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

Renoir-museum-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.

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.

Endives with spinach and smoked salmon

Endives with spinach and smoked salmon



Endives are typical winter vegetables in our supermarket in Nice. The classic way to prepare them is with ham and béchamel sauce.

The following dish is my twist of the classic recipe. Instead of making the béchamel sauce, I have simply covered the endives with some full fat créme fraîche which in the oven melts into a sauce-like consistence.  The low fat créme fraîche, which I normally use, does not melt into a sauce but is absolutely great to be added in different sauces. We think that wild Alaska salmon has a superior taste.

The dish makes a carefree and quick lunch.

2 servings

4 endives
1 small shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 handfuls of baby spinach
4 slices smoked salmon, pref. wild Alaska salmon
4 tbsp. full fat créme fraîche

Rinse the endives and place them with 2 tbsp. water into a large microwave dish. Microwave for about 5 minutes until tender. Place them in an ovenproof dish and pat dry with kitchen paper. With a sharp knife cut large pockets in the endives.

Preheat the oven to 210° C.

In a casserole, warm the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the shallot and garlic for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the spinach and continue cooking for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted. Divide the spinach into the endive pockets. Cover each endive with a slice of smoked salmon and top with a tablespoon of créme fraîche.

Roast the endives for about 5 minutes until the créme fraîche has melted into a sauce like consistence. Serve with a green side salad and whole wheat bread.

October hike above Madone de Fenestre

Ascending towards Tete de la Lave



It was a clear late October morning, trees turning bright yellow higher up. The magnificent ridge comprising five peaks between the passes Baisse de Prals and Baisse de Ferisson (2254 m) south of Madone de Fenestre was once again our goal. From Nice, it takes about 1h 30 to reach the sanctuary.





As mentioned before, the network of trails here allows you to design your hike à la carte. This time we wanted to explore the less used trail from signpost #363 at Plan de Prals. We started from Madone de Fenestre, and took the familiar trail from signpost #361 that ascended following the Mercantour Park perimeter. At signpost #363 (4th image above), we forked right, heading southwest towards Tête de la Lave (2375 m), a peak in the middle of the ridge. We have previously hiked the longer version via Cime de la Valette de Prals (2496 m).

Once on the ridge, we could see the main trail continuing northwest, following its southwestern flank. We, however, continued along the ridge proper where another good trail continued to Tête de Cinant (2314 m), and could actually enjoy better views in all directions. Before Baisse de Ferisson, there was still one unnamed peak on the ridge.

Approaching Baisse de Ferisson, we saw a sheep flock near it, and three large dogs guarding them. One of the dogs was lying on the trail just before Baisse de Ferisson, and the two other dogs started to approach us, barking loudly even though we were several 100 m away. Having had a bad experience with sheep dogs this spring, we decided to make a detour. The only option was to descend “off-piste” along a steep but soft incline, thus avoiding the mountain pass. We knew that the trail back to Madone de Fenestre was somewhere below us, and located it soon enough. Anyway, it was a bit of an adventure!

The shepherds are resorting to more and more desperate measures to protect their flocks from wolves.

The rest of the hike was uneventful, we descended back to signpost #362 and hiked back to our starting point along the trail used in the morning.

Duration: 4h

Elevation gain: 551 m
Tete de la Lave trail

Distance: 10,2 km

Map: IGN Vallée de la Vésubie 3741 OT







Pork simmered with herbs and clementines

Pork simmered with herbs and clementines


In late October or early November, Corsican clementines appear in our supermarket in Nice. We use these seedless delicacies in fruit salads, and they go very well with duck breast or pork.


2 servings

About 300- 350 g pork fillet
6 Corsican clementines or other tasty clementines
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bouquet garni 
2 cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and minced
200 ml white wine
200 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard, moutarde à l’ancienne
Freshly ground black pepper
Parsley

Cut the pork fillet into large chunks, about 4 cm x 4 cm.

In a heavy casserole, cocotte, warm the butter and olive oil over medium heat and fry the pork until golden on all sides. Add the shallot and garlic and continue sautéing for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix.

Pour the white wine and chicken stock in the casserole. Add the bouquet garni, ginger, black pepper, and mustard. Cover partly and let simmer for about 1 hour. Stir now and again.

When about 10 minutes cooking time remains, peel the clementines, and add to the casserole. Cover and let simmer.

Serve the pork with new potatoes and decorate with chopped parsley.

Visit to Domaine du Rayol Gardens

Cafeteria in Domaine du Rayol



The Domaine du Rayol Gardens is situated on the Côte d’Azur coast about 7 km west from Cavalaire-sur-Mer. Cavalaire-sur-Mer with its about 4km long sand beach was one of the Allied landing beaches in August 1944.

In contrast, the coast around the village of Le Rayol has several tiny calanques. The beauty of this part of the coast lured the rich and curious at the turn of the 20th century. Two families, first Courmes, then the renowned aviation industrialist Potez, created and developed the Domaine du Rayol. Then, after decades of neglect, le Conservatoire du Littoral acquired the domain in 1989.
The park is now open all-year round, except the 25th December, and receives about 70000 visitors per year. Details can be found on www.domainedurayol.org (in French).









The garden is in a natural state but well-maintained. It is not a garden where you learn the names of different plants, but rather an environment to show plants growing in Mediterranean climatic conditions around the globe; from the Mediterranean basin to the Canaries, California, Chile, South Africa, subtropical Asia and Australia, and New Zealand.

We visited the Domaine on a sunny day in mid-November, and had lunch on the cafeteria’s terrace enjoying the warm and calm weather.

The area is large enough for a nice walk. But it was the overall experience, the clean air, the scent from pine trees, the unique setting of the premises by the sea that made the greatest impression.

We strolled down to the seaside and relaxed by the old boat house (with a mini-exhibition featuring the Mediterranean biodiversity), listening to the gentle lapping of the waves.






Duck legs en cocotte with carrots, potatoes and onions

Duck legs en cocotte with carrots potatoes and onionsDuck legs en cocotte with carrots potatoes and onions




Duck legs en cocotte with carrots potatoes and onions


Preparation time:
Cooking time:
Total time:

The following very tasty recipe is perfect for those dark and rainy winter nights in the South of France. This is slow- cooking as the French have done for centuries. The aromatic scents emerging from the oven are enough to lift your spirits in those nights when you already start dreaming of next summer.

If you cannot find duck legs in your area, you could make this recipe with free- range chicken legs.

2 servings

2 duck legs, cuisses de canette
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 carrots
4- 5 new potatoes
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
200 ml red wine
100 ml tomato sauce
200 ml chicken stock
1 bouquet garni
Freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy casserole, cocotte, warm the olive oil over medium heat and fry duck legs on both sides until golden.

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Add the onion and garlic to the casserole and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Wash and slice the carrots, then add to the casserole. Add the washed new potatoes. Pour in the red wine, tomato sauce, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Add the bouquet garni and some black pepper.

Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake for 1,5- 2 hours. Check occasionally. Add some water if needed, and cover if the surface starts browning too much.