A real simple sole recipe

Sole Meunière is the classic French sole recipe: The whole sole or sole fillet is coated in flour and pan fried in butter. Dover sole is traditionally preferred for this dish but lemon sole, sole limande, is more widely available and less pricey.
This recipe is a carefree way to prepare sole with a Mediterranean twist and using the heart healthy olive oil.
2 servings

2 whole lemon soles, sole limande, skinned by your fishmonger
2- 3 tbsp olive oil
10 cherry tomatoes
6- 8 new potatoes
About 150 g green beans
100 ml fish stock made from 100 ml water and 1 heaped tsp Ducros fumet de poisson
2 tbsp low-fat crème fraîche, 15 % fat
2 tsp capers
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges

Preheat the oven to 180⁰ C.

Start with the sauce. Heat 100 ml water in a small casserole and whisk in 1 heaped tsp Ducros fumet de poisson to make the fish stock. Fumet de poisson simply means fish stock and is easy to make from the Ducros powder. Keep simmering for a while. Then whisk in the crème fraîche. Add the capers. Set aside but keep warm.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper and place the soles and cherry tomatoes in it. Sprinkle 1 tbsp olive oil on each sole and a little olive oil over the cherry tomatoes. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, microwave the potatoes; this will only take about 7 minutes. Microwave the green beans for about 3- 4 minutes.

When the soles are ready, divide the sauce on the plates and place the potatoes on it. Grind a little black pepper on the soles and place them on the plates. Divide the cherry tomatoes and green beans on the plates. Decorate with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.


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From Jam Factory to Gourdon

Christmas seems like a good time of the year to visit a jam factory. And why not combine it with a hike?

Confiserie Florian in Pont du Loup is renowned in the region for its quality products. At the factory, there’s a shop and a possibility for guided tours.

Read more about Florian  here

From Pont-du-Loup ( about 200 m), it is possible to start several hikes. Chemin du Paradis, the scenic trail that ascends to the mountaintop village of Gourdon, is very popular among locals.

You can start from the village Bar-sur-Loup  (320 m) and do the Circuit du Paradis as described in Les Guides Randoxygène, or as in our video clip from Pont-du-Loup which makes the tour a little shorter even though the vertical climb is over 500 m in both variants.
Gourdon (760 m) is one of the most visited perched villages in Alpes-Maritimes.  In Hitchcock’s 1955 film To Catch A Thief the director used a wide, long distance shot of Gourdon to simulate Robie’s luxurious villa although the actual villa was (and still is) in St Jeannet.

Read Trip advisor reviews about Gourdon  here

More about the village here

IGN Map: “Cannes-Grasse” TOP 25 No 3643 ET



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Lentil stew with herbs

Green Puy lentils AOP are cultivated in Le Puy region, most notably in the commune of Velay, in France.
They are much appreciated for their taste.

Like all lentils they are a good source of vegetable protein, fiber and minerals. It is a good idea to compliment lentils with grains, which results in a complete protein dish.
Lentils contain also carbohydrates, which are particularly slowly digested and help to keep longer an even blood sugar. Several studies suggest that lentils are super good for the heart. So are fresh herbs because of their antioxidants.

Green Puy lentils can be cooked in about 30 minutes in boiling water. They do not need soaking before cooking.

2 servings

2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 200 g potiron, pumpkin, chopped (or 2 carrots, chopped)
1 tomato, chopped
200 ml Puy lentils
1 l water
100 ml tomato sauce, coulis de tomates
2 bay leaves
1 cube chicken stock, bouillon cube volaille, pref. organic, they have more taste
2 tbsp low-fat crème fraîche (15 %)
Freshly ground black pepper
Lots of chopped fresh herbs, different types

In a large casserole, heat the oil over medium heat. Fry gently  the pumpkin, onion and garlic for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato, bay leaves and pepper. Add the crumbled chicken stock cube, tomato sauce and water and bring to the boil.

Wash the lentils under running water and add to the casserole. Cover partly and reduce the heat slightly so that the lentils are gently boiling. Cook for about 30- 40 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are soft. Stir occasionally and check for water.

Divide into bowls, dot with low-fat crème fraîche and decorate with fresh herbs.
Serve with a green salad and whole wheat bread


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From Sospel to the Italian border

In mid November, the hunting season was in full swing, and the hunters’ dogs were doing their best. We were careful to stay on the trail and to wear colourful clothing.

The hike called Circuit du Cuore is one of the tours recommended by the guidebook “Rando  Moyen Pays”. It is graded as “sportive” because of the duration (5h30) and the vertical ascent (770 m). In addition, the initial descent down from Le Cuore (1095 m) was steep and rocky and not very well marked. All in all, it was a great one day hike.

