Roasted potimarron with pasta and pecorino mousse

Roasted potimarron with pasta and pecorino mousse


The following simple but tasty recipe is inspired by a TV show on the French morning TV, Télématin. Their TV journalist visited the Negresco Hotel in Nice where the cheffe Virginie Basselot cooked her recipe. Since 2018, Virginie Basselot has been at the helm of the Negresco’s restaurants. 

My recipe is a twist of Virginie Basselot’s more refined recipe which she said was made for tout le monde, everybody. 

2 servings

Whole wheat pasta such as fusilli, penne, farfalle

½ potimarron

Olive oil

For the mousse:

1 small shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. olive oil

150 ml white wine

A generous handful of grated pecorino

3  tbsp. crème fraiche, 15 % fat

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh herbs to decorate


Preheat the oven to 200° C roast.


Clean and slice the potimarron half. Place the slices in an oiled oven-proof dish and brush with olive oil. Roast for 25- 35 minutes until soft. Remove  from the oven and cut away the skin. Set aside until needed.


Meanwhile cook the pasta as advised on the package. 


For the mousse, sauté the shallot and garlic for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the white wine and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the wine has reduced by about a third. Whisk in the pecorino, crème fraiche, and some black pepper.


Drain the pasta and divide on the plates. Dot with the pecorino mousse and divide the potimarron slices on top. Decorate with some chopped fresh herbs.


Baou de la Gaude direct

 

View from Baou de la Gaude

We wanted to explore a direct trail from Saint-Jeannet up to Baou de la Gaude (796 m) which is the easternmost baou looming above the village.

We had observed a path on the southwestern flank of Baou de la Gaude which was not marked in any of our maps nor in any guides.

Spring flowers
Spring flowers
Village of Saint-Jeannet
Village of Saint-Jeannet
Baou de la Gaude
Baou de la Gaude
Start of trail
Start of trail
First part of trail
First part of trail

From the parking at the entrance of the village, we followed the GR51 about 250 m, heading east along Promenade de  Saint-Pétronille. We forked left to Chemin de Lucioles, and climbed along the narrow paved street about 300 m until we reached a narrow path on our right-hand side. There were green marks painted on rocks. We headed north, then northeast while the incline became steeper and steeper. To proceed, it became necessary to use your hands in many places. Nearing the summit, we temporarily lost the green markings. We continued straight up, found the markings again and the trail suddenly emerged to the summit. Using this path requires a good physical form, agility, and surefootedness. 


Getting steeper
Getting steeper
Scramble needed
Scramble needed
Narrow part of trail
Narrow part of trail
On western flank of Baou de la Gaude
On western flank of Baou de la Gaude
View to west from Baou de la Gaude
View to west from Baou de la Gaude
Famous old oak tree
Famous old oak tree

From the southern cliff of Baou de la Gaude we had super views down to Saint-Jeannet, the neighbouring baous, the Var River Valley and the coastline. After a well-deserved break, we headed north, now along well used trails, passing the famous old oak-tree and La Colle 844 m), the highest point of today’s hike. We reached signpost #75, then descended to signpost #76.

We forked left, heading south in Vallon de Parriau, descending to signpost #95 where we merged with the GR51 trail, and followed it back to Saint-Jeannet.


Distance: 7,1 km
Climb: 430 m
Duration: 2h 40


Baou de la Gaude direct


Red cabbage with oranges, cranberries, and walnuts

Red cabbage with oranges cranberries and walnuts


The sweetness of oranges and dried cranberries makes this winter vegetable side ideal for duck breast, magret. It will also go nicely with pork chops or turkey escalopes.

This vegetable dish is at its best in winter when the oranges from Southern Europe are in season.

2 servings

About ¼ of a red cabbage head

1 orange

2 tbsp. dried cranberries

A small handful of walnuts

2 tbsp. olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh herbs to decorate


Warm the olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy cocotte, cast iron casserole. Finely slice the red cabbage and sauté covered in the casserole for about 20- 30 minutes together with the cranberries.


Peel the orange and cut into smallish chunks. Add to the casserole. Coarsely crush the walnuts and add to the casserole. Grind over some black pepper. Cover and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.


Serve with duck breast or other meat and decorate with some fresh herbs.


Exploring Haut-de-Cagnes

 

Chateau Grimaldi
Chateau Grimaldi

Haut-de-Cagnes is a medieval Riviera hilltop village famous for its artistic past. The village is well visible from the coast. The Grimaldi Castle, Château Grimaldi dominates the old town with its tower over 90 m asl.

We visited Haut-de-Cagnes on Victory Day when both the Château Musée Grimaldi and restaurants on the Place du Château were open. We parked in the centre of Cagnes-sur-Mer and walked through the town, first following traffic signs to Haut-de-Cagnes then ascended along a pedestrian itinerary. It was less than half an hour’s walk to the Place du Château.

