Friday, September 21, 2012

Madeira -The English Sponge Cake

There are many times I wish to make things very healthy, but when it comes to some special occasion somehow I tend to go little soft. It’s just that I don’t vouch for rich foods all the time, that doesn’t mean I would starve out myself either.

In Sanskrit there is a phrase “ Tena Tyaktena Bhunjita”- actually it's a part of a shloka in Upanishad…which means eat, but with sacrifice and eat what is allotted to you  without being submissive to desires.So, whenever these high calorie desert is made in our home, we do eat but in moderation. Seriously, I don’t see myself making this cake again in coming three or four months, I do think this much of period is required to balance off the butter in our body that goes into making this cake. Ok that was exaggeration, do make this cake and invite friends, don’t eat it alone and you will see the effect is reduced, or give a mischievous smile when your friends eat more than you did, or better picture them with their pot belly and this cake slice in their hands, see it will make you happy and much better calm person or may be it’s the reverse of all the picturisation. Whatever is the scenario, time now for me to bake this cake again but eating at the end in moderation. Meanwhile, start baking this cake yourself; recipe has been shared, what is stopping you now.

Actually I have completely stopped baking with butter; it’s mostly with cooking oil or sunflower oil that I normally use for our day-today cooking. So, when last time our dear daughter tasted Madeira cake loaf by M&S, she kept asking for me to bake this cake in home. Madeira cake is one elegant and royal English sponge cake which has huge amounts of butter, actually this to our own standards, may be not for everyone out there, who are so fond of this cake.
So, when couple of weeks ago it was dear daughter’s birthday, she particularly asked me to bake this cake, I was kind of thinking she would pick her favorite chocolate cake or the black forest cake, but then she really wanted Madeira cake this time. It seems just yesterday that she being a tiny little baby with soft cotton like body, all wrapped in soft clothes, looking so delicate, was handed to us in hospital , and now she is going to school. May be someday she would read this post once she grows up, don’t know how she will be reacting to all this, writing all in public.Well I leave it for that day only for the time being.

Well after many searches,this cake recipe was finally referred for guidelines, although I tweaked the amount of butter, but please if you are a puritan or baking goddess, don’t read this line.

Madeira cake
Recipe requirements
150 g of butter
150 g of caster sugar
3 free range eggs
225 g of self raising flour
3-4 tbs of milk or just enough to fold the batter
1-2 tsp of lemon zest

Cream together butter and sugar. Sometimes measuring is important so cut slabs, on the covering of many branded butter, if you can notice slabs are marked of 25 or 50 g, cut accordingly from a 250 g butter pack. And in case you won’t have those marked slabs then roughly  1/2 cup+1 tbs of butter is 150 g, if that makes some sense.
And also 1 and 1/4 cup of sugar is approx 150 g of sugar.
2 and 1/2 cups of tightly packed cake flour or the commonly known self rising flour is 225g.

Ok after all the calculations, interpretation and integration. Let’s start the real process.
Preheat oven at 170 deg C.
Cream sugar and butter very well.
Add in one egg at a time, mixing through very well. Use other two eggs similarly.Sometimes egg yolks are mixed first then egg whites beaten separately is added later on , just gently folding in so that the air don't escape, and this makes the cake velvety and light.
Sieve/sift the flour. I happen to use M&S self rising flour. You can use any other cake flour as well.
Now add in flour to the sugar, butter and egg mixture. Add in lemon zest.
Add in milk, just enough to make the cake batter like a dropping consistency.
Now line up a cake tine, or sandwich tin. I end up using two sandwich tin for making double layer cake. Tip- Trace out the round in baking paper, and then cut it out and put the paper in cake tin, this way the cake comes out smooth and even after flipping the cake.
Bake both the cake in preheated oven for 15-20 mints. And to be precise if possible at low temperature.Madiera cake is a premium sponge cake and needs to be baked at low temperature. If baking the cake below 170 deg C or at 150 deg C,then work through the time or precisely  increase the time accordingly.
Take out after it has been baked, check with a toothpick if it’s clean when put deep into the middle. Sometimes sides are cooked quickly as compared to the middle portion. For this, TIP- put a tray with enough water to keep the cake moist in a lower rack while it’s baking or put another tray over the top rack so the heat don't get directly to cake, and put the cake tins in the middle rack of the oven.As a practice I generally put a tray over the top rack and bake the cake placing the cake tin in the middle rack.
These are all tried and tasted methods to keep the cake moist and prevent it from over cooking as this sponge cake is cooked very quickly and comes very moist.
Note- Since I made two cakes in two separate sandwich tins so, the time is decreased, however if you are using a big cake tin, which  used to make pound cakes then please refer the original recipe.
Let it cool it off completely and then decorate whatever way you prefer.