Sospel, the starting point of this hike, is 19 km north of Menton.

Find more about Sospel here:

Description of the hike in French

Map in the video courtesy of: Conseil General des Alpes-Maritimes

IGN map: “Vallée de la Bévéra » TOP 25 no 3741 ET

Music. Actual title:"Acid Trumpet" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


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Chicken legs with Moroccan twist

Free-range chickens have firmer and tastier meat than conventional caged chickens. In France, they are called poulets fermiers élevés en liberte, and the amount of free time and exercise outdoors is regulated. So it is good to know that the chicken has had a happy and free life.

The following recipe is inspired by the spices, fruits and vegetables traditionally used in Moroccan tajines which are simply stews slowly cooked in oven for many hours. Typical spices are cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, saffron and pepper. The various vegetables are combined with dried fruits, nuts and honey. This is perfect comfort food for cold winter evenings!

2 servings
2 free-range chicken legs
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 shallots chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 yellow paprika chopped
4 dried apricots halved (pref. organic)
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp runny honey (pref. lavender)
50 ml chicken stock
50 ml white wine
1 tsp quatre épices (a mixture of ground cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg)
1 tsp saffron
1 tsp piment d’Espelette
Sliced almonds to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180 ⁰ C.

Warm the rapeseed oil over medium heat in a heavy casserole and fry the chicken legs on both sides until golden brown. Add the vegetables, fruits and spices and continue cooking for a few minutes stirring now and again. Add the chicken stock, white wine and honey.

Transfer to oven for 1 hour.

Decorate with sliced almonds and serve with whole wheat couscous or quinoa.


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Following Matisse's footsteps in Vence

Henri Matisse came to Vence in June 1943 to avoid the possible bombing of Nice. He was charmed by Vence and stayed there until 1949.

In spite of many health problems, Matisse was very productive during these years. His main work in this period was the creation of la Chapelle du Rosaire at 466 Avenue Henri Matisse just outside the town centre. The chapel can be visited, closed each year from mid November to mid December. Check opening hours at:
http://vence.fr/la-chapelle-du-rosaire-chef-d?lang=fr (in French)

Matisse stayed in Villa Le Rêve near the chapel where he received his friends, such as Picasso, Bonnard and Aragon.

Vence has always been a city of significance, and we recommend a stroll around the beautiful old town.


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Turkey slices, escalopes de dinde, filled with carrots and cauliflowers

Thin turkey slices, escalopes de dinde, are virtually fat free so that you don’t have to worry about using more liberally heart-healthy olive oil in this recipe. 

 Smoking point for olive oil is between 199 - 207⁰ C depending on its fatty acid content. High quality, low acidity olive oils have the highest smoking points, about 207⁰ C. In this dish, which is cooked in 200⁰ C in oven, you can very well use your best quality extra-virgin olive oil.

The vegetables in this recipe reflect autumn and winter.

2 servings

2 thin turkey slices, about 100- 120 g each
1 large carrot, grated
About 100 g cauliflower, grated (about the same amount than grated carrot)
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp finely grated parmesan
2 tbsp red wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme leaves
150 ml chicken stock
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Over low to medium heat, warm 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan. Grate the carrot and gently start cooking it in the pan. Add the shallot and garlic and continue cooking for a few minutes. Add the chicken stock and Herbes de Provence, and continue cooking until the vegetables are soft but moist.

Meanwhile grate the cauliflower. Add to the pan and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200⁰ C.

Line a large ovenproof dish with baking paper. Brush with 1 tbsp olive oil. Halve the escalopes de dinde so that you have 4 thin slices about 50- 60 g each. Place 2 slices into the ovenproof dish. Top with vegetable mixture and then the remaining 2 turkey slices.

Don’t worry if you have more vegetable mixture than fits between the turkey slices. Just shape two heaps of the vegetable mixture in the baking dish and sprinkle with a little dry bread crumbs. These will make nice little vegetable gratins. 

Sprinkle 2 tbsp red wine on the turkey slices. Then divide the parmesan on turkey slices and vegetable heaps, and sprinkle with the remaining olive oil.

Bake in 200⁰ C for 35 minutes. Serve with steamed new potatoes and decorate with thyme leaves.


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Healthy French Fries

Healthy french fries with a sirloin steak and broccoli

In the 1950s, the Frenchman’s dream was “bifteck, rouge et voiture”, literally meaning steak, red wine and a car.

Nowadays the health authorities are advising us to eat less red meat. But there is nothing wrong enjoying a nice lean steak now and then. In fact, it is a sign of eating a varied diet which is so important for ensuring that we get all the micronutrients and antioxidants.

You can make healthy fries from sweet potatoes and rapeseed oil.  Sweet potatoes contain more antioxidants than ordinary potatoes, and rapeseed oil is a heart healthy oil with very little saturated fatty acids.

The red wine sauce in this recipe is inspired by the traditional French recipe “bifteck marchand de vin”, the wine shopkeeper’s steak. It is the easiest way to make red wine sauce to accompany your steak.

4 servings

  • 4 nice lean steaks, either sirloin steaks or filet mignon
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 4 tbsp  rapeseed oil
  • 300 ml red wine
  • 3 big sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp Piment d’Espelette or similar mild red pepper powder
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 350 -400 g broccoli florets

Preheat the oven to 200 ° C.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into even about 1 cm x 1 cm strips. Pour 2 tbsp rapeseed oil into a large plastic bag. Add the sweet potato strips and shake vigorously so that the strips are coated with a small amount of rapeseed oil. Arrange the strips into one layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for about 30 minutes until slightly crisp. Sprinkle with 1 tsp Piment d’Espelette, and a pinch of salt if you wish.

Pour 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a small frying pan and heat over medium heat. Gently fry the shallots for about 5 – 10 minutes until soft. Set aside.

Microwave the broccoli florets for 3 – 4 minutes until tender.

Heat the remaining 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a large heavy frying pan over high heat. Fry the steaks about 2- 3 minutes on both sides for medium rare, depending on thickness. After you have turned the steaks add 300 ml red wine and the shallots. Continue keeping the heat high so that after about 3 minutes the wine is reduced to almost half. Arrange the steaks, broccoli and sweet potato strips on the plates. Pour the red wine sauce over the steaks and grind black pepper over them.


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Cod fillet with sauce vierge and cherry tomatoes

Cod is a tasty white fish and contains very little fat. Although it is not a good source for heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids it is good for your heart, probably because of all the minerals in seafood, or maybe fish protein is more favourable for your heart than protein in beef.

Sauce vierge means literally virgin sauce. In France, it is made of olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and chopped basil. In the Mediterranean variation more or less crushed garlic is added. I don’t like too much raw garlic in this sauce, and it is important that the tomatoes are tasty and in season. In winter, the cherry tomatoes are a better option. The ingredients are combined and allowed to infuse in the olive oil to create the sauce.

If the ingredients are tasty, I don’t add any salt. You can add a pinch of salt at the table if you need to.

2 servings

2 portions of cod fillet, about 150- 180 g each
1 nice tomato, finely chopped
About 6 basil leaves, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
½ clove garlic, minced
A few drops of lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
10 cherry tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 180 ⁰ C.

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for sauce vierge: 1 tomato finely chopped, ½ garlic clove minced, a few drops of lemon juice, chopped basil, black pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil. Set aside to infuse.

Line an ovenproof dish with baking paper and place the cod fillets in it. Drizzle the cod with 1 tbsp olive oil and grind a few rounds black pepper over the fish.

Pour 1 tbsp olive oil in a small ovenproof dish, place the cherry tomatoes in it and give it a swirl so that the cherry tomatoes are covered with oil.

Place the cod and cherry tomatoes in the oven for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Divide the cod fillets and cherry tomatoes on the plates, and decorate with sauce vierge. Serve with steamed potatoes and lemon wedges.


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Daube Provencale, traditional beef stew

Daube Provençale, beef stew, is a traditional dish in the Provence inland, and it exists in many slightly different versions.

It is a brilliant example of slow food. In the old times, the dish was slowly cooked in a large heavy casserole in oven or on stove for hours; 5 – 7 hours were usual cooking times. The French have a nice word for this slow-cooking, mijoter, which means that the dish is so gently simmered that the surface only slowly moves but does not bubble.

The following recipe is inspired by a recent trip to Camargue. There the dish was made with local organic red wine, black olives, mushrooms, and tasty tomatoes, and served with red Camargue rice.

For modern times, I have reduced the cooking time for about two hours in oven. I have also omitted the traditional browning of the meat thanks to a great tip for stews from Jamie Oliver.

4 servings

About 1 kg stewing beef (a package for Bœuf Bourgignon is perfect)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions cut into large chunks
3- 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
4 tasty tomatoes cut into large chunks (or a 400 g tin of Italian plum tomatoes)
2 tbsp tomato pure
8 large mushrooms cut into large chunks
About 20 black olives
1 tbsp flour
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 strip orange peel
200 ml beef stock
400 ml Camargue or other South of France organic red wine
Fresh thyme

Trim the beef from extra fat and, if needed, cut into smaller chunks.

Warm the olive oil in a large heavy casserole over medium heat. Soften the carrots, onions and garlic for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 180 ⁰ C. Add the meat and flour into the casserole, stir.
Add the beef stock, wine, tomato pure, orange strip, cloves, bay leaves, black pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme (leave some for the decoration) into the casserole and stir. All the ingredients need to be just covered with liquid, if not add a little water. Bring to the boil, stirring now and again.

Transfer the casserole into oven for 2 hours. Check occasionally so that there is enough liquid. You want the liquid slightly reduced and the stew surface getting a nice colour, but you don’t want your stew getting dry. You may need to cover the casserole towards the end of the cooking time. Add the fresh tomato chunks when about ½ hour of the cooking time remains, you want them just cooked, al dente. If you are using tinned tomatoes, you can add them earlier.

Meanwhile, cut the mushrooms into large chunks and fry in a large frying pan in a little olive oil. Cook the Camargue rice. Remove the stones from the olives. Remove a little thyme leaves from the sprigs for decoration.

When the stew is cooked, add the mushrooms and olives. Serve with Camargue rice and decorate with thyme leaves.


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Lentils with vegetables and chevre

It has been shown in a small scientific study that within two weeks, eating a vegetarian diet rich in fiber and vegetable proteins lowered 13 individual’s harmful LDL cholesterol levels by 30 % - almost as great a reduction as achieved with drugs.

Lentils are a good source of vegetable protein, about 25 % in dry lentils.

Green or brown lentils, chick-peas and fava beans are “European beans”, with a history that goes back almost to the very beginning of Mediterranean agriculture.

Dried beans must be soaked overnight before they are cooked – lentils are an exception.

2 servings
150 ml green or brown lentils
750 ml water
½ cube vegetable stock
250 g Brussels sprouts
250 g cherry tomatoes
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
8 slices low-fat chevre, goat cheese (12,5 % fat)
Fresh thyme, sprigs and leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash the lentils. Cook them for 30 minutes in light vegetable stock, use only half the amount of recommended vegetable stock cube. Add a few sprigs of thyme in the casserole. As a rule of thumb, about 5 times water is needed for the volume of lentils.

Meanwhile in a large frying pan, fry the shallots and garlic in 1 tbsp rapeseed oil over low- medium heat for about 10 minutes.

If you are using fresh Brussels sprouts, cut the stem of the sprouts and remove the outer leaves. Cook the Brussels sprouts in microwave. This takes only a few minutes and about 1 tbsp water. If needed, you can use frozen Brussels sprouts.

Warm the oven to 200⁰ C. Wash the cherry tomatoes. Roast them for about 10 minutes with 1 tbsp olive oil in a small oven-proof dish.
Remove the leaves from the rest of thyme sprigs.
When the lentils are cooked, add them into the frying pan. Add also the Brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes into the pan. Grind a few rounds of black pepper and mix.
Divide the lentil- vegetable mixture on the plates. Place the goat cheese slices on top and decorate with thyme leaves. Serve with a good whole wheat bread.


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Hiking in Nice Hinterland

There are magnificent forests, great views, and a ruined, maybe haunted, hamlet  along the route of the hike.

This is the real Riviera back country, arrière- pays. 40% of Alpes Maritimes is forest. Remember that the village of Peira Cava is just 25 km from Nice as a crow flies. At 1423m, the village was the first winter sport resort in the department. Remnants of some ski lifts can still be seen. It also became a hideaway for celebrities. Even Marc Chagall spent some time there. Nowadays the village is very quiet, but has quite a few secondary residences.

Many hiking trails go through the village. The tour presented here is a shortened version of the hike shown on the map; we started from Peira Cava (signpost 37), not La Gabella.

The ruined hamlet of Béasse was destroyed by a fire in 1985. In spite of its isolated location, the hamlet had been inhabited for over 200 years. In the late 18th century, dissidents from Nice called Les Barbets were allegedly hiding there, perhaps to avoid the guillotine.

Music: Actual title: "Local Forecast - Slower" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Map courtesy of Conseil Général Alpes Maritimes


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My Best Plum Recipe

Autumn has brought a distinct change in the selection of fruits in our supermarket. Apples, pears and plums have replaced the strawberries, cherries, apricots, peaches and melons that we enjoyed in spring and summer.

The following spicy plum dessert perfectly complements autumnal dinners.

2 servings
4 large red plums
1 orange
10 dark raisins
50 ml red wine
2 cloves
2 star anises
1 vanilla pod (Fresh and moist!)

Wash the plums, cut into quarters and remove the stones.

Wash thoroughly the orange. With a zester, remove some of the zest. Then juice the orange. Pour the juice into a small casserole. Add the zest.

Split the vanilla pod lengthwise with a small sharp knife. Scrape with the knife some seeds into the casserole; add the whole pod as well. Add the red wine, raisins, cloves, star anises and plums into the casserole. Bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15- 20 minutes until the plums are soft.

Serve at room temperature. Don’t remove the spices, leave them as a decoration.

I don’t need to use any extra sweetener in this recipe because the natural sweetness of the fruits combined with spices and wine makes it wonderfully tasty. If you prefer sweeter desserts, you can add a little sugar or honey.


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Quails in Casserole, en cocotte

Quails are mid-sized birds which are much appreciated for their taste. Not all quails in Nice supermarkets are game, they are also farm-raised.  In any case, autumn seems like an appropriate season to cook quails in casserole.

My Le Creuset cocotte, casserole is again super for making this dish.

2 servings:

2 quails (cailles)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp tapenade
2 oranges
About 16 small black olives
100 ml white wine
Freshly ground black pepper

Grind a little black pepper and stuff a few sprigs of parsley and 1 tsp tapenade inside each quail.

Heat 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a heavy casserole and brown the quails on both sides until golden brown. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic in the casserole and continue cooking. Add a few grindings black pepper, more parsley sprigs and white wine in the casserole. Reduce the heat, cover the casserole and simmer for 30 minutes, turning the quails once.

Peel the oranges, divide into sections and discard all the white parts and tough membranes. Warm 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a small saucepan and heat gently the orange sections.

Add the olives in the quail casserole and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.

Serve the quails with orange sections and new potatoes and decorate with chopped parsley.


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Filets de Sebaste, Redfish, sauce Livornese

This dish was inspired by a plat du jour in Cours Saleya in Nice. Plat du jour is the dish of the day on a restaurant`s menu, usually lunch, and it is always good value for money. It was a gorgeous vegetable, fruit and flower market day in Cours Saleya, and at lunch time we sat outside on the terrace shaded from the September sunshine. Plat du jour was filet de saint-pierre, John Dory fish, sauce Livornese. It was so delicious that I decided to try and emulate it at home.
That day I couldn`t find saint-pierre in our local supermarket, so I replaced it with sebaste, redfish. Sauce Livornese is said to go well with any firm-fleshed white fish. There is no need to add any salt in the sauce because there is already a fair amount of salt in capers and olives. Sauce Livornese compliments cooked potatoes and steamed small courgettes, squash in slices.

2 servings

For the sauce Livornese:
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers
About 10 black olives, pitted
100 ml white wine
Juice of ½ a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley

For the fish:
2 filets of sebaste, redfish (NB! I prefer filets of saint-pierre, John Dory fish)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 clove garlic, sliced

Pour 2 tbsp rapeseed oil in a small bowl, add the garlic slices and set aside to infuse.
Start preparing the sauce Livornese. Heat 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and gently fry the shallot and garlic. Add the tomato and continue cooking for a few minutes. Add some chopped parsley, save a little for decoration. Grind a few rounds of black pepper in the saucepan, then add the white wine and lemon juice and let reduce a little. Add the capers and olives, and let simmer.
Cook or microwave the potatoes and courgette slices. Keep warm.
Heat the garlic-infused rapeseed oil in a large frying pan on a high heat. Fry the fish filets, about 1 ½ minutes on both sides, depending on thickness. Set the pan aside, covered.
Divide the potatoes, courgette slices and sauce Livornese on the plates. Place the fish filets on top of the sauce, and decorate with chopped parsley.


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The second favourite dish of the French

Moules frites - The second favourite dish of the French

Moules frites, mussels and fries, was voted the second favorite dish in France a couple of years ago. It lost narrowly to duck breast. Actually, moules frites is thought to originate from Belgium. About one litre mussels is fine per serving. I prefer the small tasty French mussels. An 1,4 kg package of moules de bouchot du Mont Saint Michel AOP is enough for us two, although it is a bit less than 2 litres. The quality is superior.

Instead of frites, I prefer to serve my moules with good whole wheat bread to mop up the good sauce.

2 servings

  • About 2 l mussels, moules de bouchot
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bouquet garni (a bundle of dried herbs tied together with string)
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped parsley

Warm the oil in a large heavy casserole and soften the shallot and garlic.
Wash the mussels and discard any that are damaged or do not close if you knock them.
Add bouquet garni, black pepper and the white wine in the casserole and bring to the boil. Add the mussels and cover the casserole. The small Brittany mussels need about 4 minutes cooking time after the wine has started boiling again. Give the casserole a shake now and again and check that the mussels are well open. You should discard any that have not opened.

Divide the mussels in deep bowls and decorate with parsley.


