Taksu Ubud

 

IMG_7474  Tucked into a quiet lane in the heart of Ubud, Taksu translates in Balinese as “the indescribable essence of spirit,” and provides a serene haven in which to relax and unwind. A charming garden filled with cascading rock ponds and meandering paths gives way to a leafy gorge dotted with scenic spa pavilions.

Well established on the Ubud scene, the spa and restaurant have been operating for the last seven years, while the quaint Taman Taksu Garden Cafe makes an inspired new addition. Open-sided wooden pavilions overlook the medicinal herb garden, where leaves are plucked fresh for my Pagagan Juice a traditional remedy known as pennywort in English, believed to be beneficial in maintaining youth. Our round of drinks also includes [Coconut Water] served in customised coconut-shaped ceramic dishes, and a Bali Summer blending watermelon, strawberry and apple with a lemon citrus kick.

The menu, prepared by Balinese chefs Ketut and Adi, offers something for every mood and every appetite, with a good selection of raw food, gluten free, vegan and vegetarian fare, as well as chicken, duck and seafood. Produce comes straight from Taksu’s own organic gardens, located in the nearby hills, and dishes include crunchy organic salads, homemade pasta and panini, Indonesian classics, hearty soups and grills, and divine desserts.

We start with a couple of raw dishes. The Strawberry Bisque is a chilled and frothy blend of fresh strawberries and yoghurt, while the generous slab of Zucchini Lasagne that follows is truly excellent, a tasty testament to the imaginative possibilities of raw food. Thinly sliced marinated zucchini is layered with fresh tomato, basil and peppers, with a tangy marinara sauce, creamy cashew ricotta and an ever-so -slightly sweet pesto.

Changing the pace a little we order some good and spicy Nachos piled high with black beans, homemade salsa and creamy guacamole, and a Salmon Panini made with home baked brown bread topped with swirls of cured salmon, red onion, lettuce, dill and dollops of cream cheese. Dessert is a light and fluffy Cheesecake sweetened with a thick strawberry coulis, and a spongy Truffle Chocolate Cake Gateau with a rich chocolate filling.

As well as daily yoga and dance classes, Taksu offers interesting workshops and retreats of the alternative healing persuasion, as well as Cranio Sacral therapy, Traditional Chinese medicine, ozone therapies and spa treatments including the Divine Pampering Ritual which is accompanied by a two-course healthy lunch.

Taksu Spa and Restaurant Jl Goutama Selatan Ubud  +62 361 971490

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Permablitz Bali

IMG_8030Permablitz (noun): An informal gathering involving a day on which a group of at least two people come together to achieve the following: create or add to edible gardens, share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living, build community, have fun.

I arrive at the Farmer’s Yard, a permaculture garden, hostel and community space in Canggu, to find a group – made up of foreign travellers and Balinese – planting beans and cucumber in garden beds, and adding the finishing touches to a newly built chicken coop. With a concept of “Putting an end to careless tourism,” the space has been created on the principles of sustainable living, with the idea of connecting visitors to Bali with local neighbours and communities. The flourishing garden, filled with peppermint, eggplant, basil, cabbage and rosella was created during a permablitz, and I am here to meet Djuka Terenzi, who along with his friends, is the driving force behind Permablitz Bali.

A direct action ‘green’ movement that sprouted in Australia and quickly spread across the world; permablitz combines ‘perma’ permaculture theory with ‘blitz’ a sudden, energetic, and concerted effort. Essentially day-long gatherings that combine volunteer labour and permaculture theory, a permablitz aims to transform an unproductive backyard garden or urban space into a productive or edible garden. The concept is simple, a permaculture designer draws up a site specific plan, volunteers provide the labour and the host makes lunch. As well as being a great way to get involved with your local community, joining a permablitz teaches you how to grow your own food at home using simple permaculture principles. The network runs on reciprocity so if you attend a few permablitzes, you then qualify for one yourself. Anybody can come, and everybody wins!

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The idea bloomed in the suburbs of Melbourne in 2006 when a permaculture designer, Dan Palmer, met a South American community group. Joining forces one Sunday, Palmer and his friends provided seedlings, compost, plants and ideas, and the community group provided labour, delicious food, music and dancing. By the end of the day a bland backyard garden had been transformed with a worm farm, pond, vegetable plants, herbs and chillis. The seeds of the permablitz movement had been sewn. The movement spread, by word of mouth, from Melbourne right across Australia and onto Hawaii, Istanbul, Montreal, Uganda and, of course Bali, with the first permablitz taking place at Sunrise School.

