Bohemian Damson Plum Jam (Böhmisches Pflaumenmus)

I just love marmalades and jams. I can’t get enough of them and I never buy them: all my marmalades and jams are homemade. One of my favourites is Damson Plum Jam – a Bohemian specialty that is being made in the oven. Since you can’t buy damson plums here in Barcelona, I had some imported from Germany. So if you can get your hands on some, I highly recommend trying this delicious recipe:

Pflaumenmus_und_Roggenbrot

Homemade Damson Plum Jam with homemade Rye Bread

Ingredients:

1 kg ripe damson plums

200 g raw brown cane sugar

1-2 cinnamon sticks (you can alternatively add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

5 cloves

Optional:

1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar

1 shot of Rum

Preparation:

Cut the plums in half and extract the stones. Take some of the sugar and cover the inside of a large and high, oven proof skillet. Cover the bottom of the skillet with your first layer of plum halves (cut side facing down). Spread more sugar over them. Add the next layer of plum halves and spread more sugar on top of them, and so on until you added all the plums and sugar to the skillet. Before adding the last layer, add the cinnamon sticks or powder, the cloves and vinegar. Cover with a lid and let it rest in the fridge over night.

Before Resting

Let the plums & spices rest in the fridge overnight 

Preheat the oven to 180º C (fan). Sterilise the marmalade jars. Add the skillet (without lid) to the oven and leave a wooden cooking spoon stuck in the oven door, so that the humid steam can escape. Close the door after 30mins. Don’t stir! Lower the temperature to 150ºC and leave inside for about 3h.

Take out the skillet and transfer to the stove in order to maintain the temperature. Take out the cinnamon sticks and cloves (you might have to really search for them). Puree with the help of a hand mixer and add some rum if you like to. Fill into sterilised marmalade glasses and close them properly. Let them rest and cool down upside down in order to achieve the vacuum effect.

Before filling into jars

After puréeing the plums

You can store the Bohemian Damson Plum Jam for up to one year!

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My Achalasia Story – or: “About the Foodie that couldn’t eat”

Achalasia

Being the daughter of a chef, and the eldest of three siblings, my life has been influenced a lot by really good food at our family table and during whatever kind of social event. As everyone else in my family, I cherish and love good food, the cooking of and eating it, of course. Food is such a social aspect in our lives. Living in a country in which social interaction usually takes place outside, in bars, cafés and restaurants, instead of within your own or your friends’ four walls, I am pretty used to eating out or having my coffee outside while working inside a tranquil café. I’d even say it’s nearly impossible to take part in social life if you don’t go out, here in this country. And I’m loving it! The quality – price ratio when it comes to eating out is really good here in Barcelona: when you know where to go, you can lead a really healthy, according to the Mediterranean diet, life style. And the produce of local origin is just unbeatable. So to sum it up: I love to eat – at home and outside. I love to eat good, prime quality food. I love to eat healthy.

When I was a teenager I’d eat loads and wouldn’t gain weight. This changed drastically almost overnight when in a timespan of 3 months I gained so much weight that I just didn’t know what went wrong. It turned out back then, that I was suffering, (as many of my generation, and some blame this on Chernobyl), from hypothyroidism, which resulted in a drastic gain of weight due to the fact that my thyroid gland wasn’t able to produce the adequate hormones the body needs for a correctly functioning metabolism. I never ate bad, unhealthy food. I have never been a fast food fan, except for a real authentic Italian pizza, some chocolates, or winegums once in a while. No diet would work. So I was upset accordingly.

All this changed in August 2009. I was 28 years old at that time. I had just moved to Barcelona, Spain, and my new partner (later to be wife) was currently travelling Canada. I was at home. Alone, when I suddenly experienced stabbing chest pains. My first thought was: ‘I’m 28 years old, I am alone and I am suffering from a heart attack. There’s no one nearby that could help me, and I can’t access a telephone.’ I dragged myself to the armchair, hoping for the best, and expecting the worst. A couple of horrifying & immensely painful hours went by, and finally the spasm-like pains seemed to disappear slowly. I was rocking back and forth. Not knowing what to do, crying in vain. I couldn’t think straight. After that experience I spoke to my partner about it, and decided to go and see a doctor. After a few medical respiratory tests, it was decided I had asthma. It didn’t feel right though.