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Crête de la Blanche loop

The highest mountain pass la Bonette was opened for public traffic in 1961. The paved road makes a loop around the mountain and climbs to 2802m. There are several mountain roads in Europe higher than this but none of them connects a town or a region. Even so, this road is open for traffic only during the snowless period. Further down the road D64 is the hamlet of Bousiéyas, the highest village in Alpes Maritimes. The last allegedly permanent inhabitant, Madame Delmas, passed away alone there during one harsh winter in the 1960s. Today, there is a gîte during the summer season. The tour presented here is a classic hike ascending to the mountain crest of la Blanche south of Bousiéyas. After the initial ascent to the long crest, the scenery is extraordinary even for a seasoned hiker. You are in the middle of high terrain with an unobstructed view of major peaks in all directions.

 Details are described in French in the guidebook Rando Haut Pays/Crête de la Blanche.

 Duration: 5 h 30 min walking time. Vertical ascent: 760m.
 Map: Haute Tinée 1, TOP No 3639 OT

 Music courtesy of Far Out Recordings; Track Magnetic Feel (Roc  Hunter) from the Album “Far Out Jazz  Funk”.


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Trout simmered in white wine

This is a carefree but tasty way to prepare small trouts.


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Col de Cerise above Le Boréon

In September 1943 over a thousand Jews escaped from Saint-Martin-Vésubie to Italy using the ancient mountain passes. The mountain pass of Cerise above Boréon was one of the routes used. Already in the 15th century, this route was used to collect the salt tax from the area above Nice to the County of Savoy.

The hiking trail from Le Boréon to Col de Cerise is inside the Mercantour National Park. The vertical ascent is about 1050m and duration 5 hours. French guides grade the tour as “sportif” but the trail itself is technically easy. It’s just the long ascent that may take its toll.

Map: Vallée de la Vésubie TOP 25 no 3741 OT.

Music courtesy of Sabrina Malheiros “Sintonia”(Instrumental) New Morning De Luxe Edition; Far Our Recordings.


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My best rabbit recipe

Rabbit recipe

The traditional diet of the majority in the arrière-pays, in the mountains behind Nice, has always been rather meat-poor. Meat was a special treat used sparingly for Sundays and holidays. Of course the hunters took the occasional hooved game, but birds and rabbits were more frequently the prize. Hunting is still a popular pastime in the arrière-pays, and hikers are advised to wear colourful clothes and stay on the marked trails during the hunting season. Nowadays, rabbit is also very popular on the French Riviera, and farm-raised rabbit is easy to find in local supermarkets.

Rabbit meat is lean and delicate, a bit like chicken. It needs to be simmered an hour in a heavy casserole, my trusted Le Creuset is super for this.

2 servings

  • 2 rabbit legs (cuisses de lapin)
  • 5-6 spring onions,
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tasty tomatoes
  • 100 ml white wine
  • Juice and zest of ½ orange
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A sprig of rosemary or thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Black olives
  • Fresh basil leaves to decorate

Heat the rapeseed oil in a heavy casserole, and fry the rabbit legs on both sides until golden brown. Clean the spring onions and discard the green parts. Add the spring onions and garlic to the casserole. Add the white wine, zest and juice of ½ orange, bay leaf and rosemary. Grind a few rounds of black pepper in the casserole.
Cover the casserole and reduce the heat.
Let simmer for about ½ hour turning the legs and stirring regularly. Chop the tomatoes into quarters and add to the casserole. Continue simmering for ½ hour longer.
Meanwhile cook quinoa. I prefer to serve quinoa, because it best compliments this rabbit casserole.
Decorate with black olives and fresh basil leaves.

Have you tried cooking en papillote? (Chicken breast in a parcel)

Chicken breast in a parcel recipe

French cooks are very keen on cooking almost everything en papillote, in a parcel of baking paper. I often cook fish this way which is super to seal in moisture and taste. The following recipe is with chicken breast, and the result was surprisingly good. It is important of course that the chicken breast is tender. I have found that the tenderness is somewhat variable here, it seems that in France taste is sometimes more important than tenderness. I wonder if others have similar experiences.

2 servings

  • 2 skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 nice slices mozzarella
  • 4 extra thin slices of Parma ham
  • 2 mandarins or clementines, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 60 ml white wine
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • Fresh basil leaves or chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 210 ⁰ C.

In a pan, sauté the chicken breasts in rapeseed oil about 5 minutes on both sides until golden brown. Set aside on a plate. In the same pan cook the mandarin slices in white wine about 5 minutes.

Cut two squares, about 30 x 30 cm, out of baking paper. Place the chicken breasts on the baking paper squares. Top with the mozzarella slices and wrap with the Parma ham slices.  Grind a few rounds black pepper and drizzle 1 tsp olive oil on each breast. Arrange the mandarins around the chicken breasts. Scatter basil leaves over the chicken, save some for the final decoration.

