Buckwheat pancakes with sardine fillets, savoury tomato sauce, and tapenade

Buckwheat pancakes with sardine fillets savoury tomato sauce and tapenade

Galettes de sarrasin, thin buckwheat pancakