PUMPKIN CURRY AND THE CATACOMBS

Chick pea curry

Perfect Halloween supper!

Halloween is approaching and soon we are going to be flooded with recipes for pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie, so I thought that I would get in early with a pumpkin curry – well actually it is ‘Butternut squash and chickpea curry’, but a pumpkin would do just as well.

Halloween conjures up images of witches and ghouls, (though in France ‘Toussaint’s’ is a little different and I will talk about this closer to the time) so what better place to go ghost hunting than in the Paris Catacombs………….

The Catacombs, or to give them their official name ‘The Municipal Ossuary’ date back to the end of the 18th century, when the ‘Cemetery of the Innocents’ near the present day ‘Les Halles’, became overcrowded (not surprising as it had been in existence for around 1,000 years!) and a health hazard.
All burials stopped there in 1785 and the process of moving existing bones to another site began in 1786 after the ground had been consecrated.

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The transfer of bones and bodies took place at night and the procession of carts covered in a black veil to shield their creepy cargo from curious onlookers, was accompanied by priests chanting the ‘services of the dead’ along the route to the present site in the ‘Denfert Rochereau’ area in the 14th ‘arrondissement’ of Paris and took 2 years to complete moving all the bones from all the ancient cemeteries in the city.
There is thought to be the remains of around 6 million people entombed here, giving the Catacombs of Paris the reputation of being ‘The World’s largest Grave’!

Today they are a major Paris tourist attraction and queues in summer can be quite long as there is a limit on how many people (200) can be underground at any one time (for obvious difficulties of evacuation in the event of an emergency) and visitors are meticulously counted in and out.

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Part of the 2km of underground tunnels forming the ‘Catacombs’

There are 2km of tunnels and galleries and a visit takes around 45 minutes
N.B. – THEY ARE NO TOILET FACILITIES ONCE UNDERGROUND and there are 130 steep steps to go down and 83 back to street level (the exit is in a different location to the entrance).
The temperature in places is around 14 degrees, so even if it is hot outside, take a cover up.

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Steps leading back up from the ‘Catacombes’ – you have been warned!

The visit is not advised for people with cardiac or respiratory problems, young children or people of a ‘nervous disposition’. The Catacombs are not accessible to persons with limited mobility and children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

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Not of a nervous disposition!

I found it thrilling, descending what seems like forever down long narrow corridors which are adequately lit for safety purposes, but not so bright as to spoil the atmosphere. I was fascinated to see that it is actually laid out like a town underground, with ‘streets’ (along with name plaques!) mirroring actual streets above.

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Avenue de Monsouris

These tunnels (streets) open into a series of galleries (squares) and here I was surprised to see the carvings and frescos made by the workers who excavated and reinforced the site (most was part of former stone mines), as I was by the meticulous order of the bones.

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An unexpected and welcome relief after endless skulls and bones!

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Not the best of photos as no flash was allowed and it was quite dark in this are, but you get the idea

The Catacombs are one of the ’14 Musées du Paris and I have given practical information on opening times, access and prices, along with a list of the other museums and the end of this post.

Forgive me my macabre imagination, but I think that the chick peas resemble little skulls………..

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Ingredients
Serves 2 generously as a main meal with rice, or 4 as a side dish

1 medium pumpkin or butternut squash (potiron/citrouille)

1 small onion finely chopped

4 oz / 100gm fresh baby spinach leaves

425 g can of chick peas (pois chiches) drained and rinsed

½ pint / 250 ml of coconut milk

½ pint / 250 ml of vegetable stock

1 tablespoon (2 cuilliers a soupe) of fish stock (optional)

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 small red chilli finely chopped

1 inch / 1.5cm fresh ginger finely chopped

1 teaspoon (cuillier a café) of cumin

1 teaspoon of turmeric

1 teaspoon of curry powder

Freshly ground sea salt to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until soft, taking care not to brown.

Add the ginger, chilli, curry powder, cumin and turmeric and a little salt and cook gently for 1-2 minutes to release the aroma of the spices

Add the pumpkin and coat with the spices, then stir in the coconut milk and vegetable stock and fish stock required.

Simmer (mijoter) gently uncovered for around 15 minutes to reduce the stock to a thick soupy consistency

Add the chick peas and continue to simmer for a further 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft and the chick peas tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (add a little more water and cover if becoming too dry)

Add the spinach leaves a little at a time and wilt before adding the next batch

Season with freshly ground sea salt to taste and serve immediately with Jasmine rice and/or naan bread.

Simple, healthy and tasty dish to warm you up after ‘Trick or Treating’!

The Catacombs – Practical Information

Open daily from 10am to 8pm (last entrance 7pm) except for Mondays and May 1st

Entrance fee is 10 euro full rate and 8 euro reduced rate

BAGS ARE SEARCHED AT THE EXIT AND ANYONE FOUND STEALING BONES WILL BE PROSECUTED

There are 11 free museums which form part of the 14 Musée de Paris (there is an opportunity to give a voluntary donation to help maintain these museums, 5 euro per party is gratefully accepted)

City of Paris Museum of Modern Art Balzac’s House (except when a temporary exhibition is programed) Bourdelle Museum* Carnavalet Museum – History of Paris (see my blog post) Cernuschi Museum – Museum of Asian Art Cognacq-Jay Museum – Museum of the XVIIIth century art* Museum of the General Leclerc and the Paris’ Liberation – Jean Moulin Museum Petit Palais – City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts (see my blog post) Museum of Romantics Victor Hugo’s House (see my blog post) Zadkine Museum* * Only a section of these museums is free when there is a temporary exhibition

There is an entrance fee to the remaining 3 museums:-

Catacombs

The Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame

Galliera – Museum of Fashion

Entrance fee at the Catacombs is 10 € full price, 8€ reduced rate. Entrance fee at the Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame is 7€ full price, 5€ reduced rate. Combined ticket for Catacombs and Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame: 15 € full price, 10 € reduced rate. Entrance fee at Galliera-Museum of Fashion depends from one temporary exhibition to another

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9 thoughts on “PUMPKIN CURRY AND THE CATACOMBS

  1. Osyth says:

    No potager is complete without a fine array of pumpkins and the veg stall at the market is positively bowed under with them. To help out I bought a fine squash yesterday which I was going to soup but am now inspired to curry a la Lindy! I’m with you on those skulls by the way – they are very like pois de chiches! I haven’t been to the catacombes but have meant to for an eternity. I will make it my priority next time I’m in Paris – for someone that can’t watch the most lightweight horror films, I have a fascination with cemeteries. Great post, ma’am! xx

  2. lindaravello says:

    Eeeek Osyth, I am obsessed with cemeteries, I used to spend a lot of time in Montparnasse cemetery, reading, writing, having lunch, just wandering around, when we lived near there.
    When you come to Paris, I will show you around Pere Lachaise also – and the creepiest of all Montmartre – with a cat on every tomb – no lie!
    I feel a cemetery post coming on…….
    I have a FAB curried squash, lentil and coconut soup recipe – I am not sure if I have already posted this eons ago – if not I will………..xx

  3. Lynz Real Cooking says:

    Wow what a unique place to go!!!! I loved the pictures although creepy! I never knew about such a place before! Very interesting and different post! It is great to see something different and very timely! Nice recipe as well!

  4. Four Pesky Hobbits Mama says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this post Lindy, I am still really sad we didn’t get the opportunity to visit here, especially after your description and photo’s. Bailey was really impressed and says he would definitely like to visit if we go again to Paris. I know Cordelia would LOVE it here! The recipe looks delicious too 😀

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