Quebec and a recipe for pâté


The largest province in Canada is Quebec. 12% of Quebec is covered by water.

Our train journey from Montreal to Quebec on VIA Rail Canada was pleasant and comfortable. We passed by towns, wheat fields, fields carpeted with wild flowers, rivers, beautiful homes and businesses. We went through tunnels and over some more rivers.

A view from the train

Enroute, we were served lunch. Excellent Canadian red wine, portobello mushroom salad as a starter, beef pot roast with mushrooms, baked potato and beans for mains and a slice of blueberry cheesecake for dessert. And an absolutely dark, delicious, smooth mousse filled chocolate cup to end the meal.

At the end of the 3 1/2 hour journey, we reached Quebec city.  The station was very close to our hotel and soon enough, we arrived at Hotel Chateau Bellevue. After paying the driver, suitcases still on the pavement, we stared open mouthed at our surroundings.

Well, wouldn't you too, if these were the sights that greeted you?

The hotel entrance
The views from the hotel steps, the Promenade

Right in front of the hotel was the St Lawrence river. And the terrain was all uphill and downhill. And some of those uphills were really steep!!

We had become seasoned travellers by now, as soon as the check in formalities were over, we stepped out.

The summer festival was on in Quebec, crowds of people were on the streets, in cafes and sitting on benches, watching performances by well known bands. All around town, there was a carnival like atmosphere.

A familiar statue

Street performers 

Street musicians sat at vantage points, playing a variety of instruments. Most of them were one man bands. We were intrigued by a very tall couple dressed as a pair of moose...mooses?? Even their feet were shod in moose like shoes. They pushed around a cart on wheels, inviting the audience  to write a note and stick it into a hole in the cart. While this was going on, their puppet flower with menacing teeth would playfully try to take a bite of the writer's arm, much to the delight of the audience. 

The next morning, we were quite ambitious and signed up for 2 walking tours of the city. The first was the 2 hour historic City Walking Tour that started near our hotel in the upper town, through the walled area and down to the port in the lower town. Quebec is a walled city with a 400 year old history.

A sidewalk cafe, street art, a mural depicting the founders of the city, a ferry and the cannonball tree

A city of flowers

The only fortified city in N. America whose walls still stand

Along the way, we passed houses numbered 7, 7 1/2, 8 3/4. Our guide told us that when old houses were demolished, two or more new ones would be built in its place. That explained the fractions!!

When the tour ended, we found ourselves in the lower town area. We were told we could either climb a series of steps that would take us back to our starting point, or get into the Old Quebec Funicular. We chose the latter and in 4 quick minutes, even before we could pull out our cameras to record the breathtaking sights, we were back at the promenade in front of our hotel. Just in time for a quick sandwich before joining our group for the City Food Tour.

On this tour, we were learnt about the food of the Quebec terroir- products grown or raised by small farmers of the region:

la Cremailliere for a taste of salmon tartare, ( simply delicious),

le Patriarche, for the famous trilogy of the terroir- an appetiser of wild boar, caribou and rabbit meat encased in a strand of smoked bacon on rye bread, with a glass of red wine, (perfect blend of meats and wine),

le Billig, a creperie recommended by Lonely Planet guide books, where we ate buckwheat crepes filled with ham and cheese and washed it down with a glass of cider,  

to the epicerie beside that for a taste of smoked meat, onion confit and cornichon on crusty baguette slices,

to a store that sold organic maple syrup in its many forms- biscuits, candies, ice cream, maple butter, and the syrup itself. The process of making maple syrup was explained and we tried samples of light, medium(amber) and dark syrups,

to the wine store for a sip of Canada's version of coffee whiskey sweetened with maple syrup and an ice wine,

and finally to the chocolate museum. Every exhibit in it was made of chocolate and included a dress and a chocolate clock. We were given chocolates to taste as well.

People in Quebec are very friendly, the language of choice is French. If you do not know the language, they switch over immediately to English. One of the families in our tour group was from Egypt. We got talking and the lady told us that even though she could speak fluent French, the local people were not able to understand her. Oh, I was relieved to know that my school French was not to blame!!

The receptionist at the hotel told us of another creperie recommended by the Lonely Planet guides which was located nearby. And that is how we found the simply named Le Creperie.

Crepes with mushrooms, ham and cheese & apple with maple syrup

The creperie was our favourite eat out in Quebec. We had crepes filled with mushrooms, apple and cheese, ham and cheese, plain crepes with maple syrup and bagels. The coffee was awesome, for that alone, both of us willingly trudged through the early morning cold to sit in the warmth of the restaurant and chat with the friendly staff. Our stay at Quebec came to an end all too soon and we had to bid farewell to this quaint, pretty city.

Au revoir, Quebec, I hope to be back one day.

All that French food inspired me to try out a pâté. Pâtés usually are a paste of meat, a bit of fat and herbs. A little brandy is added into the mix, the mixture scooped into a ceramic bowl, and melted butter poured over the top which acts as a seal. Pâté de fois gras is made from the liver of geese specially bred for this purpose. I used a much humbler organ meat- chicken liver. It's pretty easy to make and best served with crackers or even crisp toast as an appetiser. The pâté is bitter on the day it is made but the bitterness goes off by the next day. It's not a particularly pretty looking dish, let me warn you, but I hope it won't stop you from trying it out.   

Liver and all organ meat is rich in B vitamins, potassium, iron and proteins. On the flip side, the function of the liver is to filter out toxins that enter a body. However, eating pâté once in a way will not do you harm. 

Pâté of chicken liver


250 gm chicken livers
1/2 cup milk
125 gm unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 pinches nutmeg powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1.5 tbsp brandy
1 bay leaf


Clean the livers well, remove connective tissue and fat, wash well and leave to soak in milk for about an hour. 
Strain and discard the milk.
Heat a frying pan, warm half the butter, saute garlic and onion. 
When onions are glassy, add the liver, cook gently till no longer pink but cooked through. Avoid overcooking them.
Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and brandy. 
Cool, then grind in a small mixer. 
For a smooth paste, pass the pâté through a sieve.
Spoon it into a ceramic bowl, level the top.
Melt the remaining butter till clear.
Place a small bay leaf over the top of the pate, pour melted butter over.
Cover and chill till firm.
Keep it refrigerated. It tastes best after a couple of days.
Serve with crackers or toast.  

Baketales goes places


I have news for you- baketales is going places!!

Many of you have been asking me when I will resume classes. Thank you for your patience and I'm pleased to tell you that my next workshop will be at Crust. 

A cosy deli situated opposite the Abirampuram police station, Crust and I will be doing our first workshop on August 22nd at 11am.

On the menu- a refreshing lime syrup cake, baked cheesecake with a berry sauce, glazed donut cupcakes and some irresistible walnut raisin pinwheels.

Joe Lobo, masterchef at Crust, will be coordinating the event.

Please contact 9884191844, 044-24670298 or 8124145884 to confirm your participation. Limited seats only.

Update: The workshop will be held on August 29, same time, same venue.

Montreal and a recipe for muffins


There are times when one has to shut down all systems. Go take a break.

Which is just what I did last month. Recharge, refresh, see what lies beyond the horizon. And believe me- there is a whole new world out there- the lives of people who live on another continent, their geography, culture and most definitely, their food.

Which is how my sister in law and I found ourselves in Canada. On our agenda- food tours and expeditions to the famed markets in Montreal, Quebec and Toronto. And some sightseeing, of course.

Arriving at Montreal's Trudeau airport on a cool July evening, we got into a cab and I tried out my school French on the driver by giving him the address of our hotel in French, only to be met by a blank stare. Oops!! (More of this later.) We then showed him the printed address of the hotel, which he punched it into his GPS and after a half hour's drive, pulled up into the driveway of the Auberge Royal Versailles Hotel‎, situated outside the city in the business district. A huge shopping mall stood just across the road, a metro station a few steps away from the hotel's parking lot. Hmm... a promising location indeed!

