Sri Owen's web page

11 March 2010

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!


15 February 2010

Hello again. Yes, I know my latest posting to this blog was in September 2008 – I hope visitors to this website had a happy prosperous 2009 and will accept belated good wishes for 2010. I'm just about in time to add my greetings for Chinese New Year, the Year of the Tiger.

I have really no excuse for my long silence, but I can truthfully say that I've been extremely busy these past eighteen months, first with launching the new book and then with enjoying my new status as a grandmother – Joshua Zachary Owen was born on 26 February 2009. And there've been all sorts of other projects as well. For instance -

Writing for the Jakarta Post. This is the principal English-language daily newspaper in my home country, Indonesia. Once a month they publish a colour magazine called 'Weekender'. Last year I started contributing articles on food, with recipes, and I'm now writing a 'Letter from London' for each issue, focussing of course on food and a range of Indonesian dishes, classic and new. I'm posting a recipe on my website today which I hope will also feature in next month's 'Letter'. It's for Roasted Pumpkin, delicious and easy to make – in almost any part of the world!

 I've got two public appearances coming up, both in London: on 19 February I'll be at Asia House in New Cavendish Sreet, and on 24 February at Books for Cooks in Blenheim Crescent, just off Portobello Road.


Thereafter for a while I'll be busy on the fundraising committee for the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. The Symposium is a registered UK charity, and I'll be looking for donors for our raffle and auction. This year's Symposium will be held, as usual, in St Catherine's College, Oxford, but this year it will take place earlier than in recent years – from 9 to 11 July. Any of my readers who are interested should visit the Symposium's web page, where you can find out all about it and how to apply to take part.



29 September 2008

The new book has been officially 'out' now for a fortnight. In the UK it's called (as I intended) "Sri Owen's Indonesian Food" and the cover looks like this:

It's published here by Pavilion, which is an imprint of Anova Books, based in London. All the Anova / Pavilion people have been absolutely marvellous, and I'd like to thank them here for being helpful, considerate, patient, and always friendly and cheerful - and highly efficient as well.

In North America, the book is published by Interlink, who I'm sure (from previous experience with American publishers) are equally wonderful - so far, however, I've had almost no contact with them. They call my book "The Indonesian Kitchen", and it looks like this:

But the differences between the two books, when you open them up, are trivial. No invitations - not yet, anyway - to fly to New York or San Francisco to help launch "The Indonesian Kitchen", but we've made up for that in London by having three launch parties in just over a week - as I mentioned in my last posting [below].

The evening at the Indonesian Embassy was a particularly good party - more than a hundred people there, and I spent most of my time signing copies of the book. I made a speech - just a little one - to the assembled diplomats, publishers, agents, old friends, the Anglo-Indonesian Society, and several people who I knew I'd met before but whose names escaped me ...

- while my lecture at Asia House, a few evenings afterwards (actually the annual Yan-kit So Memorial Lecture), led to many questions from the audience, and discussion at the reception that followed.


22 August 2008: book launches

LAUNCHES of the new book -

please note that dates and other important details have changed ...

My new book, Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food, which in the  US  is to be called The Indonesian Kitchen, is to be published in early September by Pavilion. I will be celebrating the publication first here at my home in Wimbledon, London SW19, on Thursday 11 September, during my fund-raising pre-Symposium lunch. Then the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery is giving a dinner with an Indonesian menu on Friday 12 September, during the Symposium. The first official launch of Sri Owen’s Indonesian Food will be on 19 September at the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Grosvenor Square, London W1. Then, on Thursday 25 September, I'm giving the Yan Kit So Memorial Lecture at Asia House, who have promised that my book will also get a launch party there. However, my next lecture and cookery demonstration at Asia House, "Curry and Prosecco", that was scheduled for 26 November, has had to be moved to April or May next year. But in connection with my new book, I'll be giving a talk and cookery demonstration at Divertimenti on 5th November, and at Books for Cooks on 3rd December.

25 June 2008

Oh dear - more than eighteen months since I added anything to this diary. It has been rather a hectic time - just not quite hectic enough for me to feel compelled to blog direct from the battle zone. Most of 2007 I was getting ready for the Oxford Symposium in September, or I was writing my next book. Roger and I shut ourselves away in our usual place in the foothills of the Dolomites, and in seven weeks (May and most of June 2007) the text was pretty well complete. That of course was only the start. Back in London, the photo sessions, with Janie Suthering to help me cook and present the dishes, and photographer Gus Filgate in command of the lights and lenses, went splendidly. The illustrations are not just lovely to look at, the food they portray tasted as good as it looks on the page. We have all worked together on several books, and we make a rule that there are no artificial aids to beauty - when the dish has had its picture taken, we sit down and eat it. My publisher, Pavilion, have throughout been enthusiastic about the project and highly professional.

While the book was being got ready for the press, the excitement  kept me going, but by September of last year it was clear that my heart problems needed urgent and fairly drastic intervention. In mid-October, I had a quadruple heart bypass, performed by a brilliant young woman professor of cardiac surgery. I was in hospital for only a week and within a surprisingly short time was on my feet again. More than six months later, I can't say I feel fully recovered, but I am leading an active life, and intend to go on doing so. Watch this space!