Happy Cooking Friends

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Besan Ladoo and Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

It feels like ages that I have updated the blog here.Can’t blame, doesn’t have anything special to share so I do think sometimes it’s just good to keep mum and watch the world go by. Festivals are round the corner and with Ganesh Chaturthi, it’s just the beginning and we all are excited for the festivity that will surround us, in coming next couple of months.
I will love to make a picture in my mind about people back home, who are busy shopping new clothing, jewellary or household things and upholstery for this year Durga Puja or may be planning out new home designs for a Deepawali make-over or may be are earnestly looking for something that may conjure the excitement and frenzy, festivity brings with itself. Well to all, let’s flow with the spirit of festivity which ever way you all prefer to celebrate and cherish.

Now to my knowledge I don’t think any other sweets, I have ever relished so fondly so far ,except for Bondi ladoo.My evening walks on a typical summer holiday with my Ranga Kaku ( my father’s younger brother) would eventually end up on a sweet shop. Sometimes he would take us on a quick scooter ride towards the banks of river Ganga, actually the river is quite near to our ancestral home. And I really don’t know if I will ever visit it again as with each passing year that home, once bursting with chaotic sounds and occasional cacophony of all members of the family has gone silent. The place has turned like a ghost house now, with the young generation of the family members opting to stay far away from this place, migrating to metro city and some even to foreign country. Each year when its festivity time, my mind again starts wandering in that old house courtyard and recalling the activities that went into kitchen. And the memories that I have now is just a tiny part. You all, who have grown-up in a traditional joint family can or may be co-relate to it.Anyways lets just don’t hamper the true spirit of festivity.

Let’s talk about the best part now- which is, my Ranga Kaku would ask me showing/pointing every sweet – from “Cham-cham”,Pantua”,Sandesh”,“Kalakand”, “Sita bhog”,”Gulab Jamun”,”Rasgulla” to “kheer kadam” to what not. And I would most of the time end up choosing either besan laddo  or boondi laddo.You can picture a chubby and a shy little girl , picking her sweet treat ,while all patiently waiting, from the heavily moustached, pot bellied “halwai” , his thin bodied helper, to the eager uncle, even the fellow customers who suddenly started liking the whole process and watching with amusement. Some even discussing in the back-ground and prompting me to pick “rasgolla” or “sandesh”, and couple of them going over-board about their choices, having a mock fight. You know, my picking a sweet gave them instant gratification” see-I-told-you” kind of expression and feeling. And then the winner smiles by some of them, with the first bite I would be taking for the sweet. For them it’s like mission accomplished. Initial expeditions were much interesting as somehow the whole process was sort of mystery to them. Later on it was like “oh-see-I-told-you” by those seasoned customers who would frequent this sweet shop and were obviously mostly friends with my uncle. When I had started picking besan laddo or boondi laddo over a period of time, even my uncle, as a habit completely stopped asking me and then eventually most of the time end up buying only besan laddos or boondi ladoos, whenever he would take us for a scooter ride or on an evening stroll. End of all that attention and amusement.
I really don’t know if these laddos tastes exactly like the “Banarasi mishtaan bhandar” or “Umesh sweet shop” or the ones made in Hanuman temple in Civil Lines,that we frequented quite a lot while growing up or roaming around the city with my uncle.But as I pop one ladoo in my mouth, I am transferred to an entire by gone-era and this puts me close to that “tiny part of memory”, I just want to hang on forever.

Now to the recipe
Besan laddo
( makes- 16 )
Recipe requirements( measurements are approx)
3- 4 cups of besan/gram flour
About 2 cups of granulated sugar
½ cup of cooking oil
4-5 heaped tbs of ghee or melted butter
½ tsp of cardamom powder
Some crushed pistachios to garnish

Dry roast gram flour over a medium flame, stirring it frequently so that the flour doesn’t get burnt, moderating the flame from medium-low to medium flame.
Keep on dry roasting for 15 mints or till you get a nice aroma of besan or gram flour.
Now add in granulated sugar to it. Keep mixing.Do this step at low flame.You can even taste it after mixing and if you feel to add more sugar then do so.
Add in cooking oil and ghee to it. Keep mixing the mixture, it will turn into a dry crumble, the texture can be sandy, and the kind of sandy texture you get to see around the sea-shore or in beaches. So, when you press the crumble mixture it will collect very well. The entire process of dry roasting and then adding sugar+ghee can take you nearly 25 mints or may be little more, so be patient.
Now take it off from the flame. Many a times I do like to take it off, from flame before I add the ghee part.Actually when ever I see the mixture is way too much dry and is not collecting well, I tend to add in more ghee.Add the pistachio powder to it or may use
Now let it cool a bit, so that you can make little balls.
Start rolling in your palm and press to collect well. Keep on making laddos.
This much of mixture made 16 besan laddo.Ok I ate one, while rolling so that doesn't count.
Garnish with some pistachio and store in an air –tight container or Tupperware. It stays fresh up to 1 week provided the temperature don’t exceed much.
Give them as sweet treats in the lunch-box or occasionally just pamper yourself.

And in case if you want to do a quick attempt in M/W,then please hop on over to  Bongmom's place or to here.

For more flavor add in ghee only and this way the shell life of laddos are also increased.