The network has gone on to transform a number of gardens, including Terenzi’s own and that of the Farmer’s Yard Hostel. He explains that the free, day-long events are open to everyone and aim to create something ‘cool and efficient.’ A site is chosen, a plan made, a date is set and then the event is posted on their fb page. As well as making edible gardens, there may also be workshops on composting or water filtration, perhaps a little live music, and definitely a lot of laughter.

Permaculture is essentially about mimicking nature – integrating people and places in ecologically harmonious systems that provide a good portion of the needs of people living there, with things like water, vegetables, fruit, and eggs. Of course prior to industrialisation, most gardens were based on permaculture principles, but intensive farming, consumer demand for cheap produce, and the growth of cities saw people shift away from a natural way of living. Permablitzes can reunite us with the land and are a great way for first time gardeners to learn some skills. “We are not just using energy, but creating it,” says Djuka. “Its about being super efficient, it’s about creating a self sustaining eco system.” Edible gardens help conserve energy by reducing the need for food transport; they also use less water than agricultural farms, encourage composting and are generally organic.

Keen to see more permablitz sites, I also visit Kaleidoscope house, a riotously-coloured community house on the outskirts of Ubud, with yellow and green brick walls draped in psychedelic wall hangings. In the adjacent communal space a yoga class is under way, and another room at the back has bunk beds that house volunteers and visitors. Heading out back I find a nursery crammed with healthy seedlings, a garden bed edged in recycled roof tiles and sprouting with herbs, and tiny cherry tomatoes, and kankkung (water spinach) rising from a watery pot. As well as being a Community House, Kaleidoscope serves as a base for Rumah Idea (Indonesian Development of Environmental Education and Agricultural Studies,) a Yayasan that works with local kids, teaching English, organic farming, bee keeping, chocolate-making, and dance.

Back in the living room, sipping a delicious organic Balinese coffee infused with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, my eyes rest on a sign on the wall, “Some want it to happen, Some wish it would happen, Others make it happen,” which pretty much sums up the Permablitz network.

http://www.rumahidea.com and www.permablitzbali.org/ and www.farmersyardbali.com

Maya Ubud Resort

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 We pass a dreamy afternoon in the River Café at the tropical oasis of Maya Ubud Resort, soothed by the gentle flow of the river and satiated by a delicious lunch of ‘Conscious Cuisine.’

Peering over the veranda at the river that winds through the rainforest, I am overcome with that feeling of peace and happiness that comes from being somewhere truly beautiful. The steep surrounding forest is thick with banana trees, bamboo and palms, and below us an infinity pool juts out over the river – a vision of tropical perfection.

The atmospheric setting of the River Grill is enhanced by bright and cheerful tables settings, including pots of wheatgrass and elaborately rolled napkins. Maya Executive chef Australian-born Kath Townsend comes with vast experience in high profile restaurants and resorts from Sydney to Sri Lanka to the Maldives. Her concept of ‘Conscious Cuisine’ sees a holistic approach to dining that emphasises clean, crisp, fresh and natural flavours, with a mix of textures and ingredients intended to nourish the mind, body and soul. Super foods abound, from salmon, to nuts, juices, quinoa, chocolate and avocado. Fresh organic vegetables and herbs are sourced in the hills of Bedugul, and from the resort’s own gardens, and the menu offers dairy and wheat alternatives – such as buckwheat and coconut flour, as well as tasty pizza, and a Riverside Ploughman’s for those looking for more substantial fare.

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Healthy drinks makes a logical starting point and we try a Skin Tonic, a delicious blend of carrot and orange juice, and a sweet refreshing Kidney Kick Starter mixing apple pineapple and watermelon. Rather than a bread basket, we are offered crudités of carrot and cucumber wrapped in noori, served with tahini, then move on to the Riverside Bowl, a salad teeming with taste and texture. The long, spiraling strands of carrot and beetroot are a little like eating crunchy colourful spaghetti, while tofu, tempe and seeds provide substance, and a spirulina and tahini dressing lends a certain sweet earthiness. The Gado Gado is the most elegant I have seen, with dainty quail eggs, vegetables wrapped sushi roll-style, triangles of potato and tofu and a scattering of cashews. The highlight is the cashew nut sauce, which is milder, creamier and more subtle than the usual peanut sauce, and is delicately flavoured with turmeric, ginger garlic and honey.

