Green lentil risotto and roasted root vegetables


Green lentil risotto with roasted root vegetables

This dish makes a great vegetarian lunch in winter. It is a good source of antioxidants and vegetable protein. If possible, choose organic vegetables and herbs.

For a balanced meal serve some green salad, olive oil vinaigrette, and good wholemeal bread. If you can’t find raz el hanout in your shops you can make a spice mixture by using equal amounts of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, black pepper and ground paprika.

2 servings

For the green lentil risotto:

120 ml green lentils

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

150 ml white wine

About 600 ml chicken stock (you may not use it all)

A generous handful of freshly grated parmesan

For the roasted root vegetables:

1 medium sweet potato

1 medium parsnip

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. raz el hanout

Chopped fresh herbs to decorate

Start with the green lentil risotto which takes about 30 minutes to cook. Warm the olive oil in a heavy casserole over medium-low heat and gently sautè the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes. 

Then add the lentils and stir well so that they are coated with olive oil. Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking like you would a classic risotto by adding first small amounts of white wine and then chicken stock. NB! You don’t need to stir all the time because lentil risotto won’t achieve the same creaminess as classic rice risotto. The cooking time is about the same, 20- 25 minutes.

When the lentils are cooked, remove the casserole from heat and stir in the parmesan.

Meanwhile roast the root vegetables. Preheat the oven to 200°C, roast.

Peel the root vegetables and chop into smallish chunks. Place 1 tbsp. olive oil in a plastic bag with 1 tsp. raz el hanout and add the root vegetables. Give the plastic bag a good shake, then place the vegetables in a single layer in an oven-proof dish. Roast for about 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Divide the green lentil risotto in the bottom of the bowls and the root vegetables on top. Decorate with fresh herbs.

Veal chops with mushroom sauce

Veal chops with mushroom sauce

Veal chops, mushrooms, and sweet potato purée are a tasty combination. Pork chops could be used instead of veal chops, they also go very well with mushrooms.

2 servings

2 nice veal chops
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
100 ml white wine
100 ml chicken stock
3 tbsp. crème fraîche, 15% fat
Leaves from a sprig of thyme
A sprig of rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh chives to decorate

For the sweet potato purée:

2 small to medium sweet potatoes
About 400 ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp. olive oil

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. Place them in a casserole and cover with vegetable stock. Boil under lid until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Keep warm and covered until you are ready to purée the sweet potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy frying pan. Fry the veal chops for 1 minute each side. Transfer into an ovenproof dish and add the sprig of rosemary for flavour. Bake in the oven for20 minutes.

Add 1 tbsp. olive oil in the frying pan and fry the mushroom slices until golden brown.

While the mushrooms are cooking, make the sauce. Heat the white wine and chicken stock in a casserole.  Add the shallot, garlic, thyme leaves, and black pepper and bring to a boil. Cook about 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced. Then whisk in the crème fraîche and add the mushrooms.

While the sauce is reducing finish the sweet potato purée. Pour most of the vegetable stock from the casserole into a bowl but don’t discard yet. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to the sweet potato chunks and press into a purée. Add more stock if needed for a nice consistence.

Serve the chops with sweet potato purée and divide the mushroom sauce over the veal. Decorate with chopped chives.

Madone de Fenestre: Cime de la Vallette de Prals revisited

Gélas viewed from trail to Tête de la Lave

We have previously made several hikes in the mountains south of la Madone de Fenestre. Some trails are extremely popular.

The trail up to Lacs de Prals in particular has a lot of visitors during the peak season.

The trails up to the ridge named Cirque de Férisson are less visited. On the day of our hike, maybe one out of ten hikers went there. We felt that another blog post featuring this area was warranted not only because the previous hikes were in autumn.

We used a small parking by the M94 road (a sharp bend about 1 km before the sanctuary) and took a shortcut to the trail above us. We ascended in Vallon de Prals, passing signpost #362. At signpost #363 (about 2050 m), we reached the vast Plan de Prals which was used as a pasture area in summer. There were cattle and horses on the day of our hike. We forked right(west), and headed to Tête de la Lave (2375 m), today’s first summit on the ridge.

The path west ran just under Tête de la Lave and we climbed off piste to the summit marked with a single cairn. After a short break, we descended to the main trail running under the ridge and headed south. We walked under Mont Pertuis. After an almost horizontal section, we started to ascend towards Cime de la Vallette de Prals (2496 m), the highest peak of the ridge. Signpost #299 was just under the summit (crossroads to Cime de Montjoia). An iron cross was erected on the summit and 30 m further east, a cairn marked the other end.

In spite of emerging cumulus clouds, the air was crisp and clear for a July day and even the coast was visible. In the east, Cime du Diable and its surrounding peaks seemed to have a thin snow coat or an ice crust after last night’s thunderstorms.

We descended to Baisse de Prals, signpost #365, then further back down to Plan de Prals via signpost #364. Completing the anticlockwise loop at signpost #363, we descended back to our starting point.

