Rockin’ Women Wednesdays – Janet DeNeefe

The Gods must have been smiling on us that day in Ubud when I sat at a marble top table drinking jamu with my friend Noo Noo.  Twelve magical years later a friendship thrives that is as rich and funny as the day we met. I was so besotted with the healthy menu, unique style and grace of Casa Luna, Janet DeNeefe’s popular Ubud restaurant – now in its 20th year – that on my return to Melbourne I plucked up the courage to email Janet out of blue. A few hours later I received an email asking if I knew anyone that taught Ayurvedic cooking and yoga. “Pick me”, I replied! A few weeks later I was ensconced at the Honeymoon Guesthouse in Ubud, Bali. A cosmic sisterhood was born.

This was prior to the Bali bombing and therefore before the incarnation of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. On my second visit, Janet had just published her memoir Fragrant Rice and for many visits thereon I would stay in the room of the Honeymoon Guesthouse where she spent much of time writing. She lent me her desk so to speak. When I asked how I should go about formatting a book, s he said just start writing, it will take the energy it needs. It did – and I am forever grateful to her for giving me my writing wings.

As a dedication for my book, The Healing Feeling, Janet wrote:

A friendship across the seas

It all began with yoga and the idea of a good health, well-being, yoga festival in Ubud. It transpired into a friendship across the seas that has spanned a decade of jokes and joyous meetings.

It has been said we are like sisters and there is no doubt that there is a timeless bond that unites us.

We share the same philosophy about eating and being supremely kind to ourselves, about only ever eating the finest food, savouring the finest wine and enjoying every minute of life.

Our medicine is love and laughter and, between the two of us, we are very good at that! Sam’s knowledge about the secret life of food is extraordinary and I bow to her endless knowledge on all that is edible.  – Janet DeNeefe


Today I sit at Second Honeymoon, overlooking the famous Casa Luna Cooking School. Beyond I can see the site of the old bungalow where I stayed on my first trip to Bali with my friends Hank and German. We sat on the deck of Hank’s room, probably drinking brem, and swam in the circular swimming pool that I have just come from. The guesthouse was formerly known as Pringga Water Cottages and was acquired by Janet and her husband Ketut as much as a savvy business decision as to supply the ever-increasing demand for affordable accommodation for visitors who make the pilgrimage to Ubud for the annual festival. This year we celebrate eleven years of writing, reading and global issues, big ideas and extraordinary stories. This year’s theme, Saraswati: Wisdom & Knowledge is an exploration of the wisdom to be gained by creative expression.

As I sit here reminiscing about the love, laughs, literature and the luscious meals we have enjoyed, she is preparing to deliver her eleventh speech for tonight’s official opening gala. I will join a tribe of loved ones and true believers who too will be all frocked up and beaming with pride as we marvel at her tenacity, vision, beauty and grace. Thank you my beloved cosmic sister Janet, I bow to you too.

See the full program for Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, October 1-5, 2014.

Melbourne woman behind the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

It was 2003, a year after the first Bali bomb and Janet De Neefe had been talking to a friend about starting her own festival in Bali. “We’d been thinking of having literary events at (her restaurant) Casa Luna,” De Neefe says. “I always thought that was a bit of a community space. I was thinking of having poet’s evenings.

“Once the bomb struck that’s when I thought ‘OK, we’ve got to do something. It’s got to be an event. It’s got to be a bit of a Pied Piper thing, you bring in the stars and everybody follows and it’s got to have meaning.’ The Age, 28.9.2014 Read more


Acar – Carrot and Cucumber Salad
This refreshing and colourful salad is a great one to serve with a spicy Balinese banquet and can be stored in refrigerator for a week or more.

 2 cucumbers
1 carrot
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons white or raw vinegar
1 cup water
Sea salt
2 shallots, sliced finely

  • Peel the carrot and cucumbers
  • Slice into julienne sticks or any other shape you prefer
  • Mix the sugar and salt into the vegetables, crushing and bruising to release the flavour
  • Add the vinegar and water
  • Check seasonings, making sure the sweet and sour is in balance
  • Store in the refrigerator



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