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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Moulinet to almost Mangiabo


The following hike is a good example of a situation where aborting the ascent is the best option. This was actually our second attempt to climb to the mountaintop called Mangiabo (1821 m) located in the southernmost part of the Mercantour National Park.

Last time in 2011, heavy rain forced us to turn around early. We were optimistic this time as the skies were clear early in the morning. Moulinet, the starting point, is at 770 m.
Ancient military presence can still be seen on many of the mountains in this region. On our trail, we saw remnants of old cannons. At least one of them was Italian, from 1918. Authion, north of Mangiabo and partly visible from the trail, saw heavy fighting in April 1945 during the last weeks of WWII.

Later during the morning, the weather deteriorated rapidly in spite of the favorable forecast. Eventually the mountain disappeared in clouds. At signpost 23 (1600 m), we were just beneath the cloud layers as the video clip shows. The visibility higher up would have been negligible. It took us about three hours to reach this signpost. At least we came further up this time. The effort was "assez sportive" as the French would describe it. Maybe there will be a new attempt next year?

IGN Map: Vallées de la Bévéra et les Paillons 3741 ET

Music: Actual title:"Dirt Rhodes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

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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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Hike from Isola 2000 just before the first snow fell




The Isola 2000 ski resort can be reached from Nice in 90 minutes weather and traffic permitting. The surrounding peaks reach almost 3000m, notably Mount Malinvern (2938m) and Tête du Claus (2897m). Many popular hiking trails starting from the village are available during the summer season.

Because of an exceptionally warm autumn this year, the area remained bare in early November. Even so, snow fell two days after this video clip was captured! According to Nice-Matin, the most enthusiastic skiers then began calling Isola 2000 regarding the start of the season. The plan is to open the first runs in early December.

Tête Mercière (2492m) is one of the peaks nearest the resort. Described as a rando moyenne, it’s one of the hikes starting high, and offering therefore great views with a moderate effort. The limit of the Mercantour National Park is at the summit. The vertical ascent is about 500m, duration just under 4 hours.

Map: IGN 3640 ET Haute Tinée2 Isola 200


Au départ d'Isola 2000, front de neige


Map above courtesy of Conseil Général Alpes-Maritimes

Music: Actual title:"Motivator" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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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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The new Prom?







Nice Côte d’Azur airport and the Var river estuary divide the coastal strip along Baie des Anges into two parts. The iconic Promenade des Anglais in Nice, called simply La Prom by the locals, is world famous. The western part, on the other hand, was less developed until the city of Cagnes-sur-Mer started a major reconstruction about ten years ago.

The seaside part of Cagnes is called Cros de Cagnes. It is still an active fishing port. From there, the developed beachfront stretches as far as Villeneuve-Loubet, the next town in west. From the bridge over the Loup River, the pedestrian trail is unpaved until the boardwalk just before the Marina Baie des Anges starts. The sail or pyramid like buildings in the Marina were designed by André Minangoy, and were built between 1969 and 1993. Although still controversial, they are considered by many, including us, as architectural masterpieces.


The video clip shows the walk from Cros de Cagnes to Marina Baie des Anges (about 4 km one way) and a leisurely lunch there. In Cagnes, the parking costs max 2€ per day, nothing on Sundays. There’s a lot of free parking as well, especially if you arrive early.

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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
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Map courtesy of Conseil Général Alpes Maritimes

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