Crispy Salmon comes as a plump fillet topped with watercress and a drizzle of citron dressing, and is served atop a tasty chickpea and spinach fritter, with pipa verde – an excellent Mexican-style sauce made with pepitos, coriander, garlic, onion and jalapenos. We finish with a Heavenly Vegan Chocolate Mousse which is rich in taste, with a smooth velvety texture. Dairy free, this lush dessert is made with avocado, honey, raw cacao and vanilla bean and has the occasional surprise crunch of a hazelnut or cacao bean.

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The Maya Spa is adjacent to the restaurant, with atmospheric treatment pavilions scattered along the river. Famed for its exotic sensory journeys, a spa session is perfectly completed with a nutritious and tasty lunch at the River Café. Outside guests can immerse themselves in the tropical healing vibe, and treat themselves to a ‘Day at Maya’ spa package which includes yoga, a riverside walk, cooking class, spa treatment and lunch. Alison

Maya Ubud Resort & Spa Jalan Gunung Sari, Peliatan, Ubud +62361977888

Foraging in Bali

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A walk on the wild side

Foraging is one of the hottest gastronomic trends to sweep across the globe, with chefs and home cooks alike heading out into the country to gather wild vegetables, herbs and forest fruits. Here in Bali, foraging has always been a way of life, and the beautiful landscape is rife with wild greens, tropical fruits, roots and edible flowers.

The forests, river banks and fringes of Bali’s picturesque rice fields host a plethora of wild herbs, spices and fruit trees, and in order to learn more about Bali’s wild side, I join a fascinating, customised rice paddy walk with Bali Eco Cycling Tours (www.baliecocycling.com). We begin in the coolness of early morning and make our way through the ancient lichen-covered temples of Goa Gajah on the outskirts of Ubud. Weda, a rice farmer from Ubud is my guide, and is passionate about foraging, deeply knowledgeable and has a great sense of humour. The narrow trail leads us along the edge of a steep riverbank shrouded in sub tropical rainforest, where gnarly roots of giant trees cling to the ravine, and dappled sunlight dances through the leafy canopy. We stop to pick fragrant stalks from an [ilak ]bush – used in place of sticks in sate lilit (minced fish satay). Nearby, the leaves of a [simbaman] bush are used to flavour a uniquely Balinese dish known as [be cundang] – where the losing rooster in a cock fight is cooked up and presented in a victory feast. Crossing the muddy creek Weda points out my favourite Balinese delicacy, dainty fern tips, that are tender, juicy and fabulous with shredded coconut.

 

IMG_8251Climbing up the ravine, we pass a heavily laden soursop tree – its leaves are believed to have a similar effects to chemotherapy when it comes to treating cancer. Winding through a dense coconut grove we see immense jackfruit trees, their large bulbous fruit makes a great addition to curries, soups and [rujak] – Balinese spicy fruit salad. Suddenly the forest opens up to a glistening verdant sea of green that stretches as far as we can see. This is the Bali of postcards, and a view that I never seem to tire of. Palms and big-fronded banana trees line the path that threads across the sawah (rice fields), where dragonflies flitter and the sound of trickling water is ever present. The ancient irrigation system, known as [subak], allows a number of edible plants to thrive spontaneously along the edges, including succulent lentor (snake beans), tiny wild eggplant, and pumpkin – the deep yellow pumpkin flower makes a very tasty tempura. The cassava tree has pretty umbrella-shaped leaves, and its starchy roots are used to make[tape] (tapioca), while its young leaves grace pork soup. Wena shows me a bunie tree, in season it will have delicious dark berries that taste great in jam and also in rujak.

We spot papaya, cacao and mangosteen trees, and young cows resting under the shade of massive durians. Taking a break, we sit on the edge of a small ridge and eat sumping, and bantar,  traditional Balinese sweets of sticky rice, coconut milk and sugar, and enjoy the sound of rindik from a distant temple that mingles sweetly with bird song and rooster crows, and the gentle rustle of a breeze in the palms.

IMG_8270 Finishing in the charming restaurant set amidst the rice fields, we sip fresh coconuts and feast on organic rice, smoked duck and chicken and tofu skewers.
If you would like to know how to cook with Bali’s native herbs, fruits and spices, the following offer an authentic village style experience, including visiting the local markets.www.lobongcooking.com 

www.paon-bali.com    www.payukbali.com

www.balinesecooking.net   www.ubadubudbali.com