Happy Cooking Friends and wish everybody Happy Ganesh Chaturthi ..Ganpati bappa moria!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Paris Diary- Part 2

If you have been with me, you know last week I wrote about our trip to Paris. Now, will take you along the roads of Montmartre, inside Louvre the museum and then tag along you to see the Paris top view from Sacre-coeur the white ice-cream colored cathedral.

                                                                ( The famous - Eiffel Tower)

Day 4- While we were tired and sleeping the other day in the morning, the alarm went off and we didn’t realize that it was 7 in the morning. We did wake up little late, to be precise at 8 o clock in the morning. I knew I had to rush, sometimes it’s too hard to make little children wake up in the morning, anyhow we were there for sight seeing and not sleeping. We finished our breakfast and I quickly assembled our lunch- whole meal bread with loads of chopped vegetables- carrots/ cabbage/red bell pepper/celery stalk and leaves, and layered with butter and cheddar cheese and also with spiced potato- ( prepare this in M/W, just chop small potato pieces and fill little bit of water in a microwave safe bowl and then run it full power for 3-4 mints, potatoes will turn soft but still they will be chunky, then spice it up with paprika and curry powder, salt drizzle some oil  and toss well, sprinkle some oregano for a herb touch. Well we did pick curry powder from Leader’s Price on first day of our arrival in Paris. I know you all will be thinking, what? But trust me sometimes ready-made things come handy, and in this case even a curry powder jar.Period.

                                                      ( Sacre-Coeur Cathedral)

18th arrondissement of northern Paris is stacked over a hilltop that is Montmartre for you. A visible landmark from any part of city is the church of Scare-Coeur. Montmartre has diverse and probably multilingual community. The narrow street that takes you to the steps which leads you to Sacre-Coeur is always bursting with vibrancy. So, you may even come across a Punjabi song playing at the back-ground of an ice-cream parlor, don’t get confused, well you are still in Paris. You can climb up the steps that leads you directly to Sacre-Coeur or there is funicular railway (covered by metro pass) right immediately below it. Sacre-coeur an epitome of French and Byzantine architecture and has white ice- cream dome and is prominent part of French skyline.

                            (A steep 300 steps is worth a climb for a splendid top view of Paris)

Montmartre has bursting night life - Moulin Rouge in Pigalle,is synonym with Baz Luhrmanns’s English film Mouline Rouge starring Nicole Kidman, the "sparkling diamond", although they have just butchered the "Chamma-Chamma Hindi song " in one remix version, but still whenever we mention Moulin Rouge, the picture came to our mind is, Nicole Kidman dancing to this tune.No, we haven't visited it.But this place is famous for cabarets and extravagant way of show-casing richness and splendor.

                                    ( A View of Louvre museum and Royal Palace)

Ok after our short stint in Sacre-coeur, we headed towards the Louvre museum. The world famous museum with breath taking larger than life size paintings.

( "The Coronation of Napoleon"-top left, "The wedding feast at Cana" top right, and "Calvary circa" by Mantegna down left, "Monalisa" by Leonardo da vinci down right)

Although “Monalisa’ was complete let down, yes you read it right, don’t know why this is worth of  so many thousand flashes every hour ( or may be my knowledge about art is limited) It was a little disappointed part, but there are many other neglected and breath-taking paintings outside that square which harbored Leonardo-da-Vinci ‘s “ Monalisa”.While there were many other paintings probably dating back couple of centuries, one of modern day painter- caught our attention. I and my daughter were intrigued by the abstract work of art or contemporary art by Gerhard Richter in the Danon wing - room number- 9 and 10.This exhibition will be displayed till 17th of this month.

 ( A view from inside Louvre museum,  have a look at the queue to enter the museum- you can get fast pass from Gare du Nord train station )

Anyhow, after our short tour inside musee du Louvre, we came, and sat along the concrete sitting arena with fountains, just outside the glass pyramid.

 (  A fountain near the glass pyramid and behind Royal Palace)

We finished off our lunch there and then we headed towards the Jardin des Tuilleries, a French garden at par.
We did enjoy a giant wheel ride and came across beautiful landscapes around the glass pyramid and then the Jardin des Tuileries.

( Aerial view of Jardin des Tuileries)
Much sort out things is the chairs that surround small pond, actually called "basin" in the garden. People can be seen resting and relaxing and these are good spots to admire the surrounding and in case you fancy some coffee, there are couples of cafés nestling among trees as well.

        ( Three chairs left vacant for us, and all you need after so much walking and touring!!)

And if you can expand your vision then perhaps you can even spot some one painting on a big canvas just like the picture below. We were sitting there, enjoying the atmosphere and relaxing a bit in the garden.

Then after a while we headed towards Bastille.
As we approach narrow streets from Bastille towards place des Vosges. We kept walking and at the end reached this magnificent square, bordered with pink –brick and stone mansions and of course a garden at the centre.

