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.


  1. Sara, this write up made a very interesting reading...Loved the way you have spiced it up with pictures - its a visual treat. Thanks for the recipe as well :)

  2. Thank you, Anita. The human eye can register so much, but not a blog!!
    Enjoy the recipe.

  3. Hi Sara, i am new to chennai and love to bake. Could you please tell me where to find blue berries in chennai. My kids love a milkshake drink they had with blueberries. Loved you recipe...

    1. Hi Susan, you could try Fruitmarx. Do go to their page on FB and see if they have them available.

  4. Can one use bananas instead / If so how much pls?

  5. I suppose you could, perhaps you could google & find out.


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