Haut de Cagnes pedestrian route
Haut de Cagnes pedestrian route
Stairs to Haut-de-Cagnes
Stairs to Haut-de-Cagnes
Near Chateau Grimaldi
Near Chateau Grimaldi
Chateau Grimaldi ceiling
Chateau Grimaldi ceiling
Chateau Grimaldi inner court
Chateau Grimaldi inner court

We first visited the Château Musée Grimaldi which exhibits lesser-known artists. There is also a room dedicated to Suzy Solidor showing her portraits by various artists. She was a cabaret star/singer/actress whose career in Paris and on the Riviera continued half a century from the 1920s.

The castle itself is well preserved with a remarkable painted ceiling. From the tower, the 360° view is super.


View to east from castle tower
View to east from castle tower
View to southwest from castle tower
View to southwest from castle tower
View to northwest from castle tower
View to northwest from castle tower
Suzy Solidor portraits
Suzy Solidor portraits

According to a recent article in Nice Matin, there are still about twenty artists actively working in the village. They complained that the village lacks visitors because the access is difficult. Well, it’s a short walk from the town centre but involves climbing! There’s a free electric shuttle bus as well.

Haut-de-Cagnes is indeed very quiet compared with St-Paul-de-Vence which draws crowds. But St-Paul also has several art galleries and shops which are open every day whereas the artists in Haut-de-Cagnes only have open doors every first Sunday of the month. 


Before walking back, we had a nice relaxing lunch in one of the restaurants on the Place du Château.


Distance: 3,4 km including the museum


Climb: 110 m including the castle tower


Duration: Less than 1 h from Parking de la Villette to the Place du Château and back


Haut-de-Cagnes walk track
Haut-de-Cagnes walk track


Herbal white bean purée

 

Herbal white bean purée


It is always a good idea to have cooked white beans in your freezer. I always cook a large amount of white beans, just remember to soak them overnight, and freeze them in batches. These can then easily be incorporated in various stews or soups. They can also be puréed and used as a dip or a part of a salad.

2 servings for a lacto-vegetarian salad

2 handfuls of cooked defrosted white beans

50 ml tasty olive oil

Juice and zest of ½ organic lemon

A pinch of salt (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper

A handful of chopped fresh organic herbs such as basil, chives, parsley, mint etc.


Place all the ingredients in a deep bowl and purée with a handheld mixer into a nice consistence. If needed, add 1-2 tbsp. of water. 


Divide the purée in the middle of the plates. Surround with baby salad leaves and parmesan shavings. Sprinkle over olive oil vinaigrette. Serve with some good whole wheat or rye bread for a carefree and super healthy lunch.


Caussols to Calern Observatory and Notre Dame de Calern


Côte d Azur Observatory

Collet de Maçon, our planned goal today, was covered with snow and we decided instead to hike along the GR4 towards the Côte d’Azur Observatory situated on the vast Calern Plateau. The southern flank of Sommet de Calern offered a certain microclimate on the sunny winter day, just a few days after a heavy snowfall.

Caussols Church
Caussols Church
GR4 to Calern
GR4 to Calern
Caussols Plateau seen from Calern
Caussols Plateau seen from Calern
Colle du Maçon
Colle du Maçon
Limestone formations Calern
Limestone formations Calern

From the Caussols Mairie parking, we crossed the D12 road (signpost #30) and followed the GR4. There was still a few patches of snow on the trail. Higher up, we passed the now familiar limestone formations. We reached signpost #50 on the plateau, and left the GR4. There were several paths leading to the observatory. We hiked along a trail near the precipice. The views were spectacular as far as to Mont Mounier in the north.


Haut Montet viewed from Calern
Haut Montet viewed from Calern
Mont Mounier seen from Calern
Mont Mounier seen from Calern
Montagne de Thiey and Sommet de Calern
Montagne de Thiey & Sommet de Calern
Cheiron Massif seen from Calern
Cheiron Massif seen from Calern
Cave entrance Calern
Cave entrance Calern
Notre Dame de Calern chapel
Notre Dame de Calern chapel

After our picnic, we returned to signpost #50 and continued along the GR4 about 300 m until we saw an unmarked trail up to Notre dame de Calern, a small chapel built inside a cave. From the cave entrance, a 10 m long tunnel led to the chapel which was behind a closed gate. A beautiful shrine!

We descended to the main trail and headed back to our starting point.


Climb: 250 m
Distance: 7.2 km
Duration: 2h 30 
Map: 3543 ET Haute Siagne


Caussols Calern trail


Moroccan style sardine fillet and potato bake


Moroccan style sardine fillet and potato bake

 Chermoula is a Moroccan sauce and marinade usually served with fish or vegetables and chicken. Chermoula was traditionally prepared in a mortar with a pestle to crush all the herbs so that they best released their flavour. Because I am not a fan of fresh coriander I have only used parsley for my chermoula.

