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Friday, September 28, 2012

[Achards de Legumes] Pickled vegetables in Mauritius style

Vegetable pickles are something I cannot refuse.
It stimulates my sense and my dinner table.
I like trying all kinds of pickles and enjoy making new pickles.
Achards is vegetable pickles that are (culinary) specialties of Creoles.
It is said that Portuguese sailors to preserve food, the recipe has spread throughout the Indian Ocean and even the Pacific.
It is made with small pieces of vegetables such as green beans, carrot, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Interestingly, I first tasted this delicious pickles during sailing excursion in Cancale.

We had achards on top of bread and also with smoked mackerel.

Both of them were oh, so good.

I could have finished a jar of achards by myself. But, as I am a civilized human being, I resisted my temptation. :)
At that point, I was decided to make my own achards.
And as you might guess, I did!
Here goes the recipe:
(adapted from Recipes from Mauritius)
I put more cauliflower and less carrots.
It's up to your taste (or availability :))

3-4 cups finely sliced cabbage,
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks,
7 oz (or 200 g) green beans
1/2 medium cauliflower
1-2 tablespoons black mustard seeds,
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon turmeric powder,
(* I used the Vertus powder of which ingredients are turmeric, pepper, salt and spices~. This is a specialty spice from the famous spice shop, Epices Reollinger, of Cancale)
10 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 large onion finely chopped,
3 tablespoons white vinegar,
Salt and pepper
1. Prepare vegetables. Cut cauliflower in small pieces, and slice green beans finely lengthwise.
This is the hardest part.
I used already julienned carrots.

2. blanch vegetables in boiling salted water until slightly cooked but still crisp.

3. Remove from water, drain and allow to dry out.

4. Blend mustard seeds, turmeric powder with garlic and a little water, to make a paste.

5. Heat oil, fry onion until transparent.
6. Add the mustard/garlic/turmeric paste and some salt. Stir fry for one minute until cooked.

7. Add vegetables, mix well until well coated. Remove from heat.

8. Allow to cool and stir in the vinegar.

9. Place in dry jars and store in refrigerator.

Enjoy as an appetiser
or on a slice of bread, or in white bread rolls.
You don't need to wait for a few days, after you make it.
As soon as it's cooled, you can enjoy these delicious pickles!
Achards de légumes

Sunday, September 23, 2012

[5-minute banana chocolate chip muffins] Kids' favorite breakfast item

 Muffin is one of the easiest thing you can bake in the oven, apart from frozen meals.
And there are hundreds and thousands of recipes out there, so should I really add another recipe in the internet to become 100,001th banana chocolate chip recipe?
I would say "YES" :)
this is really easy and quick!
And 100% homemade. Well, of course I didn't milk the cow or churn the cream to make butter, you know. What "from the scratch" means here is that these muffins are not made with any kind of pre-mix. :D
But, as I mentioned inthe title,
it takes not more than five minutes to get ready for the oven!
My kids love these banana chocolate chip muffins for breakfast or school snack.
Well, I think the part they like is chocolate chips rather than banana. But, it doesn't matter!
This recipe is a great way to deal with overripe bananas! :)
As this is a quick recipe, you don't start by cream butter and sugar together.
You mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately.
That is why it's very important to have all the ingredients at room temperature. Otherwise, they curdle. :(
I will show you more in details with pictures.
Here goes the recipe:
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe bananas
1/2 Cup butter, preferrably unsalted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 Cup chocholate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (or 180° C).
2. Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin liners.

3. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. (Dry ingredients)
4. Mash the banana.
Here is a tip to mash a banana very quickly.
Potato masher will mkae your work very quick.
5. Mix mashed bananas, egg, vanilla, melted butter, in a medium bowl. 
I didn't bother to have butter melted. I used very soft butter(room-temperatured).
But, it's a good idea to use melted butter to prevent curdling.
Now your wet ingredients are ready.
6. Stir wet ingredient mixture into dry ingredients until just blended.
7. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Now, your batter is ready!

 8. Use an ice cream scoop of a pair of spoons to distribute the muffin mixture evenly into the muffin liners.
On their way to the oven! ;)
9. Bake for about 25 - 27 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the toothpick comes out clean.
Don't overbake. You don't want to have dry muffins.

10. Cool completely on a rack.
Isn't it quick? :)
It's very soft and full of flavour!
Enjoy the result of your 5-minute work!
Quick Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Thursday, September 20, 2012

[Four Representative Architectures in Paris] Notre Dame de Paris - Part II

I wrote about the Part I of The four representative architectures in Paris last week.
If you haven't seen my previous posting about l'Arc-de-Triomphe and Eiffel tower,
see here:
Part II is about Notre Dame de Paris,
and the Musée du Louvre will be posted in Part III.
First, it was my great mistake to think that I would be able to condense these two grand monuments in one posting, which I realized impossible.
So, each of these symbolic edifices will be posted separately.

