Elysia – Eating At The Golden Door Health Retreat

April 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

Welcome to the Golden Door – no caffeine or alcohol allowed

I’ve finally done it! I’ve taken myself to The Golden Door Health Retreat in the Hunter Valley, a thousand miles away from work, stress, and full fat dairy.

Travelpack: directions and water

It’s really a breeze getting here, jump on the freeway for about 100km, turn off for Cessnock, smile at the sign advertising Australian tarantulas for sale, stop for a bathroom break at the Cessnock McDonalds (the only time that institution will be mentioned in this blog!) and you’ve just about arrived.
*I love the bravado of small towns in statements like this. It reminds me of the time I drove through Little Stroud and stopped for ‘The World’s Best Steak Sandwich!’ only to be bitterly disappointed and thereafter dubious of all small town ‘Best Ever!’ claims.*

The last 10 kilometres were without a doubt the hardest as I drove through vineyards, olive farms and cellar door after cellar door: De bertoli, Hope Estate, Tempus Two– it seemed cruel that my destination had made caffeine and alcohol contraband!



  1. Fluffy white robes – check
  2. King sized bed – check
  3. Fabulous bath tub – check
  4. Exciting little freebies you get when you go away like miniature sewing kits – check
  5. View from my balcony – check
  6. Tea & Coffee, packaged Arnotts biscuits and a mini fridge stocked with expensive but delicious treats like salted roasted cashew nuts and snickers bars – NO check! Ironically the kitchenette has two wine glasses – that’s not playing fair.



Meals are held in the main dining room and sitting outside on the long verandah and I can almost caress the mountains with my fingertips. Somewhere behind there’s the soft rhythmic trickle of water and all around the happy chatter of people here for the retreat’s five-day detox program. I look around and it seems I’m the only person flying solo.

The afternoon of my arrival was as follows:

  • Bush walk and notice the massive locking gates at Elysia’s entry – I think they must lock us in at night to stop drunken escapades through the wineries
  • Lunch
  • Battle inner desires to go and buy a bottle of wine – I’m no good with the idea of self deprivation
  • Swim in the outdoor pool
  • Run a warm bath & wash hair, face mask, exfoliate, read donna hay magazine (without wetting pages), plan dinner party menus…
  • Wear robe
  • Do stretch class
  • Wear robe
  • Dinner
  • Back to room, wear robe
  • Notice that I am full but panic re: lack of dessert
  • Read The Great Gatsby to take mind off eating
  • Find some milk poppers in the fridge (full cream!) and warm them to have with the dark chocolate I cheekily, but thankfully, brought from home
  • 7:40 fall asleep dreaming of scotch finger biscuits…I worry myself.
  • Sleep right through until 6am wake up call – could Elysia break my midnight cereal addiction?

Now to the important stuff!

“The menu is based on scientific research that includes the appropriate mix of carbohydrates, protein and fats for an active person’s diet and uses a wide variety of colour and texture to maintain the correct balance of nutrients.”

Tuesday: Welcome to Elysia, let’s start with lunch

Prawn and smoked tofu pockets with green tea soba noodle salad

Ginger and lemongrass tea

Early dinner watching the last of the sunset and preparing for a deep slumber

Smoked salmon and watercress stack with semi dried roma tomatoes and avocado dressing .1.

Spinach and ricotta parcel with organic heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil pesto .2.

Wednesday, Sunrise tai chi and a 6km hike through the bush will awaken the senses. Heart warms to a buffet of cereal, fruit and yoghurt and lemongrass tea.

Polenta Porridge with stewed apples and blueberries .3.

Gluten free muesli .4.

Toasted muesli .5.

Seasonal fruit and homemade yoghurt .6.

Water sports and stretching before lunch to re-stimulate the appetite

Roasted beetroot and sunflower salad

Cucumber salad

Tofu and shiitake spring rolls

An afternoon of lazing, a salt body scrub and Swedish massage.

Confit of ocean trout with nicoise salad and lemon infused seeded mustard dressing

Banana and vanilla panacotta with lemon sorbet and seasonal fruit

On Thursday, the majestic mountains of the Hunter Valley climb out of the morning fog

Cereals, amaranth, lecithin, fruits, yoghurt, poached eggs and mushrooms

Lemongrass Tea

Bootcamp, a farewell to the calm and to Elysia

Quinoa sushi

Thai noodles, green bean salad, red and yellow witlof

Leaving Elysia I drive away from a dinner of double baked goats cheese soufflé with capsicum coulis and a prawn and scallop risotto…maybe I should turn around.


1. Smoked salmon and watercress stack with semi dried roma tomatoes and avocado dressing

Very simple: layer curls of salmon in the base of a pappadam, top with avocado that has been roughly mashed with thin slices of semi-dried, stack another one on top and finish with a watercress garnish. This would be a very easy [and healthy] canapé for a drinks party.

