A belated Christmas Lunch

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Here is the table laid out by my mother in law for a belated Christmas lunch. Some of the family members were busy with prior commitments, so the Christmas dinner had to be kept pending by 2 days this Christmas this year. But of course, no Christmas is complete without a family get together so the opportunity for a belated Christmas lunch was an excuse to continue on with the season’s festivities! 🙂

Isn’t the table looking gorgeous?? My in laws are particular about presentation and there always has to be a colour theme going. For this Christmas lunch, my mother in law chose white / silver and blue. She has a big presentation collection for other special meals too. The tiny cruet set (salt and pepper glass pots) are something I have been hunting around for here in France a long while, and somehow never been successful to have a set like hers. She says her is a Christophle set, and though I don’t want something as expensive, I’d be happy with any glass set, but I wish to have a miniature set just like hers!

Being French, of course, a lot of attention and detail is given into the courses and choice of foods. An aperitif of various choices were served, and the following 3 choices formed the appetisers too : grilled bread topped with fish roe, and some others with cheese; a really delectable appetiser that was edible spoons filled with onion jam and topped with foie gras. The onion jam is no ordinary supermarket jam, it’s ‘artisanal’, and the taste explodes in the mouth especially coupled with the foie gras. The third choice is a pamplemousse (grapefruit) with skewers stuck around it containing cherry tomatoes and bits of jambon.

 

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Don’t they all look fantastic? I hope someday I can be even half the lovely hostess that my mother in law is! Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of the main course. I hope my words can do justice to what it was, despite the absence of a photo. The main meal was a very traditional meal, it is the Magret de Canard, a  special and superior form of duck breast meat, which has plenty of fat around the meat. (It is actually the same duck that is reared for foie gras). The duck breast is seared in the pan and cooked in it’s own fat that gives the meat a heavenly flavour. The meat should be seared for only 10 mins and then should be allowed to rest for 20 mins or even more before it is served. (It is important for the meat to relax). My Mother in law cooked the meat along with it’s accompaniments, almonds and chestnuts.

For desserts, here is a slight variation to the traditional Yule Log. This one is not made with chocolate but with sponge cake filled with the cream of chestnuts. Yummy, very!! The other dessert prepared is also a very traditional French dessert : Strawberry Charlotte.Image

 

As usual, the meals at my inlaws satisfies my appetite both for beauty and presentation, and my hunger of the meal itself. The relaxed conversation that follows allows us to unwind and savour every moment spent in the company of family. French meals can be quite long, so the lunch that started at 12.30pm, can end at after 4pm with the last sips of espresso and chocolates that follow. Thinking about my Indian family, such a long winded meal would be unthought of. Meals would have to be perfunctory to make way for the siesta to follow in the afternoon! 🙂

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Pretty paper snowflakes!

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Well, to be fair, this photograph was taken exactly a year ago. That was the first time I attempted making paper snowflakes. I have giant windows around my apartment and I couldn’t stand to see them all empty. So with a little bit of imagination and lots of help from online tutorials, I came across a few designs, and I was quite pleased to put them up on my windows. (The cats and the swallows were my ideas).

Here’s a view of another window with a different set of snowflakes from the outside (with my beermug of almost frozen parsley in it) :

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Of course, I attempted making more snowflakes this year, but honestly I am not that pleased with them. I took the designs off a creative magazine, a really wonderful French magazine called Marie Claire Idées, and though the designs are really quite different from the usual ones, they have a certain Russian theme going on them, and in the end I wondered if they really did convey the idea of Christmas. I think they would look better on some other time of the year, and perhaps on different colored papers. I haven’t taken any photos as yet. But one of my neighbours really liked my previous snowflakes so I put up my old ones on the front gate window panes of our building.

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Here in France, it doesn’t feel so much like Christmas as yet, as the weather is quite mild. Last year, it was cold but it snowed only a day. I wonder if it will snow this year too, I hope it does. As much as I like the snow, I feel very sad thinking of the homeless. There is an estimated ‘official’ count of 150,000 homeless in France. A recent documentary on TV that I watched the other day opened my eyes to a lot of the hardships they have to go through especially during winter. Here’s another shot of my favourite cat, Mimi sharpening her claws as she gets ready to face the cold weather. Happy and safe holidays to all you readers!

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Shaad, a pre-birth celebration for the Bengali woman

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Currently facing my 6th month of pregnancy, my Mother wanted to celebrate it by having a Shaad, meaning ‘desire’ in Bengali. Traditionally, the Shaad is celebrated along with the pregnant woman’s close friends and relatives, the idea being to surround the woman with as many positive vibes possible. The actual meal of the shaad is supposed to consist of all of the pregnant woman’s favourite food.

That wasn’t too tough for me to decide on what I wanted to eat, since I like almost everything of what Bengali food has to offer! Being a very unfussy person, I didn’t want to have any get together. My cook in Kolkata, Shumi prepared this lovely lavish feast for me. I have never seen or heard of a shaad before, so I had no idea that so much hard work was involved into making one. (If I’d have known earlier, I would have told my gentle cook not to bother). But Shumi insisted and when she finally laid it out on the table, I felt tears dangerously close, so touched was I to see how much she cared for my pregnancy, and my well being.

She didn’t have to ask me what I liked, she knew already I loved her cooking, so she went ahead with her imagination to what my shaad should look like. And by the way, the steel plate and the steel glass used are the very same ones that I used to use as a child when I was 4 years old onwards. The steel plate has indentations to where the vegetables or meat dishes go into. On my plate, on the top center, is the Bengali dessert called ‘payesh’, or rice pudding. To the left is the dal (lentils) and to the right is a spicy potato preparation. Below on the main section of the plate, is staple diet of Bengal, rice and alongside the rice, on either side is a collection of fried vegetables (potato, aubergine, bitter gourd, okra, cabbage) and fish. Shumi gave the final touch of garnish on the rice and water by adding a sprig of basil. Doesn’t it look sooo appetising and yummy??

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