Time passed by and the painful, heart attack like spasms and pain crises would become more frequent. They’d hit me out of nowhere, from behind, at night, in my sleep. I also started regurgitating food without wanting (at a table during a business dinner, or with friends, etc.). Sometimes waking up coughing my lungs out, because fluids, (and now I know that it’s been rests of undigested food) would run up my esophagus and into my lungs. I have always suffered from a lot of respiratory illnesses (including three times pneumonia up until now) – now I know why. During the next year I’ve suffered these increasing pain attacks, and they finally paired up with not being able to eat. By November 2010 I had already lost about 10kg. Sometimes – while eating – I would just turn reddish and pale at the same time, with my eyes almost bursting out of my skull, trying to swallow food that had gotten stuck in my throat. I went to see my GP again, and she still insisted on me suffering from asthma. I asked for an endoscopy and her answer was that I ‘was too young’ to suffer from a disease of the upper digestive apparatus. My answer was: ‘Well, I can breathe, but I can’t eat!’ Then one day in December that same year, I just couldn’t eat or drink anything anymore. For five long days. And I ended up in the emergency room of a private hospital where they finally ran the necessary test. After the endoscopy, they suspected a rare disease (that only occurs in 1 out of 100,000) called Achalasia. My private health insurance, upon finding out about the suspicion the specialists had (no confirmed diagnosis up to that point!), refused paying for the medical test and cancelled my health insurance with them immediately. So I was depending on the Spanish State Health Care System again. I was able to change my GP (stating a language barrier as the reason, which wasn’t the real reason at all, but I knew if I gave them my real reason they wouldn’t have accepted it). The suspected rare disease had yet to be confirmed by a barium swallow (in which the patient has to swallow contrast gel while being constantly x-rayed – it’s like a x-ray movie, and I believe I glow everytime after having it), and through a very painful test called manometry, which measures the pressure of the esophageal function (peristalsis).

Barium Swallow pre-surgery

X-Ray Momentum of my Barium Swallow (pre-surgery)

Soon Achalasia was confirmed and I sort of felt betrayed: having a rare disease is like a nightmare-like lottery win.

First of all it’s rare: as a patient you are like a guinea pig and doctors rarely ever heard about your rare condition, and if they did, it’s been treated in one of their lectures without focussing on it. A rare disease is not cancer (I want to indicate at this point that I am not comparing Achalasia with cancer here; I am not saying one is worse than the other, nor anything similar). It doesn’t have a lobby. So there’s almost no investigation, (and almost no specialists), due to the lack of funding. Then no one can tell you what to do and how to deal with it. Turns out that for almost every Achalasian, although they suffer from the same symptoms, other remedies work (it seems like each and every Achalasia patient has their own ways of dealing with eating and spasms, etc). What might alleviate one, will make the next one worse. Then you can have some treatments to improve your life and eating quality, but there is no cure, and treatments are sometimes more and other times less successful. In my case I’ve had surgery (the Heller Myotomy with a Dor Fundoplication), and since that one didn’t make it better, they also did a balloon dilatation of the esophagus. By the time of the Heller Myotomy I had almost lost 30kg. Due to the first surgery, and the accordingly developed scar tissue on my esophagus, the posterior dilatation wasn’t successful as they couldn’t dilate much (in order to prevent me from suffering the life-threatening risk of perforation). Now I take some medication, (that is not specifically for Achalasia, but relaxes the nerves and therefore might soothe the muscle spasms), from time to time when I get these pain crises and my esophagus closes up completely, leaving me unable to eat for a couple of days. Usually this type of medication provokes that I am unable to function in my all-day-life. It makes me super tired and I feel like in a daze.

Barium Swallow Post-Surgery

X-Ray Momentum of my Barium Swallow (post-surgery – unsuccessful Heller Myotomy)

So how do I live now? What is life like for an Achalasian? I try to eat whatever I like to eat. I know, I can’t eat a lot of things (like red meat, rice, acidic foods, fibres, fruits, raw veggies and salads, etc. – the list is long). Easier are: cakes, cream tarts, pudding, bland foods, soups, etc. Every time I am eating, the food piles up in my esophagus and I try to push as much of it down as possible with the help of drinking up to 2l / meal of water at room-temperature (cold or warm water, and drastic temperature changes can cause the earlier described painful spasms) directly after an eating period. I basically feel when I need to drink – I’d throw up otherwise. Just imagine having something stuck in your throat. Your first and most normal physical reaction would be to throw up. It’s a bodily function. With Achalasia throwing up is not that easy anymore. At the end of each day, before I go to bed, and in order to prevent rests of food from flowing up into my lungs (reflux), where they could cause serious infections (even pneumonia) and other diseases, I throw up. I don’t throw up stomach contents since the LES (the entrance to my stomach, or also known as Lower Esophageal Sphincter) is closed off. This is why my esophagus looks like a glass of sparkling wine: wide at the beginning and sort of very narrow when it comes to entering the stomach. Sometimes I throw up in the middle of meals. Imagine what kind of image this causes during your lunch break at your work or business dinners! I’ve been asked if I had bulimia and anorexia by the braver ones, but the cowards would bull-eye me when they thought I didn’t realise and then look away. Can you imagine what kind of pressure this puts on you in your working and social life? Can you understand the impact this has? Even if you’re dealing with the situation, there might be others that start spreading rumours about you, that might have a negative impact on your career. People that you considered trustworthy suddenly turn away from you in social relationships.

Throwing up usually causes me spasms. If my stomach entrance is forced open through the force of throwing up (which happens once a week more or less), I will suffer from very vile spasms the whole night and during the next day. Sometimes I get spasms out of nowhere. If I catch them on time I find relief in drinking small sips of water at room temperature. I always carry a water bottle with me. For me it’s life saving medicine. It’s a matter of life and death because one spasm can intensify in such a way that I pass out and won’t get rid of it for days, having to go to hospital and worst case scenario: being ‘force-fed’ (something I want to avoid at all costs). I always carry my certified GP’s letter with me that specifies that I have to carry my bottle of water with me (even through security checks at airports and in other situations). I can only recommend getting such a letter if you suffer from Achalasia and know that water helps you. It’s widely accepted and most airports (especially international ones) are equipped with liquid testing machines.

I only go to restaurants that I know serve big jugs or sell big bottles of water. Usually I drink the water right out of the bottle as this helps me, because the pressure on the food in my esophagus is bigger than the one from a small glass of water. Plus I can drink a bigger amount of water at once. The eating success rate is higher that way. So water helps me eat and deal with my spasms. Whenever restaurant staff doesn’t understand my short explanation (‘I have a rare swallowing disease which prevents me from being able to eat food and swallow it accordingly. This is why I ask you to bring me at least 2l of water at room temperature. Thank you!’), I leave. I have no other choice as most places don’t accept it if their guest takes out their own bottle of water.

When it comes to medication, I take Buscapina and Adalat (in that order), if water fails to help. I try not to take Diazepam as it is just a very drastic drug to take in my opinion, but sometimes – during very bad days – I have no other choice.

So basically I eat whatever I like to eat (I know my body very well by now and usually know very well what it can handle). I still love food and I refuse to give up my love for food and my passion for cooking. I love writing my little food blog (although I must admit that I have been kind of lazy recently, but that has been due to other events in my life), and to post my foodscapades on Instagram every week (I tried eating 95% of what you can see in my pictures – except for when it comes to things my partner had and I don’t like – and I assume I actually swallow 75% of what I post on Instagram). Good food is a luxury good for me that makes me happy. I don’t depend on it, but I cherish it because I know the better I eat, the healthier I am. I like to pig out, and I like it even more when knowing that the ingredients are of km 0 (local) and organic origin, and that they were prepared with the utmost care, attention to detail and love. Ingredients that no cook should ever underestimate in my humble opinion.

My love and passion for good food also helps me overcome the other side effects of suffering from a rare illness (that no patient, doctor, therapist, partner, friend, family member, employer, colleague or bystander) should ever underestimate: suffering from depression, PTSD and anxiety due to Achalasia and my three herniated discs, plus the resulting sciatica. I know now that during a very long time I pushed myself and my body to its limits, and its natural reaction was to collapse (the result was me being unable to walk, sit, and stand up during almost 6 months last year). A very busy work schedule, an unfortunate work situation in general, paired with unhealthy eating at work, during business trips and business dinners, lead to the ultimate blow-up 1 year and 9 months ago.

