Chef Leonilda & Alva’s bafa-rotok with black turtle beans

At the Stockholm Food Forever Experience, Chef Leonilda, Alva and Chef Arthur created a bite-sized creation, celebrating traditional Timor-Leste ingredients. Using black turtle beans, a Future 50 Food ingredient, Bafa-Rotok with Black Turtle Bean is not only a delicious, nutritious and biodiverse recipe, it is also good for the planet! In line with the UN ActNow Climate Campaign - the United Nation's global call for individual action on climate change - Chef Leonilda put forward Bafa-Rotok as a climate-conscious creation championing climate action.

Bafa rotok

C H E F  N O T E S



This dish is made of 3 components that represents: 

  1. The mountain cuisine of Timor-Leste: 
Through the rich diversity of wild and cultivated beans, eaten together with root vegetables like cassava and purple sweet potato. 
For the FOOD FOREVER EXPERIENCE, we use a traditional technique called “ROTOK” combining cooked whole black turtle beans with cassava flour to create a mouthful, creamy texture. To create an earthy flavour, the beans are boiled with Swedish thyme, however in our restaurant, we would normally use avocado leaves. 


  1. The coastal cuisine of Timor-Leste: Coconut* and its myriad of 100+ remarkable off-shoot products is featured heavily in coastal cooking, especially as the basis for a thick coconut turmeric cream that is used for braising unripe fruits (“BAFA”) or create a type of vegetable curry (“KARIL”): starchy green banana (“HUDI BAFA”), green papaya (“AIDILA BAFA”), or jackfruit (“KULU KARIL”), cassava leaf (“AIFARINA TAHAN KARIL”).For the FOOD FOREVER EXPERIENCE, we use the coconut turmeric cream as a sweet flavor and aromatic top-note to the earthy ROTOK of black beans and cassava.


  1. Local wild greens:
Using what is seasonal and local is our ethos. For the FOOD FOREVER EXPERIENCE in Stockholm, we took the opportunity to showcase planetery diversity by presenting both equatorial ingredients like coconut and wild Swedish herbs and greens that were currently in season (Spring) like dandelion and chickweed leaves.


*COCONUT MILK: On using coconut milk/cream, we always advocate for making your own from fresh coconuts. Ultra-heated coconut milk/cream from a can or tetra pack is a different product that yields quite different results when cooked. This is because it is often mixed with stabilizers and thickeners. A chef friend of mine, Dylan from Bo.Lan, demonstrated at a Slow Food event once, two curries made with exactly the same ingredients except one had UHT coconut milk, the other had fresh coconut milk. Needless to say, we were all shocked  - the latter was a beautifully light and delicately balanced curry. The UHT coconut milk-based curry was heavy, thick and felt greasier.   



  • 1kg Black Turtle Beans 
  • Sprigs of thyme (or 1/2 cup of dried avocado leaves)
  • 10 Fresh coconuts (brown mature coconuts, not the young green coconuts)
  • 15 Small red shallots, sliced
  • 5 Cloves of garlic, diced 
  • 3cm Fresh ginger root
  • 6cm Fresh turmeric root
  • 5 tablespoons of cassava flour
  • 10 Purple sweet potatoes
  • Virgin coconut oil (for deep-frying the sweet potato chips, and for sautéing) 
  • Basil-salt (dried basil flowers and leaves mixed in salt. We usually use Timorese basil which has an aniseed flavour profile)
  • Wild local green leaves and flowers for colour - choose a nice mixture of leaves that provides slightly bitter, spicy (dandelion leaves) and juicy, crunchy, sweet with soft anise (chickweed leaves).
  • 1/2 cup of NU’U TEIN “coconut brownie” - essentially caramelized coconut meat. It is a Timorese ingredient from Atauro that is the leftover product from making traditional coconut oil.  It has a rich umami and chocolatey flavour. Used as a garnish and for adding rich balanced flavour.
  • Pepper

M E T H O D 

  • Prepare the black turtle beans:
    1. Soak beans overnight with water
    2. Boil black turtle beans (usually ratio of dried beans to water is 1 : 5) with thyme. Strain the beans and keep it aside. Don’t throw away the bean water, as it will be used later for the ROTOK
  • Make your coconut milk:
    1. With a machete or heavy club, crack open the mature coconuts. Throw away the liquid inside and scrape out the white fleshy meat with a spoon. Wash the coconut meat in fresh water.
    2. Blend the coconut meat in a heavy-duty blender or food processor. (By hand: use a grater. This takes longer, but actually yields creamier coconut milk)
    3. Put the grated coconut milk in a large bowl. Add warm water around 1.5 litre, then with a clean muslin/cheese cloth or very fine strainer, squeeze the liquid into a separate bowl, pressing out as much liquid as you can. You’ll notice the coconut cream and oils come out. 
    4. Store it in a glass jug or container in the fridge for use later. This should yield about 1L of coconut milk. Fresh coconut milk lasts only 2-3 days in a cold fridge, after which it ferments and becomes acidic (throw out when it does).
  • Sweet potato 'kripik' crisps:
    1. Use a mandolin to slice the purple sweet potatoes into thin crisps (around 2mm thickness).
    2. Heat the virgin coconut oil to around 170°C but under its smoking point (177°C ). Fry the sweet potato crisps. BE QUICK it will cook in around 5seconds. Note: when the crisps are overcooked, it starts to drop down into the bottom of the pan. Drain and let the crisps rest on a paper towel. 
  • ROTOK Beans-Cassava
    1. Mix the cassava flour in 1 litre of water. 
    2. In a pot, sauté in virgin coconut oil, add half the sliced red shallots and half the diced garlic until translucent and sweet. 
    3. Add the cooked black turtle beans and sauté for a minute. 
    4. Then add the diluted cassava flour-water mixture into the pot. Over low heat, cook until thick but not gluey/gluggy. Take off heat and keep aside for plating.
  • BAFA coconut turmeric cream
    1. Prepare the BUMBU (the spice paste): in a mortar and pestle, pound the rest of the shallots, garlic, ginger, and turmeric - really mash it up.  
    2. In a frypan, add virgin coconut oil then sauté the BUMBU until fragrant. Add basil-salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Add the fresh coconut milk  made earlier, and simmer on low heat until thick and rich in flavor - usually 30min. Be careful that the coconut milk doesn’t split. Set aside. 
  • Presentation
    1. Arrange the wild local leaves first. Add a spoonful of ROTOK. Add 2-3 pieces of sweet potato kripik. Put on top of the ROTOK, a dollop of BAFA cream and garnish with NU’U TEIN. 

Big thanks to Food Forever 2020 for this growing partnership and images. 


G E T   I N V O L V E D 

  • Champion biodiversity in your menus & kitchens by signing up to #2020for2020 
  • Share your climate conscious recipes online with #ActNow and #ClimateAction