Wrap the baking paper into tight parcels and cook in oven for about 15 minutes. Serve with brown rice.

Ascent to Mont Pelat 3050 m

At 3050m, Mont Pelat is the highest mountain in the westernmost part of the Mercantour national park in Southeastern France. An excellent network of hiking trails of different levels can be found between Col de la Cayolle and Allos. In either case, your starting point can be over 2000 m. Keep in mind that this is a national park where rules apply. The ascent can be done in one day. To be able to start early, an overnight stay in one of the nearby villages is recommended.

Apart from the last 50 m scramble, the climb is basically a strenous 6 to 7 hour hike. No special skills are needed but you have to be in a good physical condition. It is strongly recommended to check the French weather reports for the local mountains. Weather information for nearby Barcelonnette and Allos is particulary useful.

Porridge breakfast before a long hike

Porridge breakfast before a long hike

Before a long hike you need a carbohydrate-rich breakfast which settles well and provides sustained energy during the long workout. You can eat a high-calorie breakfast if you allow about two to three hours of digesting and if you choose carbohydrates with less fibre and with a moderate glycemic index. Oat porridge with milk, bananas and orange juice are just a few choices.

It is recommended that about 70 % of energy is from carbohydrates and to achieve this you need to reduce the amount of fat. Too much fat in your breakfast can also increase the risk of gastrointestinal problems during a strenuous hike.

Of course, choices of what to eat before exercising vary from person to person and from sport to sport, so there is no “magic meal” which will ensure top performance for everybody. We all have also unique food preferences so that one has to learn through trial and error what works best for his or her body- and what doesn’t work.

The following porridge breakfast has never let us down during our long hikes or cross-country skiing trips. You also need to consider your body’s energy needs; small women need fewer calories than larger men. The following portions suit us and could be considered as general suggestions.

For girls:
  • Porridge made with 200 ml rolled oats, 300 ml low-fat milk (1.5 % fat).
  • Cover the oats with milk. Cover the porridge bowl and microwave on medium setting for about 3 minutes. Serve with a sliced banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Make a small fruit salad with a sliced banana and an orange.
  • Drink 200 ml orange juice and a cup of milk coffee made of 100 ml coffee and 100 ml warmed low-fat milk.
Total: About 800 kcal, about 140 g carbohydrates (70 energy-%).

For guys:
  • Increase the amount of porridge by making it with 300 ml rolled oats and 400 ml low-fat milk. Serve the porridge with a sliced banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Keep the amounts of fruit salad and drink the same.
Total: about 1000 kcal, about 170 g carbohydrates (68 energy-%).

Do you have a favourite breakfast before a long hike?


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Duck breast with figs and quatre-epices

Duck breast with figs and quatre-epices recipe

In a survey a couple of years ago the French people voted duck breast, magret de canard, the most popular dish. In the following recipe, figs give a nice late summer- autumnal twist. Quatre-épices is a spice mixture of ground cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg which reminded us of Nordic vin chaud, glögg, at Christmas time. Quatre-épices is easy to find in Nice supermarkets.

2 servings

  • 1 duck breast
  • 6- 8 nice figs
  • 1 tbsp runny honey, pref. lavender honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp quatre-épices
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 200 g green beans (frozen Bonduelle Le Haricot Vert Extra-fin is super!)
  • Finely chopped parsley to decorate

Wash and dry the figs. Cut them into quarters. Make cuts in the fatty side of the duck breast. Heat a frying pan and fry the duck breast 5 minutes on both sides, starting with the fatty side. Discard the fat and reduce the heat to the minimum. Sprinkle the quatre-épice on the duck breast and continue cooking for 10 minutes, turning once. Cook the green beans and keep warm. Remove the duck breast from the pan and keep warm under foil. Pour the honey into the pan and gently cook the figs for about 4 -5 minutes. Turn them once so that they are well coated with the honey. Remove them from the pan and divide on the plates. Pour the balsamic vinegar into the pan and mix with the remaining quatre-épices. Slice the duck breast and divide on the plates. Grind a little black pepper over the slices. Divide the green beans on the plates. Drizzle the vinegar sauce over the duck slices and decorate with parsley.

