When I imagine airplane food, the first things that come to mind are rubbery croissants and scrambled eggs with the texture of polystyrene. Luckily, this is not always the case as my Garuda Indonesia business class food cooking experience taught me.
To be fair to me, I’ve never flown business or first class. Most of the time you’ll find me sitting in whatever seat EasyJet picked for me – I usually refuse to pay extra for selecting it myself – and sweating underneath three jackets, because I couldn’t fit all of my clothes into my tiny carry-on.
But to be fair to the world of aviation, airplane food is getting better and better. Based on the cooking class I attended, Garuda Indonesia is one example of an airline doing it right.
Before getting to work, we got to try some spekuk or lapis legit, which is Indonesian layered cake. If you’ve travelled around the Netherlands, you might have tried a similar dessert there called spekkoek. This is because the dessert was put together during colonial times in the Dutch East Indies, based on Dutch cake recipes but enriched with local ingredients.
It was one of the richest, most indulgent cakes which I ever tried… and with good reason. “You don’t want to know how much butter is in that,” an old lady whispered over to me as I asked for a second slice. She then introduced herself as Sri Owen – a name that is well known in culinary circles. This lovely 80-year-old Indonesian lady has authored numerous cookbooks, inspired the likes of Yotam Ottolenghi and will be receiving a lifetime achievement award in Bali later this month. Not bad!
She then told me that lapis legit means “delicious layers” – as you can see in the photo above, the cake consists of a grand total of eighteen! Each layer is made by pouring a thin layer of batter onto a baking tray and then grilling it until the top turns golden. This is then repeated eighteen times until the cake is ready. As for the ingredients there is lots of butter, eggs (twice as many yolks as whites!), sugar and a mix of delicious spices like cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg – sometimes even almonds, prunes and raisins. In short, it’s essentially a heart attack in cake form… and so delicious!
After that came the hard part – actually cooking. Garuda actually offers three different menus to business passengers – Indonesian, Western and a Japanese kaiseki style menu – but were preparing dishes from the first one, because it obviously best defines the character of the airline.
I brought along my friend Anna for “Anna Everywhere” for moral help and some extra chopping hands as well! First we prepared a trio of starters – sate lilit (seafood), sate chicken and sate beef. We also prepared three gorgeous sauces to go with each kind, prepared with local condiments like sate sauce (peanut sauce), sambal (chilli paste) and recap (thick soy sauce). It all looked and tasted delicious!
Our main was the lovely dish you can see in the main photo. It was marinated chicken with turmeric rice and roasted vegetables… whose name I have gone and shamelessly forgotten. If you recognise it, do let me know in the comments below! It was quite tasty, albeit slightly too dry and bland for my taste. Then again, I can’t complain much as I’m the one who cooked it.
When we were done preparing our culinary masterpieces, Sri Owen tried a little of each team’s food trying to find the most delicious plate of them all. The team behind it who would receive a flight to Amsterdam with Garuda, so the pressure was on! Sadly Anna and I did not get the prize, but we did add all these amazing Indonesian recipes to our cooking repertoire – and learnt that airplane food does not always need to suck, which is a big win in itself.
After the event, we ventured out from L’atelier des Chefs where the event was held and explored the nearby area. St Paul’s church is just a stone’s throw away and we took some outfit photos in the lovely gardens that surround it. It was the perfect backdrop for my goth-meets-business-woman look, wouldn’t you say?
I love outfits with a little edge. Leopard print, studs, high platform heels… they all please me immensely. But I also like simple designs, fitted blazers, elegant jewellery and lots of sparkles! Combining the two elements allows me to create a unique style, which I sometimes describe as Elle Woods from Legally Blonde meets Wednesday Addams. It’s not for everyone – but that’s kind of the point when it comes to personal style, isn’t it?
What do you think about airplane food? Is there an airline whose menu you love? What’s the best (or, more easily, worst) thing you’ve ever eaten on a plane?
Disclaimer: I attended the cooking class as a guest of Garuda Indonesia, but as always all opinions are my own.