We had wanted to go up a tower of Notre-Dame, but gave up the idea quickly when we saw the people waiting in a queue. Probably, we would have ended up waiting for our turn more than 2 hours! We were sad of the fact that we couldn't go up the tower of Notre Dame, but still glad that we decided not to wait there.
I had thought all the tourists in Paris gathered at the Tour Eiffel.
In reality, only half of the tourists were there and the other half of the tourists were at Notre-Dame!
Let me tell you a brief history about Notre Dame.
Cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris is considered one of the finest French Gothic architecture and among the most famous churches ever built. The catherdral houses the official chair("cathera") of the archbishop of Paris.
This is an amazing piece of the finest architectures of France, which you should not every miss if you are in Paris.
You must have seen so many pictures of this famous catholic church.
You could simply admire the monument itself.
But, if you see it more in detail, part by part, you will be even more enthralled by its allure. Let me show you some of its stunning details. I'd love to show all, mainly because I don't know all myself since there are so many.
The groundbreaking of the Notre Dame de Paris started in 1163, and all the elements were completed only in 1345. It took 182 years to complete the construction.
Can you imagine how much effort and devotion must have been exerted to complete it in such a grande monument?
The length of the cathedral is 128 metres (420 ft) while the width is 69 metres (226 ft) and the height of the two towers was 69 metres (226 ft).
The circle stands for the boundless, the perfect figure without beginning or end, the image of God.
At the centre of the façade, a large rose measuring 9.60 m in diameter which was created around 1225, stands at the centre of the façade, forming a halo above a statue of the Virgin with Child between two angels. On the right and the left, there are statues of Adam and Eve.
These statues were rebuilt by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century.

On the lower level, under the gallery of kings, there are three large portals which are not identical.
The central portal of the west façade is The Portal of the Last Judgement that is taller and wider than the others.
The south portal which is the one placed to the right is The Portal of Saint Anne and the north portal, to the left is the Portal of the Virgin.
These portals are decorated with a multitude of characters featuring large statues which were restored in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc.

One of the saints featured by the Portal of the Virgin, the portal left to the Central portal, is Saint Denis. He is the one holding his own head. Denis was martyred during the Decian persecution under the emperor Decius, in the third century. According to the legend, Denis picked up his head beheaded in Montmartre and walked ten kilometres, preaching a sermon the entire way, to the town where he actually died.
I had posted about him after my visit to the Basilique Saint-Denis.

If you are interested in this martyr, see here:
During the French Revolution, not only the 13th century spire was disassembled, but also the 28 statues from the Gallery of Kings of the west facade and all the major portal statues Virgin from the Cloister portal trumeau were destructed.
Notre-Dame is given back to the Roman Catholic church on 18 April 1802. In 1831, Victor Hugo published The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was a huge success.
(We visited Victor Hugo's house in Paris. I'll try to do a posting about him)
 In 1844, the government of King Louis-Philippe I decreed the restoration of the Paris and the construction of a sacristy. The restoration project was given to two architects: Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus. Both of them were famous architects, but especially Viollet Le Duc was in charge of restoring a few dozen castles, palaces and cathedrals across France.  In 1857, after the death of Lassus, Viollet-le-Duc was left as the sole builder.
The restoration lasted twenty five years and included the construction of a spire("flèche" in French) as well as the addition of the gargoyles.
Viollet-le-Duc added many grotesques, known as gargoyles, on the face of the Notre Dame in Paris.
 Architects often used multiple gargoyles on buildings to divide the flow of rainwater off the roof to minimize the potential damage from a rainstorm.
As gargoyles are carved away from the side of
a building, they prevent rainwater from running down masonry walls.

There are a lot and most of them, if not all, are really grotesque.
But, these gargoyles are typcial features of the the Gothic style churches and buildings.
Too bad that we couldn't climb up the tower to see and take better photos of the gargoyles. :(
Well, there always will be next time. That is what I believe! :) 

The fameuse spire of Notre Dame.
The spire is 90m(300 feet) tall.
It was also restored under the supervision of Viollet-Le-Duc.

The spire stands out as you see.
The base of the spire of Notre-Dame de Paris is surrounded by four groups of three apostles statues each, by sculptor Geoffrey-Dechaume.
The workers used to "sign" their work and it is not uncommon to find a stone sculpture or a discreetly marked. But it is rare to find a statue of the architect himself. But, that is what Viollet-le-Duc exactly did. The top one showing his back.
Isn't it fascinating, yet daring to put his face, on one of the most famous edifices on earth? :)
The apostle is in fact St. Thomas, patron of architects ...
North façade of Notre Dame.
They are as beautiful as the other façades while it is the façade of which photos are taken far less than the others.

Stained Glass from the inside.
I am amazed by the churches in France that the interior is delicately-decorated as much as the exterior, or the other way round.

Each side of the catheral is very different, yet all of them are graceful and show the ultimate finess.

The vaulted ceiling was breathtakingly beautiful.

The Pietà.
The Pietà is a subject of the Christian art representing the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, most often found in sculpture.
There must be The Pietà at any Catholic church in Europe.
I like all the Pietà sculptures, even though I find Virgin Mary of each Pietà looks too young to have a 33-year-old son. :p

Virgin Mary.

As you might know already, Notre Dame means "Our lady", i.e. Virgin Mary.

Joan of Arc or Jeanne d'Arc, a heroine of France and Roman catholic saint.
She also is a patron saint of France, along with along with St. Denis, St. Martin of Tours, St. Louis IX, and St. Theresa of Lisieux.
 I love the candles lit in Catholic churches.

 Each stained glass windows of the church contains a story from the Bible.

 Windows from the outside.

The view of Notre Dame de Paris from Seine river.
From the east side of Notre Dame
South side of the church

I am happy each time I have a chance to appreciate each of these master pieces.
And I can't help but pay respects to the work and patience of the people who made this altogether.

There are many more pictures we took, but they are too many.
I don't want to tire you with my photos.

I have one last photo for today.

This is the Kilometre zero (Km 0) of France, from which distances from France are measured.
Accordingly, this Km 0 is considered the official centre of the city of Paris. 
This Kilometre zero of France is located in Paris on the square facing the main entrance(West facade) of Notre Dame cathedral.
 Notre Dame de Paris