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


Ingredients

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

Method

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.  
  


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