My second retreat has passed so quickly. We had 17 this time which was pretty full on. The retreat was run by Sue Chopping (each retreat is run by a different yoga teacher) who kindly let me join in the classes. A new outdoor shala has just been built and so we did our down dogs facing the ocean.
Sue is an inspiring teacher (she teaches in west London and is talking of coming back here on October) and brings humour into the lessons. Each class would include some kind of affirming quote (but not in a patronising way).. The one that stuck out for me this week was: ‘
Life is not about answers, life is about learning how to live in the middle of chaos and complete uncertainty and doing so with grace’
In true English style every afternoon whilst I was beavering away in the kitchen she would come and offer me a cup of tea.
My assistant, Giula has now started, who is from Ithaca. I was thinking this would be good for me to practice my Greek but her English is probably better than mine (I couldn’t believe she even knew the word for spatula until she pointed out it was kind of the same word in Greek!). I am trying to get her to teach me Greek whilst we cook, but I’m not the best when it comes to languages.. It has been great having some company in the kitchen and although she won’t take credit, I have renamed her the ‘sous chef’ since I’ve delegated a number of responsibilities to her, including Greek salads, potatoes and flatbreads. She has an excellent palate and her seasoning is spot on. For example she makes the most fabulous roast potatoes. She doesn’t do any par boiling or heating up the pan first, skins are left on (it helps that the quality is so good here) and she drizzles them with a bit of lemon juice, fresh rosemarie, olive oil, salt and pepper. She has learnt to cook from her grandmother and mother who she says are both excellent. We are trying to find a quiet time for her to bring her 85 year old grandmother in to teach us how to make her favourite dessert (maybe I could rename this blog Greek Grandmothers?).
I thought coming here would be a proper detox for me, but wine is free flowing. We don’t tend to get much Greek wine in the UK, shame as its really rather good. It was another group who were drinking, so once I finished cooking I would join them in putting the world to rights. It was so late one night I ended up staying in one of the empty yurts as I felt too tired (am sure the alcohol had nothing to do with it) for the 10 minute walk home (this meant I got to experience the coco mattress which was incredible!). I have met so many different and interesting people, many of whom are also on their own kind of odyssey (ok perhaps not surprising for a yoga retreat). It’s kind of strange working out my place in the group, not quite being part of the group, but contributing to their experience through feeding them. But it kind of dawned on me that each week I am going to have to deal with goodbyes/endings (this is not something I find easy) and then also new beginnings.. So as one retreat finishes (and I have to say goodbye to people I have grown rather fond of), a new one begins (and we are back to getting to know one another again).
Giula’s roast potatoes the Greek way
I think the humble potato is an under rated vegetable. I love a good roast potato and although simple, the flavours are sublime and go nicely as part of a spread of other dishes:
2 tbsp lemon juice
Olive olive oil
Handful of rosemarie
1 garlic clove cut in 4 pieces
Preheat oven to 20oc. Cut up potatoes into 3 inch evenly sized chunks. Place in roasting tin. Pour over generous amount of olive oil and mix in other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Add approx half a cup of water to tin. Place in preheated oven for approximately 45 mins to 1 hour until potatoes are crisp on outside.