2 servings

6 sardine fillets

3-5 new potatoes

2 medium onions

8 black olives, pitted

1 lemon

Olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

A few sprigs of parsley to decorate

For the chermoula:

4 tbsp. finely cut parsley

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tsp. paprika powder

2 tsp. cumin powder

2 tbsp. lemon juice

3 tbsp. olive oil

A pinch of salt

Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200° C.


Prepare the chermoula. Crush the minced garlic, a pinch of salt, black pepper, paprika powder, and cumin powder in a mortar with a pestle. Add the parsley, cut finely with scissors, and the olive oil. Juice the lemon and use 2 tbsp. for the chermoula saving the rest for the potato bake. Crush all the ingredients in the mortar into a nice consistence.


Place the sardine fillets on a large plate skin- side up and spread half of the chermoula on them. Cover with foil and keep refrigerated until needed.


Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut into thin slices. Peel the onions and thinly slice them. In a bowl, mix the potato and onion slices with 2 tbsp. olive oil, the rest of the lemon juice, and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour into a non-stick oven-proof dish and bake for 30 minutes. Then add the rest of the chermoula and the olives and mix. Continue baking for 30 minutes, covering the dish if needed, or until the potatoes are soft.  


Place the sardine fillets on top of the potato- onion bake and return the dish into the oven for 10 minutes. Decorate with a few sprigs of parsley and serve with some wilted spinach or other greens. 


Vaucluse: Long loop hike above Malaucène

 

Chapelle de Piaud


In Vaucluse(84), the Terra Rando Guide offers over 150 hiking itineraries from short walks to more demanding routes.

Malaucène is mainly known as one of the gateways to Mont Ventoux, and not surprisingly shops were full of cycling paraphernalia. 

Malaucène centre
Malaucène centre
Pont Vieux Malaucène
Pont Vieux Malaucène
Near Notre Dame du Groseau
Near Notre Dame du Groseau

We wanted to check the longer loop presented in the guidebook. It turned out to be a variable itinerary, with the best stretches in the middle of the hike, on the picturesque ridge located south of the town. However, the return trail from Lac du Paty was less interesting. The marked trail went near private properties, and at one point free roaming very aggressive dogs threatened us! The return itinerary also comprised paved country roads, crossings of the busy N938 road etc. 


Glimpse of Malaucène from trail
Glimpse of Malaucène from trail
Towards Chapelle de Piaud
Towards Chapelle de Piaud

From Malaucène, we followed Av. de Petrarque, then the main road to Mont Ventoux (D974) about 900 m where we forked right (signposts) before Chapelle Notre-Dame du Groseau. We then walked past some abandoned warehouses and located a narrow path which ascended in the woods and soon crossed the D974 road again. We now headed east and climbed along a good trail to Chapelle de Piaud which was the highest point of our hike (about 690 m). We forked right (south), and descended a bit before crossing the D974 again.


We descended rapidly along a wide but rocky trail to Combe Obscure where we forked right (south). At a crossroads we took the right-hand path and climbed to a long, mostly forested ridge. We descended slowly, heading southwest. We crossed another local road (D19) and continued towards Lac du Paty (300 m). We passed the Chapelle du Paty a little before the lake. The ascent to Chapelle de Piaud and the long forested ridge marked the most interesting parts of the hike. 


Trail below Chapelle Piaud
Trail below Chapelle Piaud
Near Combe Obscure
Near Combe Obscure
Glimpse of Mont Ventoux
Glimpse of Mont Ventoux
Ridge above Malaucène
Ridge above Malaucène
View to south from the ridge
View to south from the ridge

The final descent to the lake was steep. We then crossed a parking area, still following the GR de Pays markings, climbed a bit before turning northeast where we met the angry dogs. We came to a crossroads near Font Mourèle, headed north while the  GR de Pays trail turned left. We continued along a narrow paved road to the N938 road, crossed it and followed yellow markings. The trail made a small detour passing some vineyards before merging with another paved road, and we climbed along it to Saint-Michel by the N938 road. To avoid the busy road, our itinerary forked left and we descended along a paved road about 1,2 km then turned 90° right (east) then up to Col de Ronin (371 m) where we finally had Malaucène in sight.

However, the direct pedestrian route (Chemin du Col de Ronin) was blocked due to construction, and we had to follow the busy N938 down to the town centre. All in all, we would recommend an out and back hike, having for example the Chapelle du Paty as a turning point.


Descent from Malaucène ridge
Descent from Malaucène ridge
Near Chapelle du Paty
Near Chapelle du Paty
Chapelle du Paty
Chapelle du Paty

Climb: 660 m
Distance: 16,5 km
Duration: 5h 40
Map: IGN 3040 and 3140 ET

Malaucène loop track
Malaucène loop track