                                                ( Place des Vosges- centre garden)

This square was inaugurated in 1605 for the wedding of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria.Actually this was built by Henri IV. These days the arcades harbor a few of restaurants and café.
There are many celebrities who made place des Vosges as their home. One was Victor Hugo, the second floor apartment at no.6 and wrote much of Les Miserables while living there.This novel is a classic 19th century work and is all about history, art and culture of France in those times.This  No-6 Maison is now a museum.

( Arcades at Place des Vosges)

We sat there relaxing in the garden and dear daughter played in one of the many sand pits in the garden.
We then headed towards the main Bastille area. Place de la Bastille can be linked to the events of July 14 1789, when Bastille prison was stormed, and which started the French revolution. Bastille day is celebrated on 14 July and this square is the place for partying on the evening of July13.

( July Column the monument in Bastille Square)

Then there is Opera Bastille just along the rue de Lyon which takes us to Gare du Lyon train station and where some initial scenes of the famous movie “Tourist” starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were picturised.

( Time Out - relaxing in a Cafe, Paris )

On our way back, we picked couple of croissants from one of many bakeries that flourishes in this corner. Although nothing astonishing about this corner with so much graffiti probably all the house walls and available area, I would say try not to go into this quarter late in night.
We came back when it was almost dark and prepared a chicken curry and rice for dinner before we finally quit the day off.

( A cafe near Jardin des Tuilleries)

Day 5- The other day, it was time to come back from our short holiday, and we had some restrictions as with time and also with luggage, it was not possible for us to roam freely. So, we decided to spend some time in Jardine du tuilleries and place de la Concorde and Musee the Louvre as our final stop.
We had our lunch in one many fine eating places that stretched couple of blocks away from Musee the Louvre. Although the pizza was a vegetarian version with sundried tomato, bell pepper and wild rocket toppings, I would say we didn’t relished as much and it wasn’t very wow for our Indian taste buds.  But eating out in fancy brassieres day and night will burn the pocket out.

( Top left- A Brasserie across Gare du Nord train station, Top- right -a quiet street in the evening in Place de la Bastille, down left- Palaise de justice across river Seine - and down right- The famous walking avenue- Champs Elysees-can see Arc de triomphe in the background)

Although we really liked gorging occasional Au pains, croissants and smoothies from local cafes or to be precise the Bistorts which are generally very down to earth places with wooden chairs or cane chairs neatly placed outside. From early morning breakfast to late dinners they provide a homely atmosphere. I would say do visit them and enjoy some local cuisine as well. Or if you find time to unwind and relax after a hectic walking schedule all day long, then grab a cold coffee or cold cappuccino, sit back and enjoy the evening with your family and friends.

                                                        ( a bustling cafe- Saint Severin near Notre-Dam cathedral)

The one thing which was fascinating for us was afternoon break hour, almost all of the bistorts and brassieres in sub-urbs would religiously close during afternoon for couple of hours. The day when we arrived in Paris, we were just strolling and didn’t realize that it was late for our lunch. When we tried to enter a local bistort, the staff there politely told us that they are closed now and will open at 6 in the evening!! So, we had to settle our self with a Macdonald’s, something which we never liked eating in.

(Some times it’s a pleasant surprise to notice something familiar things in a foreign land. These rickshaws are popular with tourist and if you feel tired, hop on to it)

But then this reminds us of Kolkata, where the streets are deserted for a quick afternoon siesta, and shop
owners put their shop shutters down. Come what may come they won’t open, and even the rick-Shaw pullers and some times taxi cab won’t budge no matter what ever high price you would pay to them.

If you are ready to walk, then perhaps this is the best way to explore a city, interact with people and strike pleasant conversations. Don’t be rigid, reach out and ask, Parisian love to inter-act provided you show some initial interest with some French words. A travelers tip is start a conversation with Bonjour Madam or bonjour Monsieur, and then see a familiar smile, although it's hard to find them speaking in English.

There have been many instances where we lost track of roads while walking and Parisian people were extremely helpful, some even showing us the exact road or place of interest on their I-phones.

  ( A narrow  and busy street in Montmartre)

But most of them don’t like to speak in English, so you have to figure it out what they say in French. Initial and basic French knowledge helps- good to know easy words like right, left, straight and turn for navigation etc do help.

To know a place better, travel in with other locals- in metro, in bus and in trams and you would know what it means to live a life- a life of a Parisian. There are perhaps many hundred other ways to explore a city and travel. This is how we like to stroll whenever we plan for a holiday. Hope you all, who have finally reached here reading this two part series liked what I have shared here.

                                     (Life as it happens in Paris)

Even though the famous trip was couple of weeks ago, the memories are still fresh.

As I close my eyes, my mind starts wandering in the streets of Montmartre, climbing steps to reach Sacre-Coeur, Notre dam Cathedral and the candles glowing in dark. Eiffel tower a metallic frame still holding head high up. Sitting and relaxing in Jardin Du Luxembourg and picking a Au Pain from a local bakery, then grocery shopping in Monoprix, picking the likes of  baked petite Madelines or freshly baked bread, coming back to hotel, preparing meals, travelling in vibrant and cosmopolitan Paris metro and walking freely on the streets near Champs-Elysées and around, cooling off with iced cappuccino in a local café, enjoying a ride in a giant wheel near Jardin des Tuileries.Ok I should stop now otherwise the list will go on…


Every place or a city has an element of something mysterious about itself, just like the picture above, the view above is half visible - the other half hidden by curtain is left for you to discover and unravel.
And what makes the city alluring is the people who live there.If you want to explore then be prepared to walk and live like the locals there. The experiences gained will last longer and the memories will be cherished even more,probably many more years to come, or may be will become a lifetime of affair.

