Coun­try Chef

Need a de­tox? Chef Juliet Stephen­son of Brook­dale Health Hy­dro has just what you need

South African Country Life - - In This Issue - WORDS AN­DREA AB­BOTT PIC­TURES CRAIG SCOTT

So here we are in Fe­bru­ary, some of us car­ry­ing the ghost of Christ­mas Past – a lit­tle ex­tra pad­ding, a lin­ger­ing queasi­ness, a touch of self-loathing at hav­ing in­dulged in pies and pud­dings, bub­bly and beers, braais and fries, as if there were no to­mor­row.

Of course we’ve made New Year res­o­lu­tions. We’ll take our­selves in hand, cut out this and that, ex­er­cise more. But like the gift wrap­pings, those ideals lie torn and tat­tered. Still, we re­ally do want to set out on a health­ier path. It’s just so hard to start.

“Peo­ple of­ten know what they should be do­ing but lead such busy lives they’re not sure how to do it,” says Juliet Stephen­son, chef at Brook­dale Health Hy­dro at Not­ting­ham Road in the KwaZulu-Natal Mid­lands. Juliet has been mo­ti­vat­ing peo­ple to change their eat­ing habits since she ar­rived at Brook­dale in 2010. “The key is sim­plic­ity and go­ing back to ba­sics.”

She doesn’t mean nib­bling on a let­tuce leaf, or pur­su­ing a one-size-fits-all regime.

“It’s about mod­er­a­tion. Fast­ing isn’t the way to de­tox. Eat­ing the right foods is.” What are those right foods? “Fresh, home-cooked, nat­u­ral, fi­bre-rich and mostly plant foods,” Juliet says, adding that guests are pleas­antly sur­prised at how de­li­cious and sat­is­fy­ing Brook­dale’s meals are. “Qual­ity not quan­tity is our guide­line. Our food is nu­tri­ent dense, un­like on-the-go items like snack bars that are en­ergy dense and low in nu­tri­ents.”

Juliet works closely with di­eti­cian Caryn Davies, who also joined the Brook­dale fam­ily in 2010. To­gether they cre­ate imag­i­na­tive dishes that Juliet de­scribes as low carb, low fat, Mediter­ranean-style food. And while three things are ex­cluded – caf­feine (gulp!), al­co­hol, and red meat (al­though the lat­ter is in­cluded in recipe books) – there are no blan­ket rules

or re­stric­tive di­ets. Says Caryn, “Our guests are in­spired by a dif­fer­ent way of life and re­al­is­tic al­ter­na­tives that are both healthy and de­li­cious.”

Break­fast that morn­ing is a good ex­am­ple of those healthy, de­li­cious al­ter­na­tives. There’s smoked salmon, av­o­cado, pump­kin seed pesto, cot­tage cheese and fresh fruit. No cof­fee. Mid­morn­ing brings a glass of kom­bucha that’s alive with pro­bi­otics. “We’re big on gut health,” Caryn ex­plains. “You’re only as healthy as your gut.”

Great, but I’ll do any­thing for a cup of good cof­fee right now. No chance. “Caf­feine raises adrenalin lev­els. A lot of peo­ple aren’t aware of the symp­toms of caf­feine in­take – nau­sea, flush­ing, shak­i­ness, rac­ing heart, and in­som­nia.” I can’t say I’ve no­ticed that in my­self but as Caryn ex­plains, some peo­ple are ge­net­i­cally equipped to metabolise adrenalin quickly whereas oth­ers aren’t.

I like to think I’m in the fast cat­e­gory but, to know for sure, I could avail my­self of a DNA-anal­y­sis ser­vice of­fered at Brook­dale. “It tests for 36 gene vari­ants to pin­point sen­si­tiv­i­ties and guide peo­ple on what foods to avoid,” ex­plains Caryn, who is ac­cred­ited to DNAl­y­sis, the com­pany that pi­o­neered this test­ing in South Africa.

There’s not one food (other than the trout – I’m a veg­e­tar­ian) at lunch time I’d want to avoid. Ev­ery­thing is so gor­geous it’s like look­ing at a beau­ti­ful gar­den, a fit­ting sim­ile be­cause plant-based dishes play a star­ring role in all Juliet’s recipes. What’s more, many

of those plants are freshly har­vested from Brook­dale’s veg­gie gar­den.