The iPhiGéNie map capture below shows our itinerary


Climb: 720 m

Distance: 10,7 km

Duration: 4h 30 active

Map: Vallée de la Vésubie 3741 OT

Cime de la Vallette de Prals hike track
Cime de la Vallette de Prals hike track

Pork with sweet potatoes and prunes

Pork with sweet potatoes and prunes

This is a warming and effortless one-pot dish, just perfect for cold winter evenings.

2 servings

About 300- 400 g fat- free pork

2 carrots

1 medium sweet potato

2 shallots

1 clove garlic

8 pitted prunes

About 250 ml chicken stock

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. Piment d’Espelette or other mild chilli powder

A pinch of saffron

Parsley to decorate


Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy cocotte, casserole, such as Le Creuset. Cut the pork into about 4 cm x 4 cm pieces and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Peel and halve the shallots and add to the casserole. Add the chicken stock, minced garlic, saffron, and Piment d’ Espelette.

Preheat the oven to 200° C.

Slice the carrots and add to the casserole. Peel the sweet potato, cut into chunks and add to the casserole. Add the prunes and bring to the boil.

Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook for about 45 minutes until the root vegetables are soft. Check occasionally; if the stew gets too dry add a little water.

Divide the stew on the plates and decorate with parsley.

Tomato, white bean, and shrimp stew


This is a super quick recipe if you use cooked or tinned white beans and cooked peeled shrimp. Served with a green side salad, and some bread if you wish, it makes a perfect balanced winter lunch.

2 servings

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

About 16 cherry tomatoes

100 ml white wine

1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs

2 tbsp. pitted black olives

1 tsp. Piment d’Espelette or other mild chilli powder

About 200- 250 ml cooked white beans or a small tin of white beans

About 150- 200 g cooked shrimp

Parsley to decorate

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Sauté the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes together with the cherry tomatoes.

Add the white wine, Provençal herbs, and Piment d’Espelette. Add the cooked beans and black olives and stir. If using tinned beans, rinse them first under running water. Cook the stew for about 10 minutes until hot.

Add the shrimp, stir and cook for about 2 minutes until reheated. Divide into two bowls and decorate with parsley.

Isola 2000: Tête Mercière

Trail above Col de la Roubine

The itinerary to Tête Mercière (2491 m) is one of the most popular hikes from Isola 2000. We have done it a few times. Today’s hike in late June was dedicated to the wild rhododendrons that were in blossom in abundance. 


Our timing was perfect regarding the rhododendrons. Isola 2000 was quiet because the summer season had not yet kicked off. Hikers need to avoid the many mountain biking trails (marked) that cross walking paths and ski runs.

From the centre of Isola 2000, we walked to signpost #80 and #81. Instead of forking left along Chemin des Italiens (as advised in the local guide), we ascended first along a steep ski run, then forked left after 150 m and continued to climb along a less steep and grassier ski slope that went under the Pélévos Télécabine. After 700 m, we again forked left to a track that crossed ski lifts and runs. We hiked past the high-altitude landing strip and came to the quasi horizontal dirt track which we followed east to Col de la Roubine (signposts #96, 96a).

From Col de la Roubine, at the foot of Tête Mercière, the trail zigzagged to the summit along the north western flank with beautiful red and green rhododendron carpets by the trail. The summit marked the border of Mercantour National Park. The southern flank of the mountain comprised vast alpine meadows, and remains of bunkers were seen here and there.

We descended to Col Mercière (2342m, signpost #95). At this crossroads we headed north along a yellow-marked trail (some rockslides on the path after the col) to signpost #92 in Vallon de Terre Rouge. The ascending trail went up to the Terre Rouge Lakes and Baisse de Druos. We forked left at this crossroads and descended back to the village.

Rhododendrons in Isola 2000
Rhododendrons in Isola 2000
Rhododendrons around Tête Mercière
Rhododendrons around Tête Mercière

Climb: 550 m

Duration: 3h 50 active

Distance: 8,5 km

Map: “Haute Tinée 2” TOP 25 N°O 3640 OT

Our GPS (iPhiGéNie) track:

Tête Mercière loop hike track
Tête Mercière loop hike track

Aubergine gratin

Aubergine gratin


This is a rich vegetable side best served with a simple piece of grilled lamb or roasted chicken. In summer, you can make it with fresh tomatoes which in winter can be substituted with good Italian tomato sauce. Freshly grated parmesan cheese is a must for this gratin.

Aubergine is known for its capacity to soak up oil or butter if you fry the slices. I have started to roast the slices in the oven and this helps to control the amount of olive oil needed. Slice the aubergine rather thickly, brush the slices on both sides with a little olive oil and roast until soft. This takes about 20 minutes in 200° C. Then use the roasted slices for the gratin.

2 servings

1 medium aubergine, rather thickly sliced 

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs

200 ml Italian tomato sauce or 3- 4 fresh tomatoes plus a little tomato paste

Freshly ground black pepper

A handful of grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200° C, roast.

