Paula Hines finds peace and good chocolate in Sussex
You can tell the food is good when the dinner table falls silent.
The meal is asparagus and pea risotto expertly whipped up by chef, Lucie. The dinner table is in the dining room at the beautifully cosy and charming Marsh Farm House near Arundel, West Sussex.
It’s not my usual Friday evening. I am on Sally Parkes’ yoga and vegetarian cookery weekend retreat. Just moments ago the table was buzzing with chatter and then…. the food arrived!
I love yoga and I love food, so what better than to combine the two? I’ve been lacking inspiration in my own cooking and with certain food sensitivi-ties revealing themselves last year, working out how and what to eat has at times been a challenge. When I heard about this retreat it sounded like a perfect opportunity to come away with some new recipes (and eat some very tasty food, of course!).
Added to this, being on a tight budget, getting away on a yoga retreat seemed like a pipe dream, but the added beauty of this was it being a pocket friendly weekend away in pretty sur-roundings – great for those of us who want a retreat experience but aren’t able to jet off to far flung places.
As we tucked into our risotto, the itinerary for the weekend was explained. There would be yoga early (but not too early!) on Saturday morning, before breakfast. Then after some free time we’d have our first cookery workshop where we would make our lunch and later on, help to make the dessert to accompany our dinner.
All the recipes in our workshops would be vegetarian, as with all the meals at Marsh Farm over the weekend. Lucie said she could also offer alternatives, taking into account any additional dietary requirements (vegan, wheat/gluten free etc.) – perfect! It all sounded good, but one pressing question remained – could we get the recipe for that risotto?
Saturday Afternoon Sushi
I awoke feeling incredibly rested on Saturday morning and noticed something different… Birdsong.
Actual ‘not being drowned out by city traffic ‘ birdsong. I hopped out of bed to check out the view of Marsh Farm’s garden from the window and in the field beyond I spotted a… horse! Getting this excited by ‘nature’ showed me just how overdue this break away from the city was. Just as well I was in the ideal place for some rest and renewal.
During a hearty breakfast from the range of options on offer (I went for the gluten free bircher muesli), I soon realised that the catchphrase among us for the weekend would be, “Can we get the recipe for this as well?”
With a bit of a wander around the garden I could appreciate, up-close, the all the spring blooms out in force and the Alice in Wonderland-style hedge, which made me smile.
Taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, we brought our ingredients out to the big garden table where Lucie taught us how to make vegetarian sushi – much easier than I expected and a lot of fun. Now we knew how to make California rolls with the best of ‘em. We rewarded ourselves by eating said sushi out in the sun.
Our free time after lunch allowed for exploring the ‘secret garden’ I had failed to spot earlier around the back of the farm house, while some of the group took a walk to the village. I opted curl up with a book – something I rarely allow myself time to do at home. So, I sat in the garden with my horsey friend from earlier over the fence for company.
Our afternoon cookery workshop was making chocolate orange and avocado tarts – every bit as delicious as they sounded! And vegan too.
Sally’s mellow yoga class before dinner was the perfect way to round off the afternoon. Sally’s classes welcome beginners and cater for all abilities so it was lovely to see the range of ages and yoga experience among our group from regular practitioners to those whose first ever yoga class was that weekend.
Some yoga nidra from Sally put us all in a sufficiently chilled state for the evening and our deli-cious meal of shepherd-less pie with wilted greens.
Oh. And chocolate orange and avocado tarts. Happy taste buds all round.
Sunday Spelt Scones
Sunday morning brought more gorgeous Sussex sunshine, so after breakfast I stepped out into the garden, feeling the dew underfoot and taking the opportunity to soak up the stillness. A real reminder of how little I (like many of us) allow myself to pause during my day-to-day hustle bustle. Another bonus of this retreat: having some time and space to reflect.
Our last cookery workshop: surprisingly quick and easy to make spelt, sundried tomato and spinach scones. They accompanied our roasted tomato and lentil soup, roasted vegetable salad and carrot and sultana salad for lunch.
After we were all packed up and ready to go there was a surprise. Some of the chocolate orange and avocado tart filling was left over! A few spoons came out to help rectify that situation. Chocolate is a terrible thing to waste, after all…
Before we said our goodbyes, a learned member of our group of yogis translated the Latin phrase above the door in the dining room: “Divine help remains with us always”. I often feel in need of divine help in the kitchen! But Lucie’s explanations and demonstrations throughout the weekend made all the recipes so accessible. And with store-cupboard advice and even tips on knife skills too, I came away feeling that I could recreate all the recipes with confi-dence.
I’d arrived frazzled on Friday but returned home feeling frazzled no more, armed with some inspiring recipes and memories of delicious food, laughter, great company and of course, lovely yoga.
For information on upcoming Yoga and Vegetarian Cookery, plus other retreats with Sally Parkes Yoga please visit www.sallyparkesyoga.com
Paula Hines has been a writer for fourteen years and has written for the BBC, radio and a number of TV programs. She is currently a health and fitness writer and writes regularly for Om Magazine and her yoga blog, www.notesfromahumbleyogini.co.uk