You can catch other details for Part-1 here...

End of my Paris Diary part-2....Take Care Friends..Peace and Love........

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Paris Diary- Part-1

Le coup de foudre- oh! you all must be wondering what? It means love at first sight in French. Yes we fell in love with Paris,at first sight that we don’t know but we did eventually or were destined to do so.And it’s a kind of a feeling that keeps growing inside us, even after the so called rendezvous ended couple of weeks ago.So, before I almost forget everything about kind of that "Eureka trip", let me start typing it all from the beginning.Actually whenever we travel, we like to roam around just like this post and the one which will be followed after this post.This time I am going little overboard about Paris, reasons hopefully understood.You all have to be little patient with me this time.Hope you will like reading this as much as we like visiting and roaming in Paris.
Alrighty!! see even my English is going over-board here, talk about French influence.
From walking down the narrow streets of Montmartre or climbing up the steps that lead to Sacre-coeur or sitting quietly in place des Vosges, admiring the old architecture and strolling past the Maison de Victor Hugo. Or just enquiring about the roads/bus in Paris to locals. Little did we realize that these were slowly getting encrypted into our memory database.Oh! yeah our memory is just like a database and it's up to us how we want to make use of it.

( Gare Du Nord Train Station)

When we first set our feet in Paris, there was utter confusion in our minds. First of all the language which we were not familiar with, and then we were traveling with kid. I started having doubts over our decision of not traveling in groups or taking up a tour service. We were confused but not clueless. We treated it as our opportunity, more to do with being adventurous, to explore the city with a fresh approach- our own approach.

The way we would other wise like to stroll in our home city Kolkata. But then if you really want to feel the vibes of the city, you have to live like locals. It says if you are in Paris live like a Parisian. We rented a service apartment and it was like just extending our home and carrying our home to a holiday. So, each day when we came back to our apartment, we knew we have some time to relax and prepare meals which we like to eat and it also serves the purpose of understanding the life of local Parisians.

(  A street across Gare du Nord station)

While traveling in Euro star which saved our time, a kind of a thrilling experience gripped us, crossing English Channel and that too in 20 mints and deep into the sea. Now it gives me chill just thinking about it, but when we were in the train, we didn’t even felt like we were doing kind of,some out of the world stunt. It appeared very usual, just like crossing a normal, dark tunnel while traveling in trains back in home.

That historic path crossed in utter euphoria. There was this young girl probably in her late teens in our coach; she was clicking every moment travelling in Eurostar. The moment it entered the English Channel and the moment train entered French Border and probably even more with her father, her brother and her mother. Even the food which they were sharing, talk of excitement, I guess as compared to her zest, ours was very little though. Wow! It must have been some kind of special moments in her life. I, on the other hand was sitting, watching the world go by, my old habit. There was two lovely lovey-dovey couple drinking red wine in true spirit, slowly whispering to each other, cracking jokes and then smiling to each other. Then there was a helpless mother and a confused father, with two cranky kids besides them. So each time whenever there were pressure gap ( very few times though) our ears would tend to get blocked, and then those cute kids would go loud, crying their hearts out. A look into parents's faces, and I can see our past years in them. Well friends you will also cross this stage, don’t bother, hang on, we understand.

And then an elderly couple, on an unspoken cold war which developed probably after their children left in search of job, married life, home etc. I can see the empty nest-syndrome there and it was so evident. Husband while digging his head deep into his laptop for the work, looks like he was going to attend some official meeting. And while wife trying to strike a conversation, offered a cup of coffee, and somehow it ended up spilling all over that poor husband. That made me; somehow wonder was it an accident or a deliberate attempt to seek attention. It left him murmuring in pain and then the teenager boy sitting right in front of them, with a burnt foot; well some of the hot beverage did spill on his poor feet. And then a frightened aunt of that teenager, sitting right in front of me, awe struck what should be done now, or was she recalling why she took the initiative to pick her nephew and then go ahead on a holiday with her sisters family members. Well that was some kind of experience unusual of travelling in European trains for me. Our holiday had already started even though we were yet far away from Paris. Every body had their own reasons to be in Paris, they all need a good holiday break to revive, relive and replenish energy.

Our destination was Gare du nord.Nord rail station has one of best gothic architecture. There are streets; I mean cobbled streets just along the station, and where one can catch many city buses which will take you to every corner of city, but let me warn you, buses do take lots of time as compared to metro.And in case you are not in hurry, and would like to have a view of the bustling city life , then hop on to these buses.These even will let you know your destination prior of arriving there, flashing next stop and time to reach up there.So sit back and enjoy the ride.

