Award-winning spa cuisine from Gaia Retreat & Spa
If we are what we eat, then those that savour the culinary delights of Gaia Retreat & Spa are very wholesome indeed. The wellness haven shares some of its gastronomic insights and how you can recreate its celebrated recipes at home.
A healthy lifestyle begins with eating well, and retreats across the world are forever reinventing what we think of as spa cuisine. One of Australia’s leading lights in this pursuit, Gaia Retreat & Spa, use the finest seasonal produce to create dishes vibrant with colours, flavours and textures.
Fine dining meets spa cuisine
In the hinterland of Byron Bay, diners gather in Kukura House, the central lodge, for sumptuous three-course meals after a day of Gaia’s signature spa indulgence, hands-on classes and pumping physical activities. Head chef Dan Trewartha and his team were recently honoured when Gaia was named the Global Winner: Health & Wellness Cuisine at the World Luxury Spa & Restaurant Awards 2017. It’s a testament to Gaia’s creativity in fusing flavours with organic local produce (some gathered from the retreat’s own gardens) and dishing up unique food combinations that cater for all tastes and preferences. The focus is on seafood, chicken and vegetarian options, accompanied by a selection of organic Australia wines. Even morning is an event, with a tantalising buffet spread and hot breakfast, followed by a light lunch.
To help guests bring home their hearty-but-healthy favourites, the retreat has packaged up its most in-demand dishes in the newly released cookbook, Gaia Spa Cuisine – Celebrated Recipes, available now in the online boutique.
Almond ice-cream with stone fruit, chamomile
This is a great dessert to prepare in spring, when the first stone fruit arrives, heralding the start of the summer fruits abundance. When combined, honey and cinnamon are anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, boosts the immune system and aids digestion. Chamomile is a natural sleep aid, which also helps with digestion and is antibacterial.
- 1 cup almond butter
- ¾ cup almond milk
- ¼ cup raw honey
- 1 tbsp rice malt syrup
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ cup almond meal
- ½ tbsp ghee
- ½ tbsp rapadura sugar
- ½ tbsp whole almonds, activated if possible
- 2 peaches, halved, stones removed
- 2 nectarines, halved, stones removed and reserved
- 2 apricots, halved, stones removed
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped out
- 1 tbsp dried chamomile flowers, or 2 chamomile tea bags, 1 tsp reserved and ground into a powder.
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- Micro lemon balm or small lemon verbena leaves and flowers to serve
Start ice-cream earlier in the day. In a bowl mix, almond butter, almond milk, honey, rice malt syrup and cinnamon. Whisk well to combine, and chill in fridge for 30 mins.
When chilled, churn in an ice-cream machine. Transfer ice-cream to a container and place in freezer for 4-6 hours to set.
Meanwhile preheat oven to 180°C. Put almond meal, ghee, rapadura, whole almonds and a large pinch of salt briefly in a food processor, and pulse a few times to combine. Place mix on a shallow tray and toast in oven for 20 minutes, stirring well (3-4 times) during cooking. Cool almond crumbs.
Place nectarine halves, nectarine stones, cinnamon quill, split vanilla bean and seeds, honey and chamomile flowers in a small saucepan. Fill with enough water to barely cover nectarines, and cover lightly with baking paper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, turn down heat as low as possible, and simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep and cool. When cool remove nectarine halves and cut into quarters. Reduce nectarine poaching liquid by half, over high heat. Set aside to cool.
Preheat a chargrill over high heat. Lightly oil peach halves and grill, crossing during cooking, until charred. Cool then cut charred peaches into irregular shapes.
Dice apricots into 7mm cubes.
To plate place some almond crumbs in a bowl. Dot plate with nectarine, peach and apricot pieces, saucing generously with nectarine poaching liquid. Place a quenelle of almond ice-cream on almond crumbs, and dust with chamomile powder. Scatter plate with lemon leaves and serve.
Warm salad of prawns with tomato, fennel, snow pea, olive and sumac
Prawns are a great source of protein, as they are easy to digest and have very little fat and calories. They also contain phosphorous and potassium, and are a good source of vitamins A and E. We are lucky in Australia to have access to an amazing array of fresh seafood, all of which is important to a healthy diet.
- 24 large green king prawns, peeled, deveined
- 1 punnet cherry tomato
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 4 stalks lemon thyme, leaves stripped from stalks
- 6 fennel bulbs, small to medium size, fronds reserved
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 200g snow peas, tops, tails and strings removed
- 8 stalks of samphire, also called sea asparagus
- 100g semi-dried olives, processed to form crumbs
- 2 tbsp sumac
- 4 tbsp verjuice
- Fennel pollen
Preheat oven to 120°C, place cherry tomatoes in a single layer on a tray. Scatter with garlic, thyme and sprinkle generously with some sumac. Drizzle with some olive oil and season to taste, toss to combine. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes or until softened and almost collapsed. Place tomatoes aside, covered in a warm spot. Increase oven temp to 210°C.
Meanwhile halve 5 of the fennel bulbs lengthways. Dice into 1.5cm cubes. Place in a single layer on a tray, season, and scatter with fennel seeds. Dress with some melted ghee and toss to combine. Roast in the hot oven for 20 mins or until softened and slightly caramelised. Shave remaining fennel bulb on a mandolin, or with a sharp knife as thinly as possible.
Remove half of the fennel from the tray and place in a blender. Purée, adding a little water and lemon juice until very smooth. Keep purée and roasted fennel warm.
Meanwhile take 12 of the snow peas and finely slice lengthways. With remaining snow peas, blanch in boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Remove from blanching pot, drain and keep warm. Blanch samphire for 5 seconds, drain and cool.
Heat 2 large frying pans over high heat. Add some ghee to the pans. When hot place 12 prawns in each pan and season. Sear prawns for 40 seconds then turn over. Sprinkle generously with sumac, and cook for another 20 seconds. Deglaze pans with verjuice and reduce cooking liquid for 10 seconds.
To plate dish, place some fennel purée on a plate. Scatter plate with cherry tomatoes and roasted fennel. Place 6 prawns on each plate saucing with cooking liquid from pans. Add blanched snow peas, samphire and sprinkle olive crumbs over plate. Drape with shaved fennel and snow peas. Dot fennel fronds over dish, sprinkle with fennel pollen and serve.
This article appeared in volume 2 of Signature Luxury Travel Spa & Wellness.