“What do you eat on a yoga retreat?” That’s a question I get asked often.
It seems many people worry about what’s on a yoga retreat menu!
When I designed my yoga retreats, I knew I wanted food to be integral to the experience I offer my guests at my small retreat centre on the west coast of Norfolk. My yoga retreat menu forms the FOOD pillar – one of the five pillars of my training: Mind, Body, Breath, Food & Nature.
Nurturing with food
I want to nourish and nurture my guests with the yoga retreat menu I have created. I love hosting guests at my table; these are relaxing times to share ideas and experiences. On every retreat, my guests are invited into the kitchen to cook with me – mainly to prepare the brunch on the last day. When the food is ready to bring to the table, this collective effort makes us all feel proud and connected.
Culinary influences on my yoga retreat menu
My life – both childhood and adulthood – have taken me all over the world and the influences of those other cultures shows in my yoga retreat menu. Two cultures have influenced how I cook today. France, where I worked for nearly 15 years, and which I return to every year, and China where I lived for 12 years.
In France, I lived in the countryside, where I had two huge veggie patches and le marché nearby. I made everything from scratch, including yoghurt and brown bread (hard to find in France back in the 90s). The French taught me about the importance of provenance and quality; how to make a simple meal with a few choice ingredients; and never to waste anything.
China taught me to be bold with my flavours. Chinese food gives you a lot of bang in the mouth: garlic, Sichuan pepper, chilli, ginger – I love all those ingredients. Plus, I love the way the Chinese cook vegetables; I can’t abide boiled vegetables.
Fresh produce and zero-waste policy
Norfolk is a huge producer of food and food products from its famous crabs, to root vegetables, asparagus, grains and honey. We are lucky to have a fabulous farm shop in the village here, as well as a farm shop and heritage apple orchard along the coast.
Sadly, I no longer have the huge veggie patches I had in France, but I do have a little patch where I grow lots of herbs for the retreat menu, as well as tomatoes, and in 2022 three varieties of potatoes. Nothing gets wasted in my kitchen; if it’s not eaten up then it goes into the compost and back to the earth.
Cooking nourishing food from scratch
Everything on my retreats is made from scratch, from the granola and brown bread for breakfast to the beach picnic and evening meal. I aim to produce healthy, season-led, nourishing food – real food that satiates the taste buds and your appetite.
As I know everyone’s dietary requests before I prepare the retreat menu, I can adapt the food for most guests. I mainly cook vegetarian or vegan food and have catered for guests with IBS, allium allergies and a few other dietary requests.
A typical yoga retreat menu will probably include a warming dish on the first night, like the Chipotle Vegetable & Bean Chilli (recipe here), served with cornbread and a side. For the Saturday evening meal, I often make a one-pan dish in the oven, sometimes served with Asian slaw, followed by maybe home-made ice cream or tarte tatin. I love making Chinese dumplings and, depending on the number of guests, I invite guests to make them with me for the Saturday evening meal.
P.S. Full disclosure: before launching my Norfolk yoga retreats in 2020 I had only ever been on two retreats myself, both in Asia. I therefore definitely had no preconceived ideas of what a ‘yoga retreat menu’ should be.