Place the aubergine slices in one layer on an oven- tray lined with baking paper. Lightly brush with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile warm 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the tomato sauce or the fresh chopped tomatoes and some tomato paste. Add the herbs and black pepper, stir and continue cooking until the sauce is nice and thick, about 5 minutes if using tomato sauce and about 10- 15 minutes if using fresh tomatoes. 

Lightly oil a gratin dish with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom and place the aubergine slices on the sauce. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce and divide the parmesan over the sauce. Sprinkle with a little olive oil. Roast for about 20 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned.

Pork tenderloin with bell peppers

Pork tenderloin with bell peppers

This tasty pork tenderloin, filet mignon de porc, recipe comes from the Basque country. I have somewhat modified the original recipe but I always use Piment d’Espelette, the local mild pepper, for more authenticity. Serve this hearty country dish with blond lentils.

2 servings

1 pork tenderloin, about 400- 500 g, cut into thick slices
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
150 ml red wine
100 ml tomato sauce
1 tsp. Piment d’ Espelette or other mild pepper
1 tsp. Provençal herbs
2 tbsp. black olives

Preheat the oven to 200°C, roast.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy casserole, such as Le Creuset, and fry the pork slices for a few minutes until golden brown. Turn the slices and add the bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Continue frying stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.

Add the wine, tomato sauce, Piment d’Espelette, and olives. Stir and bring to the boil. Then transfer the casserole into the oven for 30 minutes. NB! Do not cover, roasting will give the meat and vegetables a nice colour.

Meanwhile cook the blond lentils which take about 25 minutes.

Divide on the plates. Voilà!

Cime de Rocaillon above Lucéram

Viewing Lucéram from Cime de Rocaillon

Cime de Rocaillon (1444 m) is a less visited mountain top in Nice hinterland, moyen pays, about 24 km from Nice seafront as the crow flies.

The views south and southeast do not disappoint. The medieval village of Lucéram (650 m) is clearly visible deep down in the Paillon River Valley.

From Nice, we drove to Luceram along D2566, and further to Col St-Roch where we took the D73. We parked at Col de la Porte (1057 m) which was the highest point of the road; 35 km from downtown Nice. From Col de la Porte, the summit can be reached with a very moderate effort. Starting from Lucéram is a good option if you wish to do a longer hike but that requires more than twice as much climbing.

From Col de la Porte, we started from signpost #189, and ascended gradually along a nice and soft forest trail. The direction of the trail soon turned to south-southeast. We ascended more steeply, reaching the D2566 road and signpost #193. We crossed the road and found our trail that now became narrower, running in an easterly direction along a grassy ridge to Cime de Rocaillon. At some points the trail was almost ingrown but don’t worry, you won’t get lost if you just stay on the ridge.

On this super spring day, we had the summit and the great forest trail all for ourselves! We can definitely call it an off the beaten track. In short, it was a great half-day itinerary with super views, a pleasant forest trail with a moderate ascent!

Distance: 5.9 km

Climb: 390 m

Duration: 2h 30 active

Map: Vallées de la Bévéra et des Paillons TOP 25 N°o 3741 ET

Cime de Rocaillon trail track

Florence style chicken thighs


Florence style chicken thigs

Why Florence? Because one of the main ingredients in this care-free one-pot dish is white beans and people in Florence and Tuscany have been famous bean eaters. Beans are heart-healthy carbohydrates which also contain vegetable protein, help to keep an even blood sugar and are basic ingredients in the Mediterranean Diet.

Dried white beans need to be soaked overnight in a generous amount of water. Next morning, drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Cook them in fresh water without salt for about 1 hour, maybe even longer, adding more water if needed. Cooking time depends on the size and age of the beans so after 45 minutes start testing the beans. They need to be very tender but not falling apart. When the beans are done, drain them and discard the cooking water.

This is a time-consuming process but cooked beans can be frozen in batches. Of course, you can use tinned high-quality cooked beans. Just rinse them under running water before using.

2 servings

4 organic chicken thighs with skin

Olive oil

½ medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. Provençal herbs

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. from a chicken stock cube

150 ml white wine

2 tbsp. concentrated Italian tomato paste

2 tbsp. black olives, pitted and halved

2 handfuls of sliced mushrooms

About 250 ml cooked white beans

Chopped parsley or rocket to decorate

Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a heavy casserole, such as Le Creuset, and sauté the chicken thighs on both sides until golden brown. Add the onion and garlic and continue sautéing for a few minutes. 

Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a large frying an and cook the mushrooms until nicely coloured.

Preheat the oven to 200° C roast.

Pour the white wine in Le Creuset. Add the piece of chicken stock cube, tomato paste, herbs, and black pepper and stir into a sauce.  Bring to a boil.

Add the beans and mushrooms to Le Creuset. Then transfer the casserole to the oven and roast for 30- 45 minutes checking occasionally that there is enough liquid. Add a little water if needed.

Add the olives to Le Creuset after removing from the oven. Divide on the plates and decorate with fresh herbs.