Cherry tomato and cheese tart

Cherry tomato and cheese tart

This delicious tart is easy to prepare with ready- made puff pastry, pâte feuilletée. The French puff pastries are thin and easy to roll out into a tart tin. They are generous in size; if you use a small tart tin about 25 cm in diameter, simply cut away with scissors the extra pastry. I always choose the traditional puff pastry made with butter.

The cherry tomatoes, or other tasty tomatoes in different colours, are simply assembled fresh on top of the baked tart. But it is the pistou, basil and olive oil sauce, which really heightens the taste in this tart and makes it very South of France style.

Serve this tart with baby salad leaves and vinaigrette for a simple but tasty lunch.

4 servings

About 25 cm diameter tart tin
Butter for the tart tin
1 ready- made puff pastry, pâte feuilletée
4 eggs
120 ml crème fraîche, 15 % fat
100 g Parmesan, freshly grated
1 ball of mozzarella
1 tbsp. Maizena, corn starch

For the decoration:
About 18- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil leaves

For the pistou:

1/3 clove garlic, crushed
A small handful of basil leaves
¼ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 3 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Butter the tart tin and roll out the puff pastry into the tin. Cut away the extra pasty and pick the bottom with a fork.

Grate 100 g Parmesan and cut the mozzarella ball into small pieces.

In a bowl whisk the eggs, crème fraîche and freshly ground black pepper. Add the grated Parmesan and 1 tbsp. Maizena and whisk again. Add the mozzarella pieces and mix. Pour the mixture into the tart tin and bake for 30- 35 minutes.

Meanwhile make the pistou. Wash and dry the basil leaves. Crush 1/3 clove garlic in a mortar with a pestle. Add the basil leaves, some freshly ground black pepper and the salt and continue pounding into a paste. Add the olive oil to make a sauce. Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them into halves.

When the tart is baked, let it cool for a few minutes. Then place the halved cherry tomatoes on top of the tart. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar and the pistou.


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Hike from Col d'Allos

Rochegrand seen from Allos Village

The D908 road that goes over Col d’Allos (2250 m) connects the Ubaye and Verdon Valleys. Just below the mountain pass, there’s a refuge which is open during the summer months. The GR56 hiking trail goes over the col, making it an excellent starting point for some good hikes. There’s a potholed parking at the col proper. The parking at the refuge is reserved for the clients. The mountain pass is extremely popular during the summer peak period as many stop there just to admire the stunning views, and to experience the alpine atmosphere. The winding road up to the pass is very narrow, so be careful. Compared to this, the road over Col de la Bonette feels like a highway!

The drive from Nice to Col d’Allos is long, about 2h 50 but there are some villages along the road where you can stop for a coffee and snack. We can recommend Entrevaux and Allos Village which both made nice stops.

Because of the distance, it made sense to make a shorter walk from the col as we did not plan to stay overnight. To explore the region better, we’d recommend to book an accommodation for a few nights.

Here we describe a panoramic and easy walk from Col d’Allos to Rochegrand (2409 m) and back which takes only about three hours.

We headed south along the GR56 trail, ascending to Baisse de Prenier (2402 m). Just below this point, we left the GR56 trail and forked right. The trail continued in a very nice alpine meadow further south, rolling along a gentle mountain ridge, croupe de la Montagne de Cheiroueche. The summit of Rochegrand could be seen in front of us most of the time. We reached the summit after about 1h 30. The southern face of Rochegrand was steep and rocky. We had the village of Allos right under us. Some of the nearby summits worth mentioning include Mont Pelat (3050 m), Le Cimet (3020 m) and the peculiar Grande Séolane (2909 m).

We returned to Col d’Allos along the same trail.
Grande Seolane 2909 m

Duration: 3 hours
Rochegrand trail image

Vertical ascent: 340 m

Map: IGN 3540 OT Barcelonnette

Image of trail courtesy of Google


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Lamb shoulder and vegetable stew recipe

Lamb shoulder and vegetable stew

Lamb shoulder, épaule d’agneau, is a typical autumnal dish in the South of France. Lamb shoulder usually weighs around 1kg and makes four generous servings. If you cook the lamb shoulder for just two persons you will have left-overs for the next day and you could make for instance lamb couscous or lamb parmentier.

The choice of vegetables in this recipe reflects autumn. Butternut squash, new potatoes, red bell pepper, shallot and garlic stew goes nicely with lamb shoulder.

Serve your lamb with a great red from Côtes du Rhône Villages.
Local experts say that some Syrah in the wine goes especially well with lamb, and we agree.

For 4 servings lamb shoulder

About 1 kg lamb shoulder
150 ml white wine
250 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 bouquet garni, a bunch of dried herbs
4 cloves garlic, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

For 2 servings vegetable stew

3- 5 new potatoes, sliced
2 shallots
1 clove garlic
1 red bell pepper
About 200 g butternut squash cubes
2 tbsp. olive oil
100 ml white wine
100 ml chicken stock
A pinch of salt (optional)
Parsley to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Warm 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil over high heat in a heavy frying pan. Fry the lamb shoulder on both sides until nicely browned. Place it in an ovenproof dish fatty side up. Pour the white wine and chicken stock in the dish, add the garlic slices, bouquet garni and black pepper. Bake in the oven for 2 hours.

