By Christine Salins.
On 200 picturesque hectares in the Gold Coast hinterland is a magical place that once it has you under its spell, you won’t want to leave.
Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat is dedicated to health and wellness of the mind and the body, and it would be hard to find a setting more conducive to the pursuit of these lofty goals.
The property has a range of accommodation, from historic buildings that have been relocated to the site, to contemporary suites and stunning villas for the ultimate escape.
On lush green lawns surrounded by rainforest, the retreat is easy to reach – being less than 30 minutes from Gold Coast airport and an hour from Brisbane airport – yet it feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
So spectacular are the valley and ocean views that the Aboriginal people who once inhabited the land called it Gwinganna, meaning “lookout”.
The property has had various uses over the years, including as a banana plantation and more recently as a retreat for an Australian publisher who planted an extensive orchard that continues to flourish with all sorts of tropical and exotic fruit.
Current owner Tony de Leede was inspired to create a health retreat by the premature death of his father from heart disease.
The retreat offers a range of weekend- and week-long programs, each offering a focus or theme, from detox to specialty areas such as nutrition, sleep and managing stress.
I had the privilege of attending one of the retreat’s Wellness Weekends which managed to package both gentle and more intensive activities, inspirational lectures, wonderful spa treatments and healthy balanced cuisine into one soothing and restorative weekend.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the menu, specially created by a team of nutritionists and chefs whose food philosophy centres around seasonal, local, organic wholefoods. Much of the produce served in the casual, relaxed restaurant is harvested from Gwinganna’s own gardens.
Options at mealtimes include vegetarian, chicken, red meat and seafood. Specific allergies or intolerances are catered for with flair and creativity.
The retreat has published a beautiful cookbook, A Taste of Gwinganna, featuring many of the nourishing dishes from its menus – recipes that are designed to improve digestion, help reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar levels, and support liver detoxification. All the dishes are gluten-free and dairy-free.
We were intrigued by this Watermelon Curry which tasted as good as it looked. It stands alone as a vegetarian dish but also goes beautifully with grilled prawns.
*Drum roll … This is my 500th Dining column for PS News. The first was published on 20 November 2007, and it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to bring you my musings on food and a delicious recipe each week for more than a decade. We think that’s something to celebrate in this fast-changing media landscape.
1.2kg seedless watermelon
1 tsp fresh turmeric, grated
1 small knob of fresh ginger grated
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp raw honey
1 red chilli
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp coconut oil
12 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
Lime wedges, to serve
Take rind off watermelon. Cut the watermelon flesh into 3cm pieces, reserving the offcuts. Put watermelon offcuts (approx. 200-300g) into a blender with turmeric, ginger, coriander, cumin, honey, chilli and garlic. Blend until smooth.
In a wok or pan heat the coconut oil and fry the curry leaves, whole cumin seeds and mustard seeds until they pop – it will not take long. Add watermelon puree and kaffir lime leaves. Bring mix to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Add diced watermelon to the pan and warm through tossing carefully for another 3 minutes. Adjust seasoning.
Serve warm or refrigerate in a sealed container overnight. Serve with lime wedges and fresh herbs.
Recipe from A Taste Of Gwinganna and reproduced with permission of Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat.