The Split Apple Retreat - Cooking Class with Pen

Milady A - Monday, May 09, 2016

Our first morning at the Split Apple Retreat started with a beautiful sunshine gleaming through the blinds in our room.
The blinds, which had been taken down by the staff the evening before, while we were having dinner under the stars, seemed totally dark and dense when we entered our room. Totally fine for the night!

Our surprise was huge when we woke up in the morning and discovered that these blinds do leave some light in and are somewhat transparent after all.
This slight transparency however gave us the best view ever, as we imagined it to be Japanese paintings where the blinds were the cloth and the landscape behind the window its mesmerizing drawing.

Imagine a miraculous background of green plants, a blue ocean and a sky decorated with stunning clouds, all in grey shades because of the blinds, and you’ll see in your imagination yourself that we had Japanese paintings at our window.
You need to have a creative mind, that’s for sure, but trust me … life gets so much better when you open your imagination for miraculous things. You just have to be willing to see it. Or you have to wake up without contact lenses, like I did.

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The colorful rainbow shower gave our mind the energy boost it needed. Our body, however, received its shot during the mouthwatering breakfast which Pen prepared for us.

But first … there was meditation!
In the Split Apple Retreat, guests can learn how to meditate effectively. At 8h30, we were expected to meet Lee in the movie theatre room for an early morning meditation. Gosh, this was way too early for Milady A, but was definitely a must-do when staying at the Split Apple. They use the latest hi-tech brain-entrainment methods to get the most out of this ancient art.

I felt great to do this in the morning, maybe I should try and change my natural system and become an early bird instead of a night owl … that was obviously only a thought as I am totally back to normal again, wide awake at night and drowsy in the morning ;-)

After 30-minutes of meditation, listening to sounds leading us to other horizons, breakfast would be served at 9h. We still had the place to ourselves, and enjoyed our personalized breakfast, which was served in such a delicate way that we truly felt like Milord and Milady in their castle!

Pen makes her granola herself and honestly, I have never ever devoured a better mix than hers. Gosh, so yummy! A bowl of fresh berries and other colorful fruits as well as delicious healthy yoghurts, one with an amazing coconut taste, and a tasteful mix of seeds was added to pimp the granola.

I can still recall its divine taste as well as our thoughts while we were enjoying the wonderful view across the sea in front of us.
For me, the fruits, yoghurts, and granola were more than enough, but no no … there comes Lee with a menu for a hot breakfast, offering a range of delightful, appetizing choices, however all super healthy and prepared with the finest ingredients. Even the pancakes, which Mr Big ordered, were the most healthy we ever had. Pen prepared them with buckwheat flour and added a scrumptious baked banana.

I explicitly said I had enough with the breakfast I already had, and laughed: “Well, I can always have a bit from Mr Big’s pancake.”
After a few minutes only, Pen came at our table and took our empty granola plates away. I remember thinking: “Hey, don’t take my plate away, I might still eat a few berries while my man is eating his hot breakfast.”

But there it was, the reason why she also took my plate away: she prepared a large – as in huge – pancake for Mr Big and a small one for me. My goodness, I better hadn’t tasted this as for the following 3 mornings I ordered a small pancake for myself. What a sweet temptation that was!

The rest of the morning, we relaxed, and wrote a bit, and just enjoyed the feeling of being in heaven.

In the afternoon we planned to go and visit Abel Tasman Park, by foot. The next days, however we would see a lot more of that beautiful National Park, by boat and by helicopter, more about that in my next columns.

13h in the Split Apple means lunch time, whether you are hungry or not. That’s right, breakfast was still not totally digested and there was lunch. Once again, we had a delicious meal waiting for us on the spectacular terrace. A healthy Asian vegetable soup with garlic naan bread plus a delectable fresh fruit platter for dessert. ‘It’s a light lunch,’ Pen said, and I could only answer: ‘Please smaller portions for me as of now, cause this is not light at all!’
But actually it was, as all the ingredients were so healthy and low in calories, we could eat much more and not gain a gram of weight.

We left around 14h to go and have a walk in Abel Tasman Park, but had to be back already by 16h30 as I had planned a Thai massage and Mr Big was going to get trained by the best in the kitchen.
We did not see a lot of the national park that afternoon in such a short timing, but what we saw, was spectacular. There was amongst others, the most miraculous cloud I have ever seen: there was sunshine everywhere, but right in front of is, there was a huge, grey cloud where we saw raindrops falling out and in the right corner of that huge cloud, a wonderful bright rainbow appeared.
‘What else than a rainbow,’ we shouted and planned to tell Lee right away ;-)

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The massage was … my goodness … the best I’ve ever had!! Lee knew that my best massage until then was the one we had in the ĀMAN Tokyo, a few weeks earlier, and was convinced that the massage at Split Apple was going to beat my previous one. He was totally right! My body was pushed in all directions, stretched in positions I never thought possible, but was the best experience I ever had in the hands of a masseuse.

In the meantime, I heard Mr Big, having the time of his life in Pen’s kitchen, where he took a cooking class together with the Chef of the house, Pen.

I was only there the first 30 minutes, before my massage started, and could luckily take some shots of the two wonderful chefs, but as of then … I was gone.

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Therefore I asked Mr Big to share his experience himself in a few lines and here it comes:

Some of you know I love to cook.
But I have a rather intuitive way of cooking.
I love to use basic ingredients, such as chicken, salmon, veal and lots of vegetables.

Always very tasteful since I’m a addict of peppers, all kind of peppers and pepper mixes, pepper with lime, with coriander, chili, cumin, even cacao which gives a wonderful chocolate scent to a dish however as there is no sugar at all in cacao, this doesn’t taste like the chocolate we know.

Book recipes are not really my thing.
I love the books, mostly they are beautifully made, but to simply follow a recipe is really not my favourite way of cooking.
The disadvantage of this way of doing is that it might get a little monotonous at the end.

So, when we arrived at The Split Apple retreat where we discovered this very healthy approach of cooking which Lee and Pen developed, I most certainly was interested in taking the cooking class with Pen.

They created a marvellous book about their “Thoughtful Food” in which they combine their medical and culinary knowledge. A true inspiration to integrate new products and ideas in our own cuisine.

While my lovely wife had a thai massage, I went up to the kitchen to learn some new ways of preparing delicious dishes with Pen.
Great was my surprise to hear that it was not just a class. We would prepare the evening meal for the new guests that arrived that very same day.

It did have a little stress at the moment, I must say … I’m an amateur cook, not a star chef or even sous-chef!
The thing is that it really felt great. Under an efficient but so sympathetic supervision of Pen, actually nothing could go wrong.

I enjoyed feeling the natural products in my hands, cutting, grinding, slicing, dicing and finally mixing them all together.
I hadn’t been in a kitchen for almost 6 weeks and missed it more than I thought I would, but having this “now-moment” with Pen turned this “cooking class” into a wonderful peaceful meditation!

I was stunned by the delicious meal we got that evening, as were the wonderful guests which joined us at the Split Apple Retreat that evening.

Do come back for more, because there is way more to tell about our heavenly experience!

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