My life has changed so much since then: I had no choice but to listen to my body and my deteriorating health. I had to drastically stop all I was used to, calm down, rest and reconsider all the choices I had made up until that point. I left a career, which I mostly liked, behind, started working regaining my ability to move and walk through physiotherapy and holistic health therapies (like acupuncture, auriculotherapy, kinesiology, Psych-K®, Reiki, homeopathy, Bach flowers & reflexology), started eating healthy and consciously, and tried to push through a morphine, Lyrica and Xeristar withdrawal which I had been taking almost for a year due to the elevated pain level and to the nerve regenerating side effects of the latter. It is unnecessary to mention that the combination between the spine problem and Achalasia have been quite a challenge. Throwing up is not funny – especially when it comes with such a force – when you have serious back pain. I don’t want to go too much into the back issue though.

What I want to underline with telling you a bit about my last year is that alternative (holistic) health therapies really worked for me (regarding Achalasia, the back problem and psychological challenges I am facing), and that it was so helpful to change my life even if I am at a point now at which I don’t know into which direction to turn into (professionally and personally), since I am far from being fine on one side but am also that clear again, that I have the wish to start something new. Something which has to be adapted to my physical needs, of course. I will never work a stressful job again. I won’t be able to work in a position that requires to be sitting or standing up most of the usual 8h and more working day. I can’t work in a job which doesn’t give me time to eat, (because I obviously need more time to eat than people without a digestive illness do), or which doesn’t accept that I have to go to hospital and doctors’ appointments much more often than the average employee. My work place needs to be able to accept my by the Spanish State acknowledged and certified disability, and that I will have surgery again. All these things are obstacles in the working world and aren’t very attracting to possible employers. So at the moment I am re-thinking, reconsidering my options and what I could and would want to achieve. I am sure I have a lot of things to offer (things I don’t want to specify here since this blog post is about Achalasia, and not about trying to find my perfect job).

I want to tell everyone that suffers from a permanent (rare or not rare) disease, to reconsider your life, the options you have (when it comes to the way you live your life, you eat, you exercise, your work life and personal life, your chosen therapies). It’s always good to explore new possibilities. And: if like me you suffer from a rare, incurable illness, the first step towards a happier life is acceptance. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t fight for raising awareness and following up new therapy options and the general research. No. What I mean is that; even if it takes a long time and is much easier said than actually done; the goal is to accept yourself and your body. I am currently at a point at which I manage to do that sometimes. There are other moments in which I am just mad and frustrated and sad. This is why it is also important to never underestimate the side effects that come with a physical disease, such as depression, anxiety, etc.

Finally to the people that are not ill: the worst you can tell a person that struggles with being ill, permanently ill, or even suffers from a rare, incurable disease, is to tell them to suck it up, that there are people worse off or – the worst – that they are just making it up. Every single one of us has their own burden to carry. If you cherish the person in front of you, you should never forget to acknowledge that. If you don’t understand what they are going through, you should ask them. And don’t forget to ask them from time to time how they are, if you really care for them – as you should do with every other human being you care about. When they cancel on you, don’t be mad at them if they do it last minute: it might mean they’re having a really bad day and they just don’t want to bother you with long, painful explanations. If they come to work looking as if they had partied all night, don’t make that stupid joke! Maybe they couldn’t sleep all night long due to their illness and summoned all strength in order to lead a normal life and to show up for work as everyone else. Try to look beyond and to understand that life with an illness – rare or common, permanent or temporary, curable or incurable – is already a challenge: ill people always run into misunderstandings, are judged negatively, suffer prejudice at work and in social life, and the according disadvantages and discrimination. And those are just the secondary challenges. The first one is always: they are the first ones that have to deal with this. Not you, not a doctor, a partner, or whoever. The patient is always the first one to experience an illness and this should be acknowledged and their story shouldn’t be questioned.

So this is my story. This is why (good) food is much more important to me than to a person that can eat normally. You don’t understand what kind of importance one apparantly normal thing has until you can’t do it anymore. Especially if it is something you need in order to survive. I want to ask every reader to cherish what they are eating. To be grateful that they can eat it, and to eat every bite of their meal consciously. It’ll create a much healthier approach to food inside yourself and will make you enjoy eating! And eating good food is love, and love makes you happy. Don’t forget that!