Meanwhile prepare the vegetable stew. Wash and slice the potatoes. Wash and chop the red bell pepper.  In a heavy casserole, such as Le Creuset, warm the olive oil over medium heat and start sautéing the potatoes and bell pepper. Stir frequently.

Peel and chop the shallots, peel and mince the garlic clove. Add to the casserole and reduce the heat somewhat. Add the butternut squash, white wine and chicken stock. Cover and let simmer until the vegetables are soft.

When the lamb shoulder is done, place it on a cutting board. Remove the fat crust on top of it and slice.

Place the sliced lamb on the plates and sprinkle with the juices from the baking dish.  Divide the vegetable stew on the plates and decorate with parsley.


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Above Millefonts Lakes

Above Lac Petit Mont Pépoiri 2676 m in background

We have previously described our hike to Mont Pépoiri (2674 m) from the Millefonts parking (2040 m). The road up here from St-Dalmas Valdeblore is narrow with some potholes, but nevertheless drivable with a normal car.

This time we wanted to explore another trail in this popular region. Starting from over 2000 m altitude, you are already in an Alpine environment above the tree line.

We first climbed to Col de Veillos (2194 m; 30 min). At the crossroads here, we took the trail that forked left heading north to Lac Petit (2229 m), which in spite of its diminutive name is in fact the largest of the Millefont Lakes. Above the lake, we left the yellow-marked trail and forked left following a trail in a gentle grassy terrain. There were some cairns here and there. Navigation was easy as most of the time we had Col Ferrière (2484 m) in sight. The terrain was easy; you could walk almost anywhere. We reached the mountain pass after 1h 50. It was also the border of Mercantour National Park. We had great views to north, towards the peaks surrounding the Isola 2000 resort as well as the Mercantour summits, many of them marking the Franco-Italian border.

We continued heading east along the mountain ridge, and climbed to our first summit called Brec du Col Ferrière (2518 m) 10 min later. After a brief descent, we ascended next to Tête des Marges (2550 m) 2h 30 after the start, soon followed by Tête du Barn (2529 m) nearby.

We continued along the ridge, descending to Col du Barn (2453 m/ 3h 10). This mountain pass is at the crossroads to Mont Pépoiri and the GR 52 trail.
Having done three nice peaks already, we forked right, and followed the GR 52 back to the starting point. Ascending to Pépoiri and taking the “off-piste” route via Lac d’en Veillos back to the parking would mean about 250 m more climbing and roughly one hour more hiking time.

Ascent:  about 550 m

Duration: 4h 30

Map: 3641 ET Moyenne Tinée
Image of trail above Millefonts Lakes

Trail image courtesy of Google Maps


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Trout fillets Riviera style

Trout fillets Riviera style

In the following recipe trout fillets are simply cooked in the oven and served with panisses, fried courgette (squash) flowers and oven-roasted tomatoes.

Panisses, chickpea flour “fries” are strongly associated with the traditional cuisine in Nice. Chickpea flour is of course the essential ingredient of the famous socca. Chickpea flour, farine de pois chiches, is easy to find in our supermarket in Nice, but for convenience I prefer to buy Chez Bernard panisses. I just roast them in the oven with hazelnut powder and olive oil. If you can’t buy panisses you can of course replace them with new potatoes in this recipe.

Fried courgette flowers, fleurs de courgettes, are a Niçois staple and you will often find them on menus in small restaurants of the Vieux Nice.

The tomato halves are simply sprinkled with a little minced garlic and black pepper, covered with dry breadcrumbs and some olive oil and roasted in the oven together with the trout fillets and panisses.

2 servings

2 trout fillets with skin, about 150 g each
4 courgette flowers with small courgettes still attached to them
1 small shallot
1 tbsp. rapeseed oil
150 ml light chicken stock
8 black olives, pitted and halved
1 tomato, halved
½ clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp. olive oil
3 panisses from Chez Bernard
6 tsp. hazelnut powder, noisettes en poudre
3 tsp. olive oil
Basil leaves to decorate
½ lemon in wedges

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Wash the courgette flowers and place them on kitchen paper to dry. Peel and mince the shallot. Warm 1 tbsp. rapeseed oil in a frying pan over low heat and start gently sautéing the shallot. Make 150 ml light chicken stock.

Line a large roasting tray with baking paper. Place the panisses on the tray and sprinkle each first with 2 tsp. hazelnut powder and then with 1 tsp. olive oil. Place the tomato halves on the tray and sprinkle first with some minced garlic and black pepper, then with dry breadcrumbs and olive oil. Place the trout fillets on the tray skin side down. Roast the tray in 200 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile place the courgette flowers in the frying pan and increase the heat to medium- high. Fry the courgettes and flowers for a few minutes turning a few times, then add the chicken stock. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Small young courgettes can remain al dente.

Divide the trout, panisses, courgette flowers and tomatoes on the plates. Pour the cooking juices from the frying pan on the trout and courgette flowers. Decorate with basil leaves and olive halves and serve with a lemon wedge.


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