( A good old bistrot- Au Baroudeur, just across the Gare du Nord rail station, start your day with morning cup of tea or coffee here and a simple breakfast)

Across the cobbled street, there are numerous bistrots and brasseries to start off your day with a hearty breakfast or end your day with a hearty meal, chatting and relaxing with friends and family.
French people love to mingle with each other in these brasseries before they call that's  it , "it's the end of day".Dining in Paris gives you many opportunities to explore local cuisine and food.There are many bistros - these are very simple places with  wooden chairs or rather cane chairs, in or around a zinc bar, and there will be a blackboard placed just outside to let you know the menu, but it will be all in French.The main criteria which works for these bistros is creating a homely atmosphere.
Then there will be many cafes where one can pick up a quick coffee or relax with various cold drinks, even a mug of beer or a glass of wine.
Then are the brasseries - with all the show and glitz, so you may occasionally catch wearing white apron waiter  serving the signature dishes of that brasseries.They retain their splendid lamps, glass cupolas and brass coat racks and the food being served is very traditional, picture below.

( One of the many brasseries in Paris,actually is a very popular one "Cafe de la Paix"- you can even find more Here in wiki)

We did our grocery shopping from the "Leader Price" just three to four blocks away from Gare de Nord.I was excited to pick and feel the local produce, my better half S says he has relished one of the best Pears so far, all tasty and juicy. It was little difficult to find things we were looking as all things in French. I asked for help from one of the locals about cheddar cheese, and she pointed to a pack of three shredded cheese pack, I again asked – pizza/pasta , with this she burst into a sweet smile, and nodded her head. Walking past the dairy aisle, I was confused, my better half S asked one of the helper who incidentally was from Pondicherry, well many have migrated to France from Pondicherry, as we all know Pondicherry was couple of decades ago was a French Colony. So, milk became – plait, and Yogurt became – yourt. Once we did finish our grocery shopping, it was time to go back to our apartment. We did this time with metro.

Paris has one of the most well networked metro services. What makes it easy to navigate is that they have numbered their metro line service- from line-1 to line-14, and then the RER service also in main alphabets- A, B, C, and D, all we need to remind ourselves about the direction. A day pass called as mobilis day –pass gives you ample opportunity to explore the city unlimited time. But since we were traveling for more than one day, we were told that Paris Visites pass might come handy for us. And yes it did. It saved our morning effort of again and again purchasing day pass. Paris Metro is like a mirror to Paris, once you step inside a metro station or train; you come across the diverse ethnic and multicultural face of Paris. After our mean of traveling and getting around was sorted out, now it was time to explore the city with our own pace and method.And also there are other means to roam around in Paris - see these cycles parked neatly.

(  Cycles to explore the city, actually many Parisians prefer these over traveling in car or bus)

Day -2 we were tired, and yes still sleepy, but we knew the entire day that we will be going to spend in Disneyland will be one life –time of our opportunity to feel and live those cherished moments, especially for our kiddo. I made a quick breakfast of green bell pepper/onion and tomato scrambled egg, and also was croissants, cereals +milk  which S picked from a nearby Monoprix,

( Monoprix- a departmental shopping store and our saviour )

when he went out later in the evening solo ,to know more about the local place  while we ( me and our daughter A) stayed back in our apartment. Then in the morning,  assembled a quick, whole meal bread sandwich with tomato and olives red sauce, tiered up with onion/potato sabzi (I had already chopped the vegetables the other night) with loads of shredded salads- carrots, lettuce, celery and purple cabbage, and shredded cheddar cheese. To be honest I was not interested in eating out much, occasional cold coffee, croissants and pastry or ice-cream or a simple breakfast was fine for us but we avoided eating out our lunch or dinner.And  so we packed in our lunch every day, and it was convenient also, as we were on the go most of the time and it saved our time.

( Yeah we reached finally to the main park, crossing main street USA- well that too in France!!)
My daughter A was excited when she first saw the Disney –pick-up bus from Gare de Nord( can see in the picture above in background). The short journey towards Disneyland was even more enticing; because of the route- it passed along the banks of river Seine with many astonishing and breath-taking Gothic architecture, monuments and modern buildings.

( Palais de Justice across River Seine)

While our pick-up bus was heading towards the highway, we were again feeling sleepy; when we woke up after our power nap, we were delighted to see the giant entrance from where it goes towards the Disneyland.
Moments of fun, what maddening crowds surrounded us; it was like a never ending vast sea of people, coming all across the globe. We decided to start our journey from main Disneyland Park. We crossed the Main Street USA, along both the sides are many eating joints. We were enjoying a scoop of Ben and Jerry Ice-cream each, which we picked up from Gibson Girl Ice-Cream parlor and then we started slowly walking towards the main castle entrance.