Thank you for reading.

A little list of useful links regarding Achalasia:

International:

Acalasia, Achalasie, Achalasy, Achalasia (closed Facebook group)

For English Speakers:

Martin Mueller IV Achalasia Awareness Foundation, Inc. (Facebook)

Achalasia Awareness Organization (Facebook)

Achalasia Research UK (Facebook)

Achalasia (closed Facebook group)

Achalasia Support Group (closed Facebook group)

Achalasie Forum (English version)

For German Speakers:

ARC (Achalasia Risk Consortium)

Achalasie.de

Achalasie Forum

Achalasie – Betroffene in Deutschland (closed Facebook group)

Achalasie-Austausch-Gruppe (closed Facebook group)

For Spanish Speakers:

Gente con ACALASIA y otros desordenes del esofago

Acalasia

(Healthy) Weekend Pancakes

Pancakes – they seem to be craved by everyone recently so I decided to give it a go and finally create my own recipe of delicious & even healthy tortitas!

I’ve been trying various combinations of ingredients and came down to a healthy and a less healthy version (depending on which flour you’re using).

Ingredients for 2:

1 egg (egg replacer for my vegan friends: 1 egg = 1 TSP baking powder + 1/2 TSP baking soda + 2 TBSPs flour + 3 TBSPs water – all mixed well

1 cup of buckwheat or normal flour

2 TSPs baking powder

1 cup milk

1/2 or 1 small ripe banana

1 TSP chia seeds

2 TSPs vanilla extract or one vanilla bean

1/2 TSP cinnamon

1/3 cup raw sugar

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients well and bake in a well-greased pan (I use butter but you can also use vegetable oil) at medium temperature from each side until golden brown. I have a pancake pan so I get the same pancake size all the time – but you shouldn’t need a whole ladle filling in order to get one pancake – I get 8 pancakes out of the mix above.

Healthy_Pancakes

Healthy Pancakes with a Cottage Cheese, Blueberry & Agave Syrup Topping

My style TLC Spanish Chickpea White Bean Stew (vegan – or non-vegan)

I just love to feel comfy & warm – especially now that it’s cold outside. And I love to eat soups and hearty dishes when it’s that time of the year. So what do you get when you combine a soup with a hearty dish?: a comfort food stew!

Ingredients:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Chorizo (if you opt for the non-vegan version – cut it up a bit, so the juices can get out while cooking)

1 white onion, chopped

2 green Italian peppers, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

______________________________

optional:

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 big carrot, cut into quarters and then into fine slices

1 big potato, diced

______________________________

400g chickpeas (soak them in water overnight or use a jar of pre-cooked ones)

400g white beans (soak them in water overnight or use a jar of pre-cooked ones)

500-750ml vegetable broth (depending on the desired consistency – you’ll get some thickness from the beans)

salt

white ground pepper

about 2 TSPs smoked paprika spice (Spanish one, if possible – I really recommend using this one as it provides the needed smokiness for the vegetarian/ vegan version)

Pimenton de la Vera

Preparation:

Pour about 4 TBSPs of olive oil into a cooking pot, add the onions, the carrots and the smoked paprika spice to the cold olive oil, stir well and let them cook at high heat for about 2mins. Lower the heat to a medium heat and add the garlic, the chorizo (for the meaty version), your Italian peppers and the red bell pepper. Let it simmer for about 5-8 more minutes.

Now add 500-750ml of vegetable broth and the diced potato and bring to a boil. Lower the heat again, but make sure it keeps boiling. After 5 more minutes add the rinsed chickpeas. Boil on medium to low heat for 10 more minutes until the potato dices are fully cooked. Now add the rinsed white beans, let them heat up and season everything with salt and pepper according to taste, switch off the hotplate, but leave the covered cook pot on, so the taste develops. The stew will taste better the next day, as most stews do.

Spanish Chickpea Bean Stew

Crème Brûlée – the classic version

Creme Brulee

Many people love it and yet think Crème Brûlée is a super complicated dessert to make. Of course, you need a few basic tools in order to prepare it correctly, but those are all things easy to access (ovenproof moulds, a small blow torch), and surely you can borrow them from one of your gourmet friends if you don’t want to purchase them. I made it quite a few times and it’s become my favourite dessert.

