Chicken soup

Chicken soup

For many chicken soup is comfort food for cold winter days, especially if one is suffering from a flu. This antioxidant- rich soup may even help to prevent winter infections.

4 servings

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into about 3x3 cm chunks
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 litre vegetable stock
100 ml brown rice, instant cooking
2 handfuls of chopped Savoy cabbage
3 cm piece of fresh root ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp Piment d’Espelette or medium hot chilli flakes
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Chopped parsley

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy casserole, cocotte. Cut the chicken into chunks and fry in the casserole until golden brown on all sides. Add the onion and garlic to the casserole and continue sautéing for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to simmering.

Slice the carrots, microwave for a few minutes until al dente, and add to the casserole. Peel and finely chop the ginger, then add to the casserole. Add the turmeric, Piment d’Espelette, brown rice, and the chopped Savoy cabbage. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Divide the soup into bowls and decorate with spring onions and parsley. Leftovers can be frozen.

Hike above River Estéron

Above Bouyon

The village of Bouyon (640 m) on the sinuous RD1 road from Carros is only 30 km from Nice. The village is the starting point of this loop hike which also passes the village of Les Ferres at col des Ferres (596 m). Bouyon is a tidy village with one restaurant, an auberge, and a pizzeria. In 1887 it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt two years later.

On the way back to Bouyon the trail offers super views of the Valley of Estéron. We have previously made this hike some years ago in July when the heat was intense. It was much more agreeable in September weather.

The hike starts from signpost #5 right after the centre of the village. We first took the stairs passing several houses above the village and crossed signpost #6, showing the trail to Les Ferres. We continued along the southern slope of Crête de l’Estellier passing signpost #100 and soon the highest point at 1000 m. We now descended sharply along a narrower trail towards Les Ferres and had the feeling that this particular part had been less used. We only met two free roaming goats up here, nothing else! We descended down to the RD1 road just below Les Ferres. From here, we took a small road that descended below the RD1 road, and continued about 3 km as far as to signpost #102. Here we forked right along a good path that led to oratoire Notre-Dame-du-Brec, a three-meter-high oratory with views straight down to the Gorges of Estéron.

The trail after the oratory gave the best views of the gorges. We still descended quite a lot, to about 300 m before starting to ascend back to Bouyon. At signpost #103 in the woods, we took the trail showing the way directly to Bouyon. Not surprisingly, is was a continuous ascent back to our starting point.

Another example of a great and perhaps a less frequented trail in the Nice hinterland, l'arrière-pays Nicois. The itinerary comprises two 300-340 m ascents, and a long descent between them. The French Randozygène guide (Gorges de l’Estéron) has a description of this hike, although they are a bit optimistic regarding the walking time (theirs: 4h15, ours 4H45). When going there in autumn, keep in mind the hunting days in Alpes-Maritimes.

Ascent: 640 m
Free-roaming goat on the trail Bouyon Les Ferres

Map: IGN 3642ET Vallée de l’Estéron

Les Ferres
Trail image courtesy of Google Maps

Oratoire de Notre Dame du Brec
Bouyon hike trail image

Provencal Lamb Stew

Provencal lamb stew

This stew is a brilliant, carefree party dish, because it can be made the day before and just reheated slowly while the guests are having apéro, nibbles with drinks.

A whole lamb shoulder normally weighs about 1100 g, sometimes even more, but after the bone and most of the fat layer covering the shoulder are removed, the remaining amount of meat is for four generous servings. Any stew leftovers can be frozen and incorporated later into a pasta sauce.

4 servings

About 600- 800 g lamb shoulder, cut into about 3x3 cm cubes
3 tbsp. olive oil
About 15 small new potatoes (20 if they are tiny)
3 plum tomatoes, quartered
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2- 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small aubergine, cut into 3x3 cm cubes
100 ml tomato sauce
2 tbsp. flour
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 orange peel
Black pepper
300 ml red wine
400 ml chicken or beef stock
4 tbsp. black olives
Fresh parsley and 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary for decoration

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Spread olive oil in the bottom of a heavy casserole, such as Le Creuset. Add the lamb and aubergine cubes, onions, garlic and the flour and mix. Add all the other ingredients, except the olives, then pour in the wine and stock until the ingredients are almost covered. Place in the oven and bake for 2 hours.

The surface will get nicely browned. Stir occasionally so that the surface does not get too browned and dry. When the stew is baked, remove the herbs and orange peel and add the olives.

Divide on the plates and decorate with parsley and a rosemary sprig.

Villa Kerylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Villa Kerylos Beaulieu

Beaulieu-sur-Mer overlooking the beautiful Baie des Fourmis can easily be reached from Villefranche by foot. We parked in Villefranche by the sea next to the harbour and walked along the waterfront passing the Plage des Marinières, then crossing the Cap Ferrat peninsula. It is part of the coastal trail.

Villa Kerylos is situated on Impasse Gustaf Eiffel just east of the Beaulieu casino. It was built by the archaeologist Théodore Reinach (1860-1928) between 1902 and 1908 as a near reproduction of an ancient Greek villa, designed by architect Emmanuel Pontremoli. During the planning, both Reinach and Pontermoli made several trips to Greece. The only exceptions that were made were glass windows, a concealed piano, and good early 20th Century conveniences, such as electricity and running water. Reinach lived here for twenty years in a classic Athenian style. In 1928, the building was bequeathed by the owned to the Institut de France although Reinach’s children and grandchildren continued living in the villa till 1967 when it was classified monument historique. During WWII, the villa was seized by the Nazis.

Today the villa is open to the public. Events, such as concerts and wedding are held there.

Villa Kerylos is a visual experience. It is quite small, and most visitors spend about an hour exploring it. We had a super guided tour (in French), and could therefore visit the terrace on the roof top. The panorama from the roof is exceptional. All rooms have Greek names. All the marbles were from Toscana, and floors were beautiful mosaic.

There are several good restaurants about 0,5 km from Villa Kerylos. It was a beautiful October day, and we had lunch at the marina, sitting on the terrace enjoying the warm sunshine.

Beaulieu Port de Plaisance

Red cabbage simmered in casserole

Simmered red cabbage with veal chops and potatoes

Too often restaurants are skimping on vegetables. Sometimes they are completely forgotten even here in Nice which is famous for its Mediterranean culinary roots. Some Cours Saleya restaurants have served a tasty fish for plat du jour, but accompanied with only white rice and no vegetables at all.

It is time to focus more on vegetables as we are now advised to eat nine different vegetables and fruits daily.

The following red cabbage slowly simmered in a heavy casserole goes nicely with any meat or chicken in winter. Leftovers can be reheated the next day or frozen.

6-8 servings

1 small red cabbage
2 small onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
50 ml water
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the cabbage in four sections and remove the core. With a large knife finely chop the cabbage leaves.

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy casserole such as Le Creuset. Cook the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, balsamic vinegar, water, and some black pepper and mix.

Add the red cabbage, cover and reduce the heat. Let simmer for 45 minutes stirring now and again. The cabbage is going to be scented and almost melting after slow-cooking.

Renoir's house in Cagnes-sur-Mer


Pierre-Auguste Renoir built his house, Les Collettes, in 1908 in Cagnes-sur-Mer. The house was equipped with all the modern facilities at the time, and a north-facing studio to catch the afternoon light.

In the garden and the museum one truly finds serenity -a short escape from the busy Côte d’Azur!

Renoir settled down at Les Collettes with his wife Aline and their three sons, Pierre, Jean and Claude. All the sons showed artistic creativity. Jean Renoir later became a famous film director. Despite the severe rheumatoid arthritis Renoir painted every day at Les Collettes. He was fascinated by the olive trees which surrounded the house.

The museum was totally renovated in 2013. It now has a collection of original paintings by Renoir and others such as André, Bonnard and Dufy. There is also a more extensive collection of sculptures by Renoir himself, assisted by Richard Guido and later Louis Morel, as well as a bust of Renoir by Aristide Maillol.

Parmentier of butternut squash

Parmentier of butternut squash

The classic French parmentier is made of potato mash which covers diced meat or ground meat. The dish is named after Antoine- Augustin Parmentier who in France promoted potatoes as a food source for humans. Thanks to his efforts the Faculty of Medicine in Paris declared potatoes edible in 1772.

In the following recipe, the potato mash is replaced by butternut squash purée. Butternut squash has a sweet, nutty taste, and as its deep orange colour suggests, it is a good source of antioxidants.

4 servings

About 500- 600 g ground low- fat beef
1 butternut squash
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Provençal herbs
100 ml tomato sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
200 ml vegetable stock
75 g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Peel the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Cut into smallish pieces.

Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large casserole, add the vegetable stock, and the butternut squash. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes until the squash pieces are soft. Drain, but do not discard the liquid. Mash the squash, adding stock as needed, until you get a nice purée which is not too dry.

Preheat the oven to 200° C.

In a large frying pan, warm 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium- high heat and fry the ground beef. Add the onion, garlic, tomato sauce, Provençal herbs, and black pepper and continue sautéing for about 10 minutes until the onion is softened.

Coarsely chop the hazelnuts.

Place the ground beef as a layer in the bottom of a gratin dish. Cover evenly with the butternut squash purée. Divide the chopped hazelnuts on top of the purée.

Bake for 20 minutes until the gratin is golden brown. Serve with steamed broccoli or a green side salad.

Chick pea cream with prawns

Chick pea cream with prawns

Our supermarket in Nice sells good defrosted and peeled giant prawns, gambas. They go nicely with creamy chick pea purée, fresh basil, and olive oil to make a carefree lunch with some baby salad, mesclun. Add a slice or two of whole wheat bread if you like.

2 servings

About 200 g peeled prawns
1 tbsp. olive oil
2- 3 sprigs of basil

For the chick pea cream:

1 tin (400 g) chick peas
2 tbsp. crème fraîche, 15% fat
1 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
1/3 clove of garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Some basil leaves, chopped

Rinse the chick peas under running water, then drain and place in a bowl. Add the crème fraîche, olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, and basil. With a hand-held mixer purée into a nice creamy consistence which is nevertheless thick enough to be eaten with a fork.

Place the prawns in another bowl. Add the chopped leaves of the basil sprigs and the olive oil and mix.

Divide the chick pea purée on the plates and flatten it slightly. Divide the prawns on top of the purée.  Add a handful of baby salad leaves on the plates and sprinkle with some olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Mont Vial

Gélas seen from trail to Mont Vial

Driving north from Nice along the Var River Valley, Mont Vial (1550 m) is the first mountain top reaching over 1500 m.

The summit itself is not very pretty, being marred by telecom and other masts, but it offers great 360° views to high Mercantour mountains, and over the vast Moyen Pays.

We started the hike from the village of Reveste-les-Roches (850 m) on a warm and fairly clear day in late November. There’s good parking by the D27 road just after the church, and signpost # 31 at our trailhead was just across the road. We climbed passing the last houses of the village to signpost #32, and continued along the vast south-eastern flank of Mont Vial. Given the steep incline of the mountain’s adret slope, the ascent was pretty easy in a terrain that varied from some screes to thin pine woods. The views from the ascending trail were unobstructed most of the time.

The trail eventually circled around the eastern incline of the massif, with Var Valley 1000 m below us. It was the most impressive part of the ascent. We came to the northern side of Mont Vial where the forest was denser, and now in the shade, the temperature dropped. In fact, parts of the trail were slippery after previous night’s frost.

At Col de Serse (1416 m), we came to a crossroads where we forked left to Mont Vial. We came directly to a narrow service road going to the installations on the summit (signpost #285). The highest point of the summit was about 300 m to the right (northwest).

After lunch, we considered the alternatives. The original plan was to use the same trail back, but the icy parts of the trail would have been more difficult to negotiate when descending. A longer trail would have continued along Créte du Vial northwest, then back to Reveste des Roches. We decided to take the service road that zigzagged down along the southern slope. By using the road we took a shortcut, and could enjoy the afternoon sun.

We soon came to signpost #66 that had toppled and hence almost undetectable. Here, we forked left and followed the trail first to the village of Tourette-du-Château (signpost #43) and then to Reveste des Roches. This part of the trail was less marked and the local hiking map was essential.

Elevation gain: 704 m
Mont Vial trail

Distance: 14.3 km

Duration: 4h 40

Map: IGN 3642 ET Vallée de l’Estéron Vallée du Loup

Roasted potimarron squash with chicken

Roasted potimarron squash with chicken

The following carefree and very healthy dish makes a nice lunch on a cold winter day. Potimarron squashes are small, colourful, and very tasty winter squashes. As their deep colour suggests they are full of antioxidants. Two potimarron halves make nice cases for filling per serving.

If you cannot find potimarron squashes in your area, you could try using ½ butternut squash for 2 servings.

2 servings

2 potimarron squashes
2 organic chicken breasts
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4- 5 tbsp. olive oil
100 ml white wine
A glass of water
1 tsp Provençal herbs
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of sliced almonds
Chopped parsley to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Halve the potimarrons and remove the seeds. Brush the cut sides with olive oil and place the potimarron halves in a large oven proof dish. Roast for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile war 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Cut the chicken breasts into chunks and sauté on both sides. Add the chopped shallot and minced garlic. Add the white wine, herbs, black pepper and continue sautéing for a few minutes.

Remove the potimarrons from the oven and pour a glass of water in the dish. Divide the chicken sauté in the potimarron halves and sprinkle with 2 tbsp. olive oil. Place in the oven and continue roasting for 30 minutes.

Divide the roasted potimarrons on the plates and decorate with parsley. Serve with some whole wheat bread and tapenade or cheese.