( Entrance to Fantasy-land in Disneyland Park )

We did spin around in Le carousel de Lancelot, and then the Mad Hatters tea cups, and then last ride was “it’s a small world” which was beautiful amalgamation of decorated dolls from around the world. All the rides had some waiting time of 30 to 45 mints to 1 hr. And we were running short of time. We did our lunch while sitting in one of the Park benches just right next to Rapunzel podium, watching the maddening crowd to get a picture with Rapunzel.

Our visit to fantasy land ended on a park train rides, which took  us to adventure land. There are more stories about Disneyland, and if I keep on writing about it, it will not finish. One last prominent , kind of cherry on top was meeting personally with Minnie the mouse, our daughter A was delighted, little shy of course , but when "Minnie the mouse" called on her to come near and stand next to her, it was one life-time moment for her. I am sure once she grows up, she is going to remember may be even some day,will recall this splendid moment.

                                                                                (  Disneyland Train)

Walt Disney Studio Park, is more to do with adventure and thrill, if you are into Cinema and the art of making cartoons, it’s one of those great experiences one can never let go. Fun-filled thrilling adventure - The Tower of terror which we didn’t and of course Studio tram Tour- behind the Magic. But we really and thoroughly enjoyed “Animagique”.

(Walt Disney Studios Park)

While coming out of the park exit/sortie we look behind just to remember all the moments, and all of them flashed in our glittering eyes.
No doubt about why people flock to these dream lands created by Walt Disney, a mere cartoon film and cartoon creatures can fill in so much happiness in millions of hearts across the globe. So, when we sit back in a dark theater with a bag of popcorn to watch these cartoons films, we now know how much efforts goes into making a cartoon film.And we have started appreciating the art of making cartoons which is a very creative work.

Day-3 – While we were tired and exhausted by the walking and then queuing, waiting periods for rides in the Disney Park yesterday, I had a quiet moment all by myself early in the morning, while S and A were deep asleep, I happen to get a lovely early sunrise view from our apartment window.

I stood there, resting my head and shoulders leaned over the arched wall of the window, just admiring and absorbing the view.

( Sunrise view from our apartment)

On one side was this highway, very busy all day and night along and the other side was this magnificent sunrise view.Even the night view from our window was splendid especially the highway.

While we were getting ready to go out exploring Paris even more.
 I prepared our breakfast and then hurriedly pack our lunches – this time it was hummus and zucchini/potato/onion sabzi -veggie burger with loads of shredded and chopped salads which we picked it up while grocery shopping.

( our lunch- Hummus- zucchini/potato/onion sabzi veggie burger)

We took metro towards Champs the Mars and got off at Bir Hakeim.The Eiffel tower quarter is the most visited place of Paris, and why not.An engineering masterpiece by Gustave Eiffel.The tower was inaugurated in the year 1889.

( The famous Eiffel Tower) 

There is river Seine across the road from Eiffel tower flowing south-west out of Paris. And then is Trocadero quarter which lies on the elevated northern bank of the Seine River. There is Champ de Mars – is an open green field that starts off the Eiffel tower corner. We sat there about half an hour, feeling and then absorbing the vibes. We then took a bus towards Arc De Triumph.

( River Seine)

While it was such a lovely sunrise to start our day, we didn’t know that it was going to rain heavily later on that day. It started pouring heavily and we waited while sitting under the Arc de Triomphe,admiring the intricate and minute work on the walls of the arc.Actually under the arc, is the grave of unknown soldiers who died during WW-I, a undying flame is always put on to remember their sacrifices, reminds me of "Amar Jawan Jyoti" in Delhi.

( Arc de Triomphe)

The Arc de Triomphe, is in the middle of Charles-de-Gaulle, better known as place de l’Etoile, a giant roundabout. The arch was begun by Napoleon in 1806 in homage to his Grande-Armee, completed by Louise-Philippe in 1836.

( Such intricate carvings on arc)
 We really were very tempted to climb up the 234 steps to have the Paris aerial view from top of the arc, but somehow we let go off the idea.
While walking towards the George V metro station in avenue des Champs- Elysees- towards western end ,we came across a Nespresso Café, where we cooled off with iced cappuccino and our daughter with three flavored ice-cream sundae which obviously had Belgian chocolate as one flavor. That street is the most bustling quarter of the area with major clothing brands outlets, top fashion boutiques.This quarter or the Champs-Elysees is used mostly for all the celebrations.Parisians celebrate new years eve and also military parades are held here.

( Notre Dame)

We caught the metro and then went to see Notre-dame cathedral in Ile de la Cite.The cathedral with its well intricate carvings, Gothic architecture, stands out firm against the blue sky. What magnificent view it has.

( Notre- Dame Architecture)

This cathedral began in early 1160 under Bishop de Sully and was completed around 1345.Napolean crowned himself as emperor here in 1804.If you have time then don’t miss the carvings on the façade- the depiction of “Day of Judgment”, “crowning of Mary by Christ “ and right one “depiction of Virgin enthroned”.There is also very prominent is the gallery of kings- 28 statues of Judean Kings.
After going inside, there is striking darkness which gets interrupted by stream of purple light, whenever we would cross the fabulous stained glass windows.

