I was lucky enough to spend the weekend at Mana Retreat in the Coromandel for a yoga retreat with Juliet Forch. What a wonderful weekend. Having never been on a yoga retreat I wasn't really sure what to expect. Whatever expectations I had they were exceeded threefold.
A stunning and tranquil setting, spectacular views, met some wonderful people, some great yoga and totally delicious food. So a pretty damn near perfect weekend.
I headed off Friday afternoon and the perfect afternoon for a wee road trip, well perfect once passed the traffic jams that are Auckland on a Friday afternoon. Out of Auckland and southbound to Thames, hung a left and headed towards Coromandel Town. A very windy but beautiful drive hugging the Pohutekawa lined coastline to Mana Retreat, nestled up in the bush about 40km from Thames. It would be really stunning when the Pohutekawas are all in bloom.
Arrived late afternoon and settled in to Ponga Lodge, my home for the weekend and then decided to make the most of the late afternoon sun and explore a little. There are many beautiful pathways to be explored. I picked the Goddess Path that leads up to Sanctuary and very glad I did as the best weather of the weekend.
Spectacular views from the top. The first evening dinner and then some restorative yoga. Dinner was a lentil and lemon soup, homemade bread (totally addictive, especially with a good slathering of butter), beetroot salad, rice salad, green salad and a fruit crumble for dessert - all organic, vegetarian and delicious, a lot of which comes from their vegetable garden. I definitely need to find some alternative words for delicious. Post a couple of hours of restorative yoga off with the torch and managed to make it back to Ponga Lodge for a good long sleep. Not before admiring the amazing display the night sky put on...the stars were truly amazing.
I am so looking forward to the Mana Recipe book due out early November - watch this space.
More delicious food followed all weekend...and certainly inspiring me to cook some really good vegetarian food and share some inspiration with my vegetarian friends or anyone who just likes really good food. The fritatta with roasted pepper sauce was the lightest, most scrumptious frittata I have ever tasted! Didn't really like frittata until this one - I certainly hope it is in the recipe book that one is way too good not to share.
So on the menu for dinner tonight Patatas a lo Pobre or Poor Man's Potatoes courtesy of Moro The Cookbook. Sam and Sam Clark share a passion for the intense flavours of the food of Spain, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. The word “Moro”, meaning “Moor” in Spanish, encapsulates much of their style of cooking. A heady blend of Arabic and Hispanic dishes that offer warm spices and fiery sauces, slow-cooked earthy stews and delicate flavourings. The Moors occupied Spain for 700 years from the 8th to 15th century. The two spheres of cooking are connected by what is called the cinnamon-saffron link (Spain and Muslim Mediterranean).
Sam & Sam are the are the chef-owners of Moro Restaurant in London's Exmouth Market - highly recommend it if you are in London town. Moro is one of my favourite cookbooks and full of delicious recipes that are easy to do at home. Most of the recipes are very simple but the resulting flavours are most certainly greater than the sum of their parts. Great recipes and ideas for small plates if you want to delight your guests with a magnificent Moorish feast. You can feed meat and non meat lovers no problem at all as vegetables play just as important a role as meat or fish. I have always believed that even as a side vegetables should be just as exciting and flavoursome as the main event. Spices are also integral to most of the recipes and the book is full of useful information on the spices used and how they can be best used to enhance a dish even if it is just a pinch. As always the best results come from fresh seasonal ingredients.
Anyway I digress, back to the Poor Man's Potatoes. It may be a simple dish but it was very, very good as a meal served with a fresh green salad with a Lemon Vinaigrette. It would also make a great side dish. The slow cooked onions become sweet, golden and brown with little crispy bits and the garlic takes on that great sticky, nutty deliciousness that only garlic can do. They are really what makes this dish for me.
So here is the recipe courtesy of Moro The Cookbook
Patatas a lo Pobre - Poor Man's Potatoes
15 tbsp olive oil
3 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, thickly sliced - it's the thick slices that make for all the sticky, nutty garlic flavour.
3 green peppers, or red if you prefer, halved, seeded and roughly chopped
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh but if not just use 2 dry ones.
1 kg firm, waxy potatoes, peeled
Salt and pepper
Set a large saucepan over a medium hear and add 5 tbsp of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion slowly, turning down the heat, if necessary, for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and sweet in smell and taste.
Add the garlic, peppers and bay and cook for 15 minutes more to release their flavour. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes in half lengthways and each half in two to three wedges, depending on the size of the potato. Salt them slightly and leave for 5 minutes.
When the pepper has softened, add the remaining oil and when the oil is hot again, add the potatoes. Let everything simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for another 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain in a colander or sieve. And serve.
I served this with a simple green salad and a lemon vinaigrette.
For the vinaigrette...
1 tbsp shallot, finely chopped, or you could use a little red onion
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp basil, finely chopped
1 tsp grated lemon zest
3 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon oil (you can make your own by steeping some lemon zest in some EVOO. The flavour becomes more intense the longer it is left to infuse)
4 tbsp EVOO
Salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk all the ingredients together and you have a smooth, creamy, lemony dressing...a favourite of mine this one and think it will be a Spring regular.
A yummy supper indeed.