Calcutta beef curry

Calcutta beef curry

Calcutta montage 2

From popular demand, I finally post this recipe of a slow cooked beef stew with all the flavours from India. I have made it a few times and have improved it along the way. I was very proud of the result. It reminded me of the texture and flavour of a great stew I had at restaurant Ganapati in Peckam, South London in the UK. (Read the Guardian’s review here). And guess what! I am flying to South India at the end of the month and will certainly come back very inspired with recipe I will be happy to share. In the meantime, try this recipe, it will transport you to India too.


–       1 lbs (450g) stewing steak, cubed

–       5 tbsp of yogurt

–       1 tbsp of medium curry powder

–       2 tbsp of coconut oil

–       1 dried bay leaf

–       1 cinnamon stick 3 cloves

–       4 green cardamom pods, bruised

–       2 medium onions, skinned and sliced

–       2 clove of garlic, skinned and crushed

–       1 teaspoon of finely grated fresh root ginger

–       1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

–       2 leveled tsp dried chili flakes

–       1 leveled tsp ground turmeric

–       2 leveled tsp ground cumin

–       1 1/4 cup (1/2 pint) 300 ml beef stock

–       Salt


  1. Mix together the yogurt and the curry powder
  2. Pour over the meat on a non-metallic bowl
  3. Season with salt, cover and marinate in the fridge over 24h
  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the cardamom, bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Stir-fry for 1 min.
  2. Add the onions. Stir-fry over a medium heat for 5 min.
  3. Pound the chili flakes and cumin seeds in a mortar and add over the onions.
  4. Add the grated ginger, crushed garlic and turmeric to form a paste
  5. Add the marinated meat and stir-fry for 12 min over low heat.
  6. Pour the beef stock, bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.
  7. Serve with basmati rice.

Note on tenderising the meat with yogurt

Yogurt based marinade works right through the meat and is the most tenderizing of all methods but in order for the yogurt to do its magic; you need to allow it enough time to work. Overnight marinade is the best. The live culture, fat, and lactic acid are the key components of yogurt that help tenderize all type of meat. Prefer full fat yogurt. The marinade should include salt. In order to increase the tenderising process, you can add tomatoes to increase the acid, ginger for enzymes and oil to increase the fat.


Mais- Taco restaurant/bar – hot flavours in the Mile End, Montreal

Mais- Taco restaurant/bar - hot flavours in the Mile End, Montreal

Mais montage Tired of fine dining. That’s how I feel after too many excesses and heavy restaurant bills (my two last ones were respectively 280$ and 206$ for two, ouch!). So I wanted a break. I asked a colleague from Mile End about a place that would fit the bill: relaxed, good food and affordable. She recommended taco restaurant Maïs on St Laurent, open since December.

I called to book but I was told the restaurant does not take reservations. However if full, they would be happy to take my phone number, put my name on a list and call me as soon as a place is available. Cool. I decided to go early instead. At 6PM, on Friday, at minus 24C outside, I stepped in a barn like atmosphere complete with dimmed down antique filament light bulbs, hanged jars on the beams and rough wood panel like cladding on the wall. With its communal table at the centre, it felt instantly warm and welcoming. And good news, there were still plenty of seats around the table and some at the bar where some hipsters were having a Tecate.

The staff contributes a lot to the feel of the place by their style (tattoo, moustache, vintage polo shirt), their gentle service and the explanation they give about the food. Our waiter, had a hard time figuring out whether to speak to us in English or French as we kept switching amongst each other but that was not an issue because he was as hybrid as we are. That adds-up to the Mile End experience.

We ordered some jalapeno-marinated wings to share. They are not the kind of wings you’d get at La cage au sport, nope. These ones were real wings. I am not a fan of wings but my friends said they had just the right amount of zing and were proper, meaty pieces. To be picky, they were fully cooked but could have been a bit more crisp on the outside.

