New Earth Cooking is a food philosophy created by chef Simon Jongenotter at Bali Silent Retreat; a unique sanctuary set in rural Bali. People from around the world flock to this place, exploring the truth of their existence and practicing ‘the art of doing nothing’. In May 2012 Simon was invited to develop the cuisine of the center.
How did New Earth Cooking come to existence at Bali Silent Retreat?
Initially I felt pressured by the typically fussy and demanding crowd which most spiritually inclined destinations attract. I roamed the island and sourced fancy imported ‘healthy’ ingredients to cook popular dished such as quinnoa salads, spirulina smoothies and goiji berry muesli. Most guests were impressed with the offerings but I felt strangely frustrated with general lack of freshness and vibrancy found in imported goods. After researching some of the issues around importing food such as pollution and poorly treated workers I was quick to scrape Californian walnuts and Moroccan chickpeas of the menu. I decided to create my very own health food cuisine entirely based on the rich and vibrant produce available in our community.
It’s good to remember that coffee, sugar and T-bone steak are naturally gluten free ~ Simon on being cautious with buying into health food hypes
What’s a typical culinary day like at Bali Silent Retreat?
For 2 of our kitchen angels the day starts early, at around 6 AM. As everywhere else in Bali, the necessary religious offerings of small flower arrangements, food and incense are made to ensure the kitchen is in harmony. The 24 hour fermented sourdough bread loaves are bakes off to crunchy perfection. These are served as a staple with peanut butter made from local peanuts and North Bali sea salt. Fresh jams are prepared with raw, tropical fruits and palm honey. We serve a butter made from local coconut and cacao.
Around this time our first delivery comes in. Duck eggs from the surrounding rice fields; soon to be poached, scrambled or turned into omelets and frittata’s. We like to accompany the savoury side of breakfast with fresh salsas and quickly blanched greens as well as some kind of fritters, for the people who like to have a powerful start of the day.
We use tropical fruits fresh of the trees dotting the landscape around us; papaya, mango, soursop, rambutan and other less common and delicious fruits. Platters of fresh fruit with home baked granola and organic cashew milk are an every morning offering.
We prepare porridge from heritage rice strains as well as healthy local pulses like mung beans enriched with homemade coconut milk. Often there are pancakes, the batter is made using sourdough fermentation techniques to ensure easy digestion, they are enriched with those amazing duck eggs.
Every morning there is juice featuring healthy garden ingredients like cucumber and aloe vera. Throughout the day one may drink homemade lemonades prepared with aromatic spices and lightly sweetened with palm honey. It’s served on our tea table which features a range of medicinal plants allowing our guests to brew their own magic. Needless to say there’s an abundance of homemade cookies to be found on too, all sweetened with a very special palm sugar made by our friends up the mountains. Most of our guest start their day at 6 am, practicing yoga and meditation for no less than 2,5 hours. Seeing them blissful, hungry and excited when arriving at the buffet at 8:30 in the morning is a beautiful sight.
At around 8 am we have a 3th kitchen angel joining the team. Her first job is to go out in the garden and harvest the first vegetables of the day, before it gets to warm outside. Many guests practice yoga in the afternoon and dinner is served quiet early, therefore the food we serve throughout the day is nice and light. Balinese inspired food is perfect for this. A combination of raw and lightly cooked vegetables gently flavoured with those typical Bali spices such as galangal, turmeric and ginger. Some dips and crostini’s, perhaps a soup if it’s rainy.
Dinner is a feast. It served at 4:30 and it’s designed to keep you nourished all the way until 8:30 the next morning. It might sound odd but this kind of rhythm really benefits your sleep at night as well as any spiritual practice you may choose such as meditation or prayer.
There’s soup every night, because it’s so comforting. Sure we love our classics such as a minestrone made with freshly harvested vegetables but our ice cold and raw spiced papaya soup is a winner too in this tropical climate!
Bubbling casseroles, colorful salads, freshly baked or steamed bread buns, protein rich skewers and falafels, and of course there must be dessert. Raw apple pie with whipped coconut cream has become legendary. A rich chocolate mousse which no one believes to be vegan and full of veggies. Dinners at BSR are nourishing and filling without weighing you down.