Keeper of that gar­den is Ostern Cha­fuka. He’s car­ry­ing an arm­ful of mag­nif­i­cent greens when I meet him. What is his se­cret for grow­ing such ex­cep­tional veg­gies? “Sun, ozonated bore­hole wa­ter, no chem­i­cals, and lots of love,” he says.

So there be­fore us on the ta­ble is a love­in­fused feast so colour­ful it could have been made from rain­bows. Gin­ger turmeric soup, trout fil­lets with spinach basil pesto, roasted pear salad, and quinoa salad burst­ing with mi­cro greens and sprouts. “They con­tain di­ges­tive en­zymes which help with gut health,” says Juliet.

Creamy mango lol­lies make a mock­ery of sugar-laden ice cream, and the fig and pis­ta­chio truf­fles are as good as the best choco­late. It’s al­most hard to be­lieve these desserts con­tain no sugar. “By eat­ing sim­ply you learn to ap­pre­ci­ate nat­u­ral flavours,” says Juliet. “So when you re­duce your sugar in­take, you start to ap­pre­ci­ate the nat­u­ral sweet­ness in foods.”

Not that the oc­ca­sional choco­late is a sin.

“If you fol­low the 80/20 rule – 80 per cent healthy food – you’re on the right track,” says Wendy Somers-Cox who, with her hus­band Tony, founded Brook­dale in 1992. “We bought the prop­erty in 1989,” says Tony. “The build­ings were aban­doned and the land cov­ered in bluegum and wat­tle.”

Two-and-a-half years later, after much hard toil, Wendy and Tony opened their haven of peace. Set in beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings, it’s the an­swer to the stresses and tox­ins of the out­side world. “Peo­ple don’t come here for weight loss, but to get off the tread­mill for a while and to de­tox,” Tony says. Man­ager and co-di­rec­tor, Mar­i­lyn Cox agrees, adding, “We’re the real thing. Re­laxed, homely, and with a holis­tic ap­proach.” As we speak, guests in white dress­ing gowns stroll serenely past on their way to that health-restor­ing lunch on the deck above the brook bub­bling through the dale.

It’s all so heav­enly and healthy, a phrase echoed in the ti­tle of Brook­dale’s two recipe books: Heav­enly and Healthy Foods, and Heav­enly and Healthy Flavours. “The books were a re­sponse to guests ask­ing for in­spi­ra­tion for when they went back home,” says Juliet. “We’re work­ing on a third that will fo­cus on life­style and will be a use­ful re­source dur­ing fes­tive times.”

Ex­cel­lent news for those who don’t want the ghost of Christ­mas Past haunt­ing us again next year.

OP­PO­SITE CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: The route to Brook­dale winds through sweep­ing land­scapes typ­i­cal of the KwaZu­luNatal Mid­lands. Orig­i­nally built as the coun­try re­treat of the last ad­min­is­tra­tor of the old Natal, Brook­dale is now a re­treat for those seek­ing a break from the rat race. Once aban­doned and over­grown with bluegums and wat­tle, Brook­dale was brought back to life after Tony and Wendy Somers-Cox bought it 30 years ago to re­alise their dream of open­ing a proper health spa. CLOCK­WISE FROMABOVE LEFT: Ostern Cha­fuka is the green­fin­gered king of Brook­dale’s veg­etable gar­den. His recipe for suc­cess? “Sun, ozonated bore­hole wa­ter, no chem­i­cals, and love.”Wa­ter fea­tures through­out the gar­dens en­hance the sense of tran­quil­lity. The in­door din­ing area is beau­ti­fully ap­pointed but re­tains a sense of long ago. Chef Juliet Stephen­son and di­eti­cian Caryn Davies – the tal­ented duo be­hind the de­li­cious, nu­tri­ent-dense food that in­spires Brook­dale guests to main­tain a healthy way of life.

ABOVE LEFT: Guest suites that were once sta­bles sur­round a court­yard gar­den. ABOVE: Two pools – this out­door salt­wa­ter one and an in­door ozonated one – make aquacise pos­si­ble all year round. LEFT: The su­per six who make it all hap­pen in Brook­dale’s kitchen: Than­deka Shezi, Bright Nqwenya, Juliet Stephen­son, Janet Duma, Khombi Zuma,Lina Madon­sela.

ABOVE: Tony and Wendy Somers-Cox and Mar­i­lyn Cox (right) are ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing a holis­tic health ex­pe­ri­ence that de­bunks the ‘let­tuce leaf myth’.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.