The scallop ceviche with mandarin, cress and the usual coriander and lime totally delivered the freshness and transported me back to the street of Puerto Vallarta. It is served on a crispy tostada. We followed with a mix of tacos. Ranging from $3 to $4 each, we took a selection. I found the pork belly served with black beans a bit too tough to my taste but the traditional carnitas was tender and so satisfying (and with a square of crackling.) I wish I ordered more. I did not try the mushroom taco, beef taco or fish taco but I reserve that for my next visit. From what I heard from my friends, they were excellent! (The fish taco wasn’t just shredded bits of fish, but a full morsel of arctic char, tasty and consistent).

Maïs sells beer in different formats but no pints. They’ve gone metric. So after the smaller glass you can order a 1-litre or 2-litre jar. Of course, there is also a good selection of tequila-based cocktails to discover. While I found my tequila cocktail with Chartreuse a bit watery, the old mezcal is what I call a drink i.e. with a real taste of alcohol, perfect to finish our dinner in fact. The margaritas were done in a small glass, the traditional way, i.e. real lime juice and you can taste the tequila and triple sec. However, if you’re used to the big cocktail glassed and mounds of crushed ice you will be disappointed and should order something else.

We were laughing at the table as we remembered the old concept restaurant of the 90’s when a Mexican had to have sombreros on the wall and mariachi music. Maïs totally breaks from that has-been trend and offers good honest food, prepared fresh with care, well priced in a hip and relaxed environment. I’ll go back.

Agrandir le plan

Maïs, Mexican restaurant/bar, 5439 Blvd St-Laurent, Montreal, QC. (514) 507-7740

Tue – Wed: 11:30 – 14:00, 17:00 – 23:00 Thu – Fri: 11:30 – 14:00, 17:00 – 00:00 Sat: 17:00 – 00:00

Public transport: Métro Laurier / Bus #55 – St. Viateur Cash Only (but there is an ATM inside which charges only $1 fee)

Facebook: Already 919 Likes on their Facebook page


Joe La Croute, not your average Joe!

Joe La Croute, not your average Joe!

Each brand has a story to tell, as does each artisan baker. After spending many years in Europe, my new local baker felt the call to come back home. On the window of his new shop he shares his story with anyone who takes the time to read it, a story about good bread, friendship, passion and pull of home.

This guy is « Joe la Croûte » which would translate as « Crusty Joe ». He recently opened his own bakery rue Casgrain, on the perimeter of the famous Jean Talon market. Some would say we had enough bakeries but did we really? Première Moisson has grown too much, the queues are endless and the service impersonal. Fromagerie Hamel also sells bread from the St Amour bakery but even if the bread is good, nothing beats getting to know who bakes your bread or even to engage in an informal chat with him. So Joe La Croûte has his place even if it weren’t just for the quality of his bread.

Joe loves bread. And he speaks proudly of his Quebec accent when he shares his story on the window of his mini-bakery. It is a simple and sincere one. During the morning, you will often see Joe (his real name Daniel) kneading or taking the fresh baked bread out of the oven. The bread is made with a good crust, as it should be. I loved the one made with goji berries, to eat as is for breakfast. You will also find “pain batard”, baguette with spelt and other specialties sometimes sold by weight. I strongly recommend a visit!

In the name of bread, friendship and Quebec, go Joe!

If you do not have time to read the story on the window during your visit, here it is in its entirety. This is the story of a guy who loves bread, his country and people.

“Let me introduce myself, Crusty Joe, but you can just call me Joe. I am a baker. I make bread, and a good one at that. It’s not just me saying who says so. So do my friends and my clients. I’d rather tell you right away so that there is no secrecy between us. Most of my clients are also my friends. It’s not pre-arranged, it’s like that, that’s all. It’s probably because I like it to make bread, good bread. And I like making people taste it. And I like that people talk about it because all tastes are worth talking about. So the more we talk about it the closer I get with customers. It creates relationships. Sometimes the relationships become tighter but also simpler, then we no longer talk to customers but friends. I have friends here but also in France, because I spent a while there, with a friend, a baker who has a shop in Aix-en-Provence. Together we made bread.