Having travelled for more than 24 hours, from Singapore, we were too tired to do anything but sleep. But the next morning, we were up like 2 bright pins and made our way to the restaurant for breakfast.

Labelled a Continental breakfast, there was porridge, a selection of sliced bread for toasting, quick breads and jumbo muffins, along with coffee, tea and orange juice.

A part of the breakfast selection at the hotel

Shortly thereafter, at the Europa Espace Boutique, our meeting point, we met our guide and the rest of our group. A cold, sunny day, nevertheless, a cup of cappuchino, macarons and introductions fortified us sufficiently to get on with the Flavours and Aromas of Old Montreal Walking Tour.

Our meeting point, macarons, Notre-Dame Basilica, Mr. Poire, our guide  

We walked down the winding streets of the old city of Montreal or Vieux Montreal, admiring the architecture of the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica, old factories and warehouses.

Place d'Armes

Mr. Poire explained how politics had influenced the food of Canada. Interestingly, Canada is a major producer of durum wheat which is used in making pasta.

We posed for photographs in front of the iconic pop art love sign before stepping into the Banque de Montreal.  It was Montreal's oldest bank, built in 1847. The cathedral-like interiors were opulent. After banking operations ceased many years ago, movies used to be shot there for a while.

Breathtaking interiors of Banque de Montreal; the lift lobby

Our first stop for a tasting platter was at a bistro. Only 10.30 in the morning but the place was packed with people enjoying brunch.

Behind glass display counters in the quaint eatery, there were dishes piled high with terrines, pâtés, cheeses and artisanal breads.

 Pates made with chicken, pork and game meat; selection of smoked meat
We sampled a selection of smoked meats, pate and cheeses; pies, cheesecake & brownies

We were served a platter of terrines, pâtés and other cured meats, as well as a selection of cheeses, slices of apples as palate cleansers and cornichons.

The next stop was Marche du Vieux  where freshly made smoked meat sandwiches were served. The curing process was explained and the owner himself assembled the sandwiches and served our group.

Mouthwatering muffins, croissants & other bakes; smoked meat sandwich with mustard

Next day, armed with the Metro map, we made our way to the Jean Talon Market. This is the largest outdoor market in North America. Name it and just about everything was on display and on sale. Shops selling baklava, sausages, meat and seafood, artisanal breads, honey, soaps, cookbooks and a profusion of flowers, fruit and vegetables. And cheeses.

Sausages, tomatoes and asparagus, the soap maker, bunches of lavender
Macaron heaven, churros, quiches, pies and corn
The freshest seafood- oysters, cooked and live lobsters
A selection of Turkish pastries
Strawberries, plums, nectarines and peaches

We picked up nectarines as big as apples, gorgeously sweet strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. And the prices were equally sweet! Fruit bounty in hand, we got on a bus that took us around the city for some sightseeing. Our driver cum guide was a man with a dry sense of humour. I was quite sad when the 3 1/2 hour tour came to an end.

Back at the hotel, we were not ready to call it a day as yet. The sun sets only at 8 in the evening so we decided to go across to the shopping centre opposite the hotel. However, our timing was a little off, being a Sunday, most of the shops had closed but a restaurant was open and this was the meal we ordered:

Caesar salad, baby back ribs and quesadillas with accompaniments

What flavours, what a meal!!

We were back at the shopping centre the next morning for a bit of retail therapy before catching the train to Quebec.

The blueberry muffins at the hotel breakfast inspired me to try this recipe when I came back home. Of course not jumbo sized ones. This recipe makes 12 regular sized muffins.

Blueberry muffins
250 gm flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
150 gm sugar
90 gm melted and cooled butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
210 ml milk at room temperature
110 gm blueberries

Place paper cases in 12 hole muffin tray.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda into a bowl, stir in sugar. Keep aside.
Stir the butter, eggs, essence and milk in another bowl together.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mix lightly, avoid overmixing.
Put scoops of the mixture into the cases and bake in a preheated 200°C oven for about 16-18 minutes, till the top is firm and golden brown.
Turn out onto a wire rack and cool.

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