Starting with the ingredients (makes about 5-8 servings according to the mould size):

750 ml liquid cream (at least 32% fat content)

250 ml milk

200 g sugar

12 egg yolks

1 scraped vanilla bean

raw sugar to caramelise the cooked crème brûlée

Preparation:

In a big bowl mix all the ingredients. Make sure the sugar dissolves completely. Fill the liquid mix into ovenproof crème brûlée moulds or similar (small tapas dishes do the same trick) and put them onto a baking tray. Transfer the baking tray into the oven and fill it with water until the water mark around the little moulds is about 2cm high.

Cook during at least 1h at 100ºC in a fan oven. Check the crème brûlée after 1 hour by moving the moulds a little bit – it should wobble a little but not too much. It shouldn’t need longer than 1h and 15mins in the oven to cook.

Let the crème brûlée cool down and sprinkle some raw sugar over it, which you caramelise with the help of a blow torch (DO NOT use a lighter – that only results in nasty and painful burns).

Store up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

chök: Where dreams of Chocoholics (and Homer S.) come true

Since we moved to Barcelona’s city centre, and especially the Raval district, we have always enjoyed roaming the streets and discovering new curiosities and special cafés, restaurants, shops, etc. whenever possible. One of those discoveries was made a long time ago – around their first opening actually – and we have been going back for more ever since.

chök shop

Step into another century combined with an exclusive modern design while visiting chök located just off La Rambla

‘chök the chocolate kitchen’ (http://www.chokbarcelona.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/ChokBcn) is located just off La Rambla at the beginning of Calle del Carme, and therefore super easy to find & reach (Green L3 Metro Line stop is Liceu) when in need of a delicious chocolate fix for a 2nd breakfast or the Spanish merienda (afternoon tea time), or whenever really. ‘chök’ is what makes the heart of every chocoholic jump with infinite joy: choose between the grand variety of their always changing chöks (a gourmet doughnut with less sugar, less fat & fried for less time), krönuts (the love story between the classical croissant & the well-known doughnut), chocolate glazed marshmallows, chocolate truffles, chocolate muffins, cookies, etc. and have your chocolate fix inside the beautiful old shop that used to be an antique bonbonería (candy and chocolate shop, that also roasted & sold coffee), dating back to 1850, or get your chök & coffee to go while strolling down La Rambla towards the port.

chök selection

A current special is the Apfelstrudel chök (on the left side)

SONY DSC

My fave chök: the dark chocolate glazed, Fleur-de-Sel chök

Marvel at the wooden shelfs and ceiling and it’s beautiful carved ornaments typical of Barcelona’s Modernisme movement, while discovering other chocolate products such as chocolate pasta or chocolate porter.

chök pasta

chök porter

Most important: take your time and enjoy the friendly atmosphere and beautiful space that owner Débora & staff created. They will do their very best to make your visit a delicious experience, and their expertise and loving attention towards customers, products and detail won’t fail your expectations. All their products are being prepared on a daily basis in the visible chocolate kitchen in the back of the shop. Watch how Débora and Marcia fill their berliners or create such delicacies as chocolate chili truffles with the utmost respect for the product, emphasing on quality, detail and supreme ingredients.

crema catalana krönut

Crema Catalana Krönut in the making

chöks

Pick your chök from a great variety

One thing that startled me from the beginning was the rather untypical & creative name ‘chök’. It is actually derived from the Norwegian word ‘kök’ which stands for ‘kitchen’ and combined with ‘chocolate’ it became ‘chök the chocolate kitchen’. Débora & her staff also offer chocolate cooking classes, combining chocolate with typically savoury dishes (see website). You can also challenge your chocolate cooking skills at home with the help of their cookbook ‘Gourmet Chocolate – Reinventing sweet and savoury’, which also makes for a great Barcelona souvenir or gift for the cook/ gourmet in your life.

SONY DSC

One thing is for sure: if you are a chocoholic, an American cop or Homer Simpson, you will definitely love chök and will always come back for more – and honestly, who could resist such a sweet paradise:

SONY DSC

Owner Débora presenting the daily mouth-watering, beautiful selection of chöks & krönuts

Fleurs Place – or the place where I’d have lunch every day for the rest of my life

This blog post is long overdue and so I am happy & excited I finally found the right moment to write it. After returning from our beautiful, amazing, stunning, marvellous & *nowordscouldeverdescribethatfeeling* honeymoon in New Zealand, I am feeling incomplete. I am sure, I left a big, huge chunk of myself & my heart on the South Island of Aotearoa and now I have to live with this until we are able to return. And one place to return to is Fleurs Place.