Ascent to Tête de la Boulière

This is another great hike up to the summit of Tête de la Boulière (2708m). In spite of being classified as “Rando Alpine” in the Randoxygène guidebook, the trail neither too steep nor particularly difficult. Even so, the vertical ascent is 930 m and the duration between 5 and 6 hours. The starting point is at Estenc at 1780m. The initial trail is well marked through the little village followed by a long ascent in the Estrop river valley to signpost 279 at the Gialorgues mountain pass. From there, a narrower and rockier path continues to Baisse de la Boulière and signpost 280. The final ascent is not actually marked but evident towards southwest, an easy walk-up. The view is magnificent. Don’t go there in bad weather though! The only drawback of this tour might be the 2+ hour drive from Nice (117km).

Map: IGN 3540 ET Guidebook in French: Les Guides Randoxygène/Haut Pays.

Music courtesy of: Sabrina Malheiros: “Brisa Mar” (Instrumental) New morning De Luxe Edition; Far out Recordings.

Roasted sardine fillets

Roasted sardine fillets recipe

Sardines are a good source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. In Nice supermarkets you can often buy fresh sardine fillets. The following recipe makes a healthy and carefree lunch.

2 servings

  • 8- 10 sardine fillets
  • 1 tomato, cut into small pieces
  • Juice of ¼ lemon
  • About 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Finely chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Preheat the oven to 210 ⁰ C (roast).

Line a small baking dish with baking paper. Wash the sardine fillets under running cold water to remove any lingering scales. Dry the fillets with kitchen paper and arrange them in the baking dish. Grind a few rounds of black pepper and press a little lemon juice over them. Cut a tomato in small pieces and scatter over the sardines. Sprinkle with olive oil.

Roast for about 15 minutes. Decorate with parsley. Serve with a green salad and French dressing, and good whole wheat bread to mop up the baking juices.

I don’t need to add any salt because the natural saltiness of the sea fish is enough for us. You can sprinkle a little salt at the table, if you need to.

Baked Daurade

Baked daurade recipe

In Nice, you can often buy fresh small cleaned and scaled daurade, sea bream, in supermarkets. The following recipe is an easy and carefree way to cook daurade. Daurade is a tasty white fish, and like all seafood it is good for your heart.  It has very little fat so you can well use some heart-healthy fat, like olive oil, in the sauce. Olive oil, garlic and Piment d’Espelette give this recipe a nice twist from the French Basque Country.

2 servings

  • 2 cleaned and scaled daurade, about 300 g each
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp Piment d’Espelette (mild chilli powder)
  • Lemon slices to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 ⁰ C.
Make cuts all the way along the daurades and place them in a large oiled baking tin. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp olive oil and bake in the oven for about 20- 25 minutes.
Meanwhile peel and slice the garlic cloves. Gently heat 2 tbsp olive oil, the garlic slices and the Piment d’Espelette in a small sauce casserole until the garlic is golden brown.  Set aside when ready and take the daurades from the oven.  Pour the olive oil sauce over the fish, and serve with lemon slices.

I like to serve daurade with steamed new potatoes and wilted spinach or green lentils and roasted cherry tomatoes, as in the picture. Green lentils need about 30 minutes cooking. I prefer the small Puy lentils for the taste and texture. Cherry tomatoes are roasted in about 10 minutes. Pour 1 tbsp olive oil in a small baking dish, add the cherry tomatoes and swirl the dish so that the tomatoes are coated with the olive oil. Place in the oven together with the fish when 10 minutes of the cooking time remains.

Veal Escalopes Italian Style

This is a really great recipe when tomatoes and basil are at their best in the end of summer..

Le Boréon: Hike to Lac Nègre and Pas de Préfouns

This was a super hike we made on 14th of July!

The hamlet of Boreon north of St-Martin-Vésubie has become a centre of both winter and summer sports  activities.

In the summer, the hiking trails offer numerous options and grades of difficulty. The hike presented here is one of the most popular ones because of relatively easy access and stunning views. The parking of Salèse is already at 1670 meters. Even so, the ascent to Lac Nègre is roughly 700 m vertical, and if you opt for the Préfouns mountain pass at the Italian border it’s about 300 meters extra.

The trail is well marked up to the lake. There are some steep parts before the lake. Some  parts were even covered with snow in mid-July 2013. From the lake upwards, the trail is marked with cairns only. The view from Pas du Préfouns (2615 m) is dramatic enough but experienced hikers may wish to continue by climbing the nearby mountain tops of Tête des Tablasses(2855 m) and Tête des Bresses(2824 m). This variant is well described in French in the book:” Les plus belles randonnées les Alpes du Sud” (Bernard Ranc; editions Gap) page 26.

The tour from the parking to Pas du Préfouns and back  takes about 6-6,5 hours. The distance from Nice is 70km.

Climb: 720 m (Lac Nègre) 980 m (Pas du Préfouns)

The booklet Les Guides Randoxygène “Haut Pays”, also in French, gives excellent basic information.

Map: Moyenne Tinée 3641 ET.