And we enjoyed our bread. And we talked about our bread. And we created connections. And we made lots of friends. It was really nice. I enjoyed myself very much, but one day, one morning in January, I realised I was starting to miss something. It was like a call from home. I woke up a morning, with a serious urge to rehear our beautiful accent again. So I told my friend that it was time for me to go back home, and I did. I had a strong desire to see if I could make new friends here. That’s as simple as that. This is why I am right here in front of you. So if you feel like it, well come in and meet me. I’ll tell you about my bread and I will make you taste it. And who knows maybe we will become friends. Joe. “

Joe La Croûte 7024, av Casgrain, Montréal, QC H2S 3A2 514-272-9704


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Strawberries, fresh peas and rocket summer salad

Strawberries, fresh peas and rocket summer salad

Strawberry, peas, rocket salad

Early this morning, I visited Jean Talon market before the crowd. After the flowers, now the fresh locally grown vegetables are taking over the stalls. Every week of the summer new arrivals mark our progress in the season. Today even more strawberries and also peas have arrived. I hardly can remember when I had fresh peas last. It brings me back to my childhood in my grandpa’s kitchen. Sat on low stools (designed to milk cows), around a large green bucket under the huge Brittany clock, we shelled pea pods together. My brother and I ate them raw.

I bought some peas. Inspiration came quick: a colourful summer salad combining strawberries, fresh peas and rocket. I am a fan of baby rocket. It has strong flavour and a rich peppery taste. It is the perfect base for refreshing summer salad. For the dressing, less is definitely more with rocket. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil is my pick. Balsamic vinegar is often combined with strawberries. It intensifies their flavour and brings out their sweetness.

Fresh peas are slightly sweet. Cooked al dente, they bring freshness and crunch. I top the plate with fresh ground pepper. It echoes the rocket and enhances the strawberries. The result is a colourful, stylish and balanced summer salad. The recipe works well with baby spinach and blueberries too.

For 4 persons

  • 4 handfuls of baby rocket
  • A medium basket of strawberries
  • 4 handfuls of fresh pea pods
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 spoons of olive oil
  • Black pepper
  1. Shell the peas.
  2. Boil some water.
  3. Blanch the peas for 6 minutes so they are still al dente.
  4. Drain, rinse in cold water and place them in a bowl with ice cubes to ensure the cooking is stopped.
  5. Wash the strawberries under fresh water.
  6. Remove the stems and cut in quarters.
  7. In a large bowl, toss the rocket gently with the olive oil and vinegar.
  8. Place a handful of the rocket in the centre of the plate.
  9. Sprinkle some peas on top and the rest at the periphery of the mount of rocket.
  10. Scatter the strawberry quarters judiciously on top.
  11. Sprinkle on some more vinegar and some freshly grinded pepper just before serving.

Maple sap arrives before the sugar moon

Maple sap arrives before the sugar moon
Maple syrup might be to Quebec what wine is to France and Olive oil is to Spain. Maple is part of the history and the cultural identity of la Belle Province. It is a source of pride. Québec produces 77% of the world’s maple syrup.
Well before the arrival of the Europeans, Aboriginal peoples were already using maple sap. Traditional celebrations surrounded the sugar season including maple dances around the sugar moon (the first full moon of spring).
It’s during spring when nights are still below 0c but days average around 5 or 6c that maple sap starts to flow. Maple trees are literally tapped by boring holes into their trunks so the exuded sap can be collected. It is then boiled down to obtain concentrated syrup.
To celebrate “le temps des sucres” I imagined a decadent cupcake recipe built around maple products. I substituted sugar with maple syrup in the base and used both maple butter and maple liqueur.
Technically I would need more maple syrup in volume to substitute sugar as maple syrup average 66% sugar vs. 96% for granulated sugar. But maple syrup is more than sugar. It is flavour. I kept the sweetness of the dough low so the maple syrup’s woody flavour of vanilla, crème brulée and spice could express themselves without being overpowered.
I used maple butter as the main ingredient in the frosting. Despite its name and consistency, maple butter is not butter but just maple syrup boiled longer and therefore at a higher sugar concentration (86 to 87%). To top it up, I blended the silkiness of maple spirit “Gélinotte”* into it, adding subtle and sophisticated notes. That made all the difference.

Click the PDF icon below to download this cupcake recipe. Please let me know how it goes or leave your suggestions in comments.