Bhavana means ‘spiritual cultivation’ and at the Bhavana Cooking School in Newrybar, guests are invited to slow down for a day and appreciate how cultivating your own food and cooking for your health and wellbeing is good for your spiritual side as well. It also tastes pretty good!
Tucked away in the green rolling hills behind Newrybar Village in the Byron Bay hinterland is Bhavana Organic Farm and Cooking School. Bhavana is the combined dream of three friends – Greta, Jo and Susie – brought together through challenging times, to discover a new beginning through wholefood cooking. At Bhavana they want to share their passion for wholistic health with others in a nurturing, relaxing and fun cooking experience, free from the stresses of everyday.
The day begins with your personally selected pot of tea overlooking the hinterland as you get to know your other classmates. Jo – a former chef and now a a body, mind, food and performance coach – explains what we will be cooking for the day. It’s about seasonal eating and recipes that taste delicious with the bonus of health benefits. Our mouths were watering!
We venture out into the garden to look at the array of fresh organic produce grown at Bhavana. Greta is the resident green thumb, having given up a career in media and running the business operations for a multinational organisation for farm boots and a Certificate III in Production Horticulture – Organic Farming. The garden includes a variety of vegetables, herbs, bushfoods and rare varieties, from familiar eggplants and radicchio to Mexican cucamelons, Australian rosellas which are packed with Vitamin C, and herbs like classic thyme to the unusual Anise Hyssop whose soft, anise scented leaves work well in a salad.
After harvesting our final ingredients it was back into the Bhavana kitchen for the next few hours to cook. We worked in pairs, each couple responsible for a few dishes – as Jo gently guided us through the menu. The kitchen at Bhavana is a modern, purpose-built light filled space. It connects to a beautiful lounge and dining area where we later shared our cooked lunch. On less windy days, the class enjoys lunch outdoors beneath a beautiful old fig tree.
Our Bhavana Cooking School menu was Autumn based and looked like this:
Papaya with Lime & Salt
A delicious way to awaken the palate and prepare the digestion for the remaining courses!
Chicken Liver Pate
I nearly cried when I saw this on the menu. It’s one of my favourite food groups and it was great to learn that chicken liver pâté has many benefits including zinc for healthy skin and iron for healthy blood. I stuck my hand up to cook this one.
Grain Free Bread
I have eaten a number of grain free breads which I find stodgy. Don’t even try to toast them! I can say that this recipe, which replaced grains with coconut flour, psyllium husks and seeds, was a delicious accompaniment to the pâté and I will actually make this recipe at home.
Baked Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks
This dish was was served with Salsa Verde. It was succulent and tender. I also learned that eating chicken makes us happy. It is one of the richest sources of tryptophan (an amino acid), vital for the production of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) known as the happy hormone!
Autumn Salad of Baked Beetroot, Fennel & Walnut
The dish was served with Mango, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise. It’s a classic, garden fresh recipe where the ingredients speak for themselves.
Whole Baked Sweet Potato
We massaged whole, unpeeled sweet potato with ghee before roasting. According to Jo, eating a quality clean fat with the potato helps the body absorb nutrients more easily. In fact, ghee and coconut oil were used in many of the day’s recipes.
Coconut, Fresh Fig & Passionfruit Chia Pudding
I have to be honest and say I am not a big fan of chia pudding. It’s the texture. It reminds me of frog spawn. Sorry if that offended anyone. But I put that in the back of my mind to taste this dish. The flavours of coconut, cinnamon and honey worked wonders with the figs.
We enjoyed the spoils of our labour for lunch served at a beautifully set dining table overlooking the hills with a glass or two of organic wine.
Bhavana Cooking School is a great day for lovers of organic food, cooking and good company. It would make a perfect experience for a group of friends, culinary couples or singles who want to take some time out from the busyness of life for some spiritual cultivation and shared food.
For the upcoming Bhavana Cooking School programme head to their website www.bhavanacookingschool.com