.2. Spinach and ricotta parcel with organic heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil pesto

This would be ideal for a cinchy and cheap midweek dinner and is something my mum and I used to always do for Friday night movie dinners

My version:

  1. Layer five lengths of fillo, cut into 10-15cm strips, each brushed with a little oil (see tip),
  2. Mix chopped spinach, ricotta, pine nuts and currants [I would also add one lightly beaten egg per two parcels],
  3. Top one third of the pastry with the filling, leaving space at the top and sides, fold it all together tucking it in neatly like the corners of your sheets,
  4. Brush the top with eggwhite, olive oil or the juice, sprinkle something yummy and pretty on top (suggestions: sesame/poppy seeds, nigella seeds, maybe even a little dukkah
  5. Cook in a preheated 180-200 oven for 20 minutes and then jack it up to 240 for another 5 minutes or so until everything goes nice and crispy on the outside.

(tip! a little hint that my aunt taught me if you don’t want to brush the pastry with oil to layer you can use orange juice or eggwhites).

The parcel was served on chopped heirloom tomatoes and a delicious pesto that would have been right at home on soldiers of fresh Turkish bread…high GI carb cravings coming out!

.3. Semolina Porridge

This porridge looks like something that went wrong in Ron Weasley’s cauldron but is simply warming and divine. Unfortunately I don’t know the recipe, but will play around with polenta at home so watch this space, but this semolina one from the latest issue of donna hay magazine is probably quite similar:

1.25 litres (5 cups) milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 cup semolina

8 fresh figs halved

1/3 cup brown sugar

Place the milk, vanilla and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Gradually add the semolina and whisk for 2-3 minutes until thickened. Spoon into a bowl, top with the figs and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Nb: I don’t think Golden Door would be adding caster sugar to their porridge, optionally leave this out and at the end of cooking add a punnet of blueberries and some poached apple for sweetness.

The fantastic thing about homemade muesli is that you can put in whatever you like! If you’re not bog on fruit then add more seeds and mixes like LSA, lecithin etc. You might like to dry your own fruit – home grown dried fruit would be amazing – or if you’re tooth is way up the sweet alley add some choc chips or yoghurt covered sultanas!

.4. Gluten Free Muesli

225g (3 ½ cups) rice flakes

75g (3 cups) amaranth

115g rice bran or sticks

3 teaspoons ground linseed

3 tablespoons dried diced papaya

3 tablespoons pepitas

3 tablespoons dried banana chips

3 tablespoons sun-dried banana/apple

3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

[I like to add dried cranberries/goji berries in place of the other fruit]

Mix together all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Serve with yoghurt, skim or soy milk and fresh fruit.

Serves 10.

Nutrition per serve: Energy: 1059 kj (253 cals); Protein: 7 g; Total fat: 7 g; Carbohydrate: 38 g; Fibre 6 g; Sodium 30 mg

.5. Toasted Oat Muesli

200g (2 cups) rolled oats

2 tablespoons honey

½ cup oat bran fibre

½ cup dried apple, chopped

½ cup dried apricots, chopped

½ cup sultanas

Preheat oven to 140°C. Mix together oats, honey and 2 tablespoon of water with your fingertips, spread in a thin layer over a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until lightly toasted. When cooled, mix with the oat bran and dried fruit and store in an airtight container.

Serves 8.

Nutrition: Energy 847kj (202 cals); Protein: 5g; Total fat: 3g; Carbohydrate: 40g; Fibre: 5 g; Sodium 9mg.

[When I make toasted muesli I always like to add flakes of coconut, oven roasted almonds & macadamias and for more decadence melt the honey with 25g of butter before adding it to the oats!]

.6. Homemade yoghurt

300g (3 cups) skim milk powder

250g (1 cup) acidophilus bifidus yoghurt

Bring 2 ½ litres of water to the boil, then cool to 43°C. Add the milk powder a little at a time and whisk until dissolved. Add the yoghurt and whisk again. Strain to remove any lumps.

Line the bottom of a large boiler pot with old towels. Cover the bowl of yoghurt and place inside the boiler pot on top of the towels. Tuck more towels between the two pots. Cover with more towels, put the lid on the pot  and leave in a warm place for about 6 hours to set.

Once set, stir in a little fruit coulis.

Serves 12

Nutrition: Energy 416kj (99 cals); protein 11g; total fat: 0g; carbohydrate: 14 g; Fibre: 0g; Sodium 121 mg

[nb: I have not tried to make this].


§ 2 Responses to Elysia – Eating At The Golden Door Health Retreat

  • Narelle says:

    I have just been there too and lived the food. I found your blog while searching for a porrige recipe. I made it with polenta and it was yum but the texture was not even close to theirs so I would try semolina instead.

    • Me too, mine was much gluggier, in the style that I would use for polenta under lamb shanks. I bought their cook book but the recipe isn’t in there either! And they wouldn’t have used milk to loosen…curious!!

      Try the semolina and let me know how you go, it’s delicious with frozen berries and some goji berries too! Since Elysia I have also been converted to hulled millet – add that to your muesli and it’s divine! Lovely to hear from you Narelle!

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