Our dear daughter also lighted a candle just to eradicate all the darkness that surrounds us. May be someday she will go back again there and light another one. You may not know that Notre-dame is heart of paris.There is a bronze star at the west door, “kilometer zero”, from where the distance of all the main roads in France is calculated.

We sat there probably half an hour just to imbibe the pulses. And from there we started walking towards left, crossing the bridge (probably there are many of them) that connects Ile de la Cite to other parts of main land Paris. We kept walking until we reached this fountain.

From there we started walking straight towards Jardine du Luxembourg. Meanwhile walking, we came across this book outlet and many more like these.

People throng to these places to purchase many books, mostly in French, wish some of them were in English but why expect that in France.
On our way walking towards the magnificent Jardin du Luxembourg, we came across these also.

"Au Pains",now if you are in France and you haven’t tasted these pains, you have done nothing.And have a look at those giant Croissants, with almond flakes, now who would resist such temptation.

Have a look on the neatly stacked baguettes with different types of fillings. A normal working class Parisians survives on these and who says these are boring. They are very versatile and easy to pick as you go or are in move.

On our way walking towards the magnificent Jardin du Luxembourg, we came across these, Au Pains in one of local bakeries. While we picked up Pain au Raisin- a popular French breakfast food, we kept walking, relishing these Au pains ( actually it’s a buttery pastry to be precise) and if you can believe me, they are not greasy at all, kind of light , ok don’t want to go into details now, makes me feel hungry again. And on other day picked millefeuilles , another yummylicious pastry And coming to chocolate au pains which are pains filled with dark chocolate are another popular pains especially with kids, and who says with kids only , even we enjoyed it a lot. Every day we would have our freshly baked French Pains/pastry and croissants as part of our morning breakfast menu which we would pick daily from Monoprix near our service apartment.

Jardin du Luxembourg, a magnificent garden with plenty of metal green chairs to sit and relax. This garden is perhaps can be coined as “lungs of Paris”. Many sculptures are scattered around the park.

( A Pond and a fountain in Jardine du Luxembourg)

Jardin du Luxembourg is towards south of St.Germain is located in 6th arrondissement and is near to Sorbonne University, is a magnificent garden with plenty of chairs to sit and relax. This garden is perhaps can be coined as “lungs of Paris”. Many sculptures are scattered around the park. These lovely gardens belong to the Palais du Luxembourg, which now houses the French senate, but this was originally built for Marie de Medicis, Henri IV’s widow. On glorious summer days they are crowded and flocked by people all across Paris. You can even see all the way round in the park green metal chairs where people do sit and relax. There is a café a few steps east of central pond in case you like to unwind with a cup of coffee at the end of day.

( Jardin du Luxembourg)

There are many rides for children and many other activities for children. Since we went there when it was almost dinner time, we just sat there for a while. The central pond is octagonal known as “ grand basin” where children can be seen with rented toy yachts or model boats and playing with them. This garden is also popular with chess players as we saw couple of them playing chess.And also Palais du Luxembourg standing high which now seats the French Senate presided over by President.

( The Palais du Luxembourg)
Well during French revolution this palace even served as a prison.

We spent some time admiring the tranquility and beauty of the garden and then from there we head towards our apartment. On our way towards metro, no wait actually we caught RER not metro, we came across Monoprix, where we did our grocery shopping, picking up vegetables, chicken, cheese and freshly baked bread for the morning rush hour.

After coming back to our apartment, we rested for a while recapturing day movements and memories. My better half helped in cleaning and chopping vegetables before he started checking his mails on a limited Wi-Fi, and our dear daughter engrossed herself in a ‘Enid Blyton” book and me, well what else started cooking pasta with fresh vegetables and breast chicken portions which we picked coming back to apartment. After heating up a saucepan, well all my life I have avoided cooking with a non-stick, but here I was there cooking in a non-stick pan.Period.
 I added just a tablespoon of cooking oil, then I started sautéing chopped chicken breast pieces which I had already marinated with salt and crushed black pepper ,after 5-7 mints, while it was still sautéing,sautéed all vegetables in cooking oil with chicken pieces, but before that added onions, garlic and little bit of ginger.Then added two plump tomatoes and also 3-4 tbs of pasta sauce ( ready-made pasta sauce which we picked up earlier on first day from Leader Price about 3-4 blocks away from Gare Du Nord).Actually I was trying to create the famous Chicken Jalfrezi type of gravy and indeed it was Just like Chicken Jalfrezi, although we didn't had rice this time so made penne pasta.The red colour of gravy is due to the addition of paprika powder, not the usual red pepper powder and the heat was added due to green chilies.

I put to simmer it slowly. Meanwhile cooked the penne pasta. At the time of serving, placed the cooked pasta first, then scooped the chicken-vegetable sauce over the cooked pasta.DD even liked having it with shredded cheese. Before going to, ok almost crash into bed, I prepared and chopped the vegetables for the morning breakfast and the lunch that we would be eating while touring other parts of Paris next day.

Rest of the story to be continued in Part-2 ...............