies cooked these sauces we boys were kept busy grinding spices and nuts for the remaining dishes, as we went through Dewa would pick something up, like a jar of palm sugar syrup and as we had not prepared the ingredient, he would take the time to explain exactly how it was made, these little tips were worth their weight in gold and I found along the way the Tamarind sauce I made a few weeks ago, was made exactly as it should have been, I was happy!

I got to make the soup, cooked the tuna for the salad, cooked the tomato sambal and made the marinade for the pork satays, which was whisked away and threaded onto skewers by Nata and another young lass in the kitchen.  As we were doing this, Made had returned and was out the back firing up the BBQ by burning coconut husks.  We took the marinaded chicken to him and whilst it BBQ’d some of us basted the meat, alongside the BBQ was a herb garden, having asked if a certain plant was ginger, Made came across and explained each of the plants and fruit trees above them, it was very interesting, especially when he pulled up a peanut plant to show us the peanuts.

The BBQ’d chicken was brought back to the kitchen and cooked a second time in a spicy coconut sauce, I took charge of a beautiful tuna steak which I was told had to be medium rare, so just golden on each side, as I was cooking the other ingredients for this salad were prepared, once cooked the tuna sliced and gently tossed through. 

Before we knew it all the dishes had come together and seem to appear on a long table all set for serving, as we were admiring our work, as if timed to perfection, Made’s mother reappeared with a tray carrying the baskets which were almost ready for the offering, which would be made before we would sit to eat, but we had to be dressed appropriately for this part of the day, whilst Made prepared himself to explain the offering, we were dressed in sarongs and prepared to assist in the offering. 

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