Annual Indian visit 'Swaswara' meaning 'song of your soul'

Since my son became old enough to leave alone I spend my annual holidays in India in order to escape the winter cold. I generally hang out in Goa but always take a holiday from Goa and go somewhere else.

This year I decided to treat myself to an Ayurvedic, yoga and well being break of which the retreat was named Swa Swara, which was located above the infamous Om beach in Gokarna which is in the state of Karnatika.

Wow this place was amazing. With Ayurvedic massages and various yoga classes including yoga nidra (the most relaxing yoga in the world), there was little apart from the rhythm of the rolling waves and the meditative hum of a birdsong to disturb inner explorations. Swa Swara actually interprets as your inner voice and is absolutely true to its names sake. Crafted in colours of the earth, and in harmony with the land this Ayurvedic retreat was designed for holistic and transformational experiences, a space where the wisdom of Ayurveda and yoga embrace you to rejuvenate the mind and body.

I can honestly say that the food that was served here was probably the most delicious I’ve ever had in my life. Head chef Joy advocates preferring to cook food that is grown in harmony with nature, ripened naturally on healthy soil and cooked with an air of mindfulness. The produce which is locally sourced consists of seasonal tropical fruits, vegetables and freshly caught fish which are complemented with juices and herbal teas. Swa Swara has many healing plants and herbs growing on is property which are implemented into the recipes that are prepared, ensuring that the food is not only the the most delicious in the world but also extremely therapeutic.

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Swa Swara chef Joy

Following Swa Swara I then went back to Palolum in Goa where I practised my favourite yoga that of Parinama which I had been attending for over three years. Oshi and Magna are two of the best teachers that I’ve had, with every class being a welcoming challenge. I was also spoilt for choice here with more delicious healthy food. The Little World pancakes and fruit salads being amazingly colourful, nutritious and tasty and my favourite place for breakfast.

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After a few weeks back in Goa my good friend Lucy came to visit me and we decided to go to Pondicherry which until 1954 was under French rule. Some people were still actually speaking French and English with French accents. Restaurants conjured up a variety of dishes embraced with a hint of French cuisine. Lots of street food, with one of my personal favourite dishes that I’d eaten being that of a Pani poori which is a common Indian street snack consisting of a round hollow filled with a mixture of chat massala, potato, onion or chickpeas, absolutely wonderful and costing of around fifteen rupees a helping which equates to about fifteen pence.

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Of course I don’t want to leave out the deliciousness and health benefits of the common coconut. There are literally millions of them here. I tried to drink and eat at least one a day, I have to say these coconuts are my favourite food in the whole world and you can only get them to taste this good in India. Health benefits for coconuts include anti-oxidant properties, may help benefit type 2 diabetes, helps to support heart health, my reduce blood pressure and a delicious source of hydration. Costing around thirty rupees to drink and eat this fruit, in my opinion this is the most cost effective food there is.

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Lovely coconut lady and me

Lovely coconut lady and me

Back to Goa and my friend Lucy has been offered a two night stay at a five star amazing retreat hotel in the hills of north Goa with a plus one in return for a written article promoting them on a London blogging site, and hey I got lucky I was the person invited. This place or retreat was also fantastic with everything laid on. My friend was also offered cocktail and dinner at the infamous award winning Pan Asian restaurant Spice Traders at the W hotel in Vagator. After checking our particular likes and intolerances the chef produced a selection of dishes all served with fantastic presentation. Course after course of mouth watering healthy foods kept arriving including finely sliced bell peppers with horseradish and herbs, terrines of salmon with sweet pomegranate, Japanese Enoki mushrooms infused with truffle oil, medallions of succulent sea-bass topped with pickled chillies, stir-fried tender asparagus with crunchy water chestnuts and cashews.

All in all this years annual trip to India was pretty amazing with all the yoga, foods and nourishments being a huge contributing factor. I came home feeling truly invigorated, healthy and with a strong urge to recreate some of these dishes that I had the fortune to have experienced myself. Watch This Space.

Marrakesh

I recently took a short break in Marrakesh as myself and couple of friends of mine wanted to go rug shopping and the souks in Marrakesh are renowned for selling beautiful relatively cheap (or much cheaper than the UK) rugs, hand made by the villagers in the Atlas mountains not too far away.

I was amazed at all the wonderful colors in the souks and market especially with all the herbs and spices displayed in beautiful array.

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The herbs and spices included cumin, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric amongst others.  The many health benefits they contain include anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants protecting the immune system, blood sugar regulation, prevention of nausea anti-carcinogenic, promoting heart health, digestive aids as well as others.

We were also shown the health benefits of eucalyptus crystals of which I hadn't seen before.  The seller insisted that inhaling these crystals were the best way to clear sinuses and cure a cold, he demonstrated by adding a shard of crystal to a mug of hot water, the result was fantastic, as one of my friends had had a niggling cough and a blocked nose for a few days and after inhaling this eucalytus infused water was completely cured.  It was amazing.

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All in all my short break in Marrakesh was a successful one.  We all managed to buy a rug and I discovered a new favorite soup which is called Moroccan harira - which although there are variations, is a blend of lentils, chickpeas and tomatoes also including wonderful herbs such as coriander, parsley, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and pepper making this an extremely healthy meal.

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Visiting Hythe - A Seaside Town in Kent

I was visiting my good friend Kim at the weekend in Hythe in Kent.  She had recently decided that she'd had enough of the big city (London) and wanted to live a quieter, calmer lifestyle so she upped and left and moved to Hythe.

Hythe is an extremely pretty, hilly seaside town with lots of vintage, antique and second hand shops as well as lovely, quaint quirky little shops such as a shop that just sold ingredients for cakes all in glass jars.  Ingredients included various flours, grains, dried fruits and nuts and seeds amongst other cake essentials. 

Five minutes drive away is Folkestone harbour where you can sit on benches and munch on freshly caught cockles, mussels and prawns.  These seafood's are a good source of protein and they are also a good source of iron, iodine, zinc and copper as well as being low in fat.  On chilly mornings you can also enjoy a bowl of delicious freshly made seafood chowder. 

However, what I was really impressed with was all the vegetables that Kim had grown and how green fingered she had become.   She gave me a doggy bag filled with carrots, celery, giant prize winning courgettes and onions.  Vegetables high in vitamin C and other antioxidants which are good for strengthening the immune system which in turn helping to protect the immune system.  The best thing about all these vegetables was that I knew that they were completely organic and had no poisonous pesticides sprayed on them.

 

Kim's home grown carrots

Kim's home grown carrots

Kim's celery

Kim's celery

Edible Flowers

Wandering around the farmers market on Sunday I happened upon these wonderful, colorful edible flowers consisting of marigolds and pansies amongst others.

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Unable to resist buying them as I wanted to create something pretty as well as nutritious for my friends who were coming over to mine later.  I also found and bought some courgette flowers and some organic goats cheese. 

When my friends arrived I pan fried the courgette flowers for literally thirty to sixty seconds whilst adding some crumbled goats cheese and flowers on top.  The result was a beautiful, delicious, sumptuous snack of which my friends were extremely impressed.

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