A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a few days at one of the Target's Fitness Retreats. I was asked in advance about my dietary requirements; if you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I eat in a way which helps me to feel my best, although some people (in fact most people) can’t comprehend that chia seeds, quinoa and almond milk are dietary staples. I felt for Ellie who was on the receiving end of my email but little did I know, Ellie has a phenomenal knowledge and talent surrounding food. Ellie was the resident chef and nothing appeared too challenging, complicated or crazy. Everything she delivered was done with such ease and elegance.
After three hours of driving through country lanes I arrived in the middle of Herefordshire. I had no idea what to expect. As I pulled up to this luxury farmhouse surrounded by miles and miles of greenery I still had no idea what to expect. I was greeted by the friendly faces of trainer Jade and host/ trainer James. I spotted out of the corner of my eye a plate of bright pink beetroot energy balls. Ok, then I was sure I was in safe hands. James showed me around and took me to my room (which had two floors and a bathroom with a bath bigger than my childhood paddling pool). The house had a real calm and homely vibe.
As we waited for the guests to arrive I had a consultation with James which enabled him to fully understand my lifestyle, goals and my experience of health and fitness. This allowed James to personalise the experience as much as possible. I could talk you through a minute by minute account however, I do actually want you to get to the end of this article so although the retreat was a health and fitness retreat, because of my background as a nutritionist and an avid foodie I’m focusing on the food. Although we were put through our paces in the exercise sessions, it wasn’t just a continual food fest.
On the first evening Ellie put on a masterclass for simple, healthy and delicious snacks. She whipped up a macadamia nut herb dip with some nutty, seeded crackers. I was so surprised how quickly she managed to make the crackers. At this point I could see Ellie just got it; we were on the same page when it came to our attitudes towards health and food. She had the whole healthy thing and healthy alternatives nailed.
The first dinner we were presented with a sweet potato and pollock curry served with cauliflower rice. The curry had such an array of flavours, colours and inviting smells. It was topped with toasted flaked almonds which added a tasty crunch. Ellie had clearly not only considered the healthiness and the taste of the dish, she’d also considered the textures and the eating experience which came along with it. Following on from the curry was a super creamy and light raw cacao torte.
In the morning were greeted by a freshly made green juice featuring spinach, pear, lime and apple. It was apparent that James and Ellie were both inline with the programme as she’d been prompted about the fitness testing that was to come so she fulfilled her role of ensuring we were fuelled accordingly.
Following our session and a long wall-sit test, it was time to refuel again. Ellie presented a beautiful bowl of quinoa and chia seed maca porridge with all the toppings including pumpkin seeds, grated apple, almonds and cinnamon. It’s often easy to make these breakfasts too sweet and over powering, however, you really could taste every component of the dish. Every breakfast was complete with a selection of fresh juice, a variety of teas and a range of fresh fruit.
Lunch quickly approached which was Vietnamese vegetable rolls and a tofu and quinoa bibimpap. This was my first experience of bibimpap but it all worked really well, the egg was cooked just enough to ensure the yolk oozed out over the quinoa.
After a few more workout sessions, I was delighted to find chewy homemade grain-free granola slices on offer. James and Jade had put us through our paces in our boxing and core sessions, exhausting every ab and so this was a great source of fats and protein to load up on.
Following this was the second of three dinners; this time we were presented with baked salmon, with crispy salmon skin on courgette noodles. If I’m honest one of my pet hates is over cooked salmon. Ellie had nailed it once again. The salmon was honestly like butter melting in your mouth, wonderfully flavoured, beautifully presented with the accompliment of the crispy salmon skin made the dish extremely luxurious.
Just when you think you can’t consume even another courgette ribbon, Ellie appeared with a coconut panna cotta (again this was something I’d never had before). The dessert consisted of a coconut milk layer, a coconut cream layer all topped off with a granola crunch and berries. It was too delicious and innovative not to push through!
On my final morning we woke up to another freshly made juice however, this time instead of a green goddess it was a bright beet and pomegranate juice. So refreshing before an early morning crisp walk.
Upon arrival my final breakfast was served and this time it was fluffy scrambled egg with dill, roasted tomatoes and smoked salmon. This would be one of my go to breakfasts and since not using milk I’ve never been able to get the eggs as fluffy as Ellie had. She kindly shared her secret which was to blitz them in a blender with coconut oil to ensure the eggs and the oil were fully emulsified. Great tip Ellie, thank you!
After smashing out the races and another core battering session we sat down to a pea and mint soup with a slight kick. Following this Ellie arrived with oven baked falafel on a salad which continued the mornings pomegranate theme. The falafel were flavourful with a crispy outside and a soft middle, exactly how a traditional falafel would have been served. This dish was so satisfying and the only one on the retreat that I couldn’t finish (although I really tried!)
The last supper had come round too quickly, I had got so used to being incredibly excited and spoiled every time we sat down to eat that I really just wanted to box Ellie up and take her home. Ellie had gone to extra efforts ensuring a traditional roast had a nut roast spin; the roast contained such a mix of herby flavours that every mouthful was a new treat.
The final dessert was served; a raspberry vegan parfait. When using alternative ingredients I fully appreciate how hard it can be to ensure the flavours come through. However, Ellie’s creations were faultless.
So that concludes my experience with Target Fitness Retreats. My time was done, the food was eaten, my abs were battered, I couldn’t feel my legs and it was time to return to life without Ellie, James and Jade.
I can honestly say, I have never indulged in such inventive, delicious, nutritious and well-presented food. Inspite of the many adaptations to accommodate everyone’s different dietary requirements everything was consistently delicious and equally stunning. I fully appreciate that for foodies often a fitness or yoga retreat where you will be fed juices, salad, salmon and broccoli every day could seem like the last place you’d go for a break but for any foodies out there Target Fitness Retreats should really be top of your list and you should really get booking!