Fleur's Place

So it was this gorgeous sunny Saturday morning in Dunedin and after a stroll along Otago Farmers Market (http://www.otagofarmersmarket.org.nz/) including a beautiful latte and pastries, of course!, we made our way to the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Colony (check out the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust http://yellow-eyedpenguin.org.nz/ to find out how you can help this endangered species). With the help of our expert guide, we watched these majestic birds from a safe distance (and I don’t mean safe for us – it’s more about making them feel safe from us) and even discovered a chick (if you should ever go to New Zealand, you shouldn’t miss out on this experience and the staff from 4Nature Tours is super experienced, helpful and keen to provide environmentally friendly tours http://www.4nature.co.nz/).

Yellow-Eyed Penguin

A Yellow-Eyed Penguin watching its chick

After walking up and down the cliffs, trying to avoid death-trap-like rabbit holes, we all felt it was time for a great & tasty lunch and luckily our guide Joanne had recommened Fleurs Place (http://www.fleursplace.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fleurs-Place/283579521839354?fref=ts) much in advance and booked a table accordingly (which is something indispensable to do).

Fleurs Board

When we arrived at the restaurant located just next to the tiny bay of the small village Moeraki, we were immediately enchanted by the peace & beauty that surrounded us. Fleurs Place looks like a charismatic fishermen’s hut and features collectables like old anchors, wooden-framed windows, antique crayfish traps, boats, etc. that its owner, Fleur, collected.

Fleur's Collectables

Fleur Sullivan, a well-known local for her contribution towards NZ tourism & gastronomy, opened Fleurs Place back in 2002 and is serving delicicious dishes made from fresh, local & seasonal ingredients, emphasising on local fish dishes with a personal twist. Not being a seafood/ fish lover myself, I ordered the fish of the day which was Blue Cod (it comes with the freshest, local & seasonal veggies cooked to perfection plus a choice of four different sauces – the Chilli, Coconut & Coriander Sauce was incredibly mouth-watering!!) and it was so delicious (plus it was a stunning piece of art that came on a plate and I am a person that definitely eats with their eyes first) that on from that point I started living on Blue Cod and similar while being in NZ (and I made it through Blue Cod, Elephant Fish, Blue Warehou & Groper). The quality of all the ingredients used for the elaboration of Fleur’s dishes is supreme. You can basically watch them pull up the day’s catch from the Moeraki fishing boats to the restaurant’s own filleting station. Since we came to the conclusion on different occasions, that everything’s the other way around in the Southern Hemisphere, I am pleased to say the oceans in the Northern Hemisphere are safe from me, but Fleurs Place is the place where I’d choose & love to have fish for lunch for the rest of my life if I had the chance to.

Fleurs Food

Kia mākona

And just before losing the interest & attention of all you vegans & vegetarians out there: vegan and vegetarian dishes are created to order! Ah, and not to mention the amazing desserts!!

Fleurs Desserts

On the left: Berry Eton Mess (your taste buds will go crazy); On the right: Crème Brûlée (to die for!!)

If like me you can’t get enough of Fleur’s delicacies, I recommend getting the book ‘fleurs place – simple, fresh, naturally good food’ by Graham Warman and Paul Sorrell, which can be purchased directly in the restaurant or online. Of course, I couldn’t resist and asked most inspiring, charismatic owner Fleur Sullivan to sign my copy which she happily did. And this is the best souvenir a foodie like me could possibly get from beautiful Aotearoa – Fleurs Place’s recipes and my memories will surely help me with my aching, lovesick heart and transport me to the place that owns a big part of it. Kia Ora, Fleurs Place!

Fleur14

Fleur Sullivan signing my copy of ‘fleurs place – simple, fresh, naturally good food’

Moeraki Boulders

After a most satisfying lunch we headed towards the Moeraki Boulders, located up North alongside the coast from Fleurs Place, and enjoyed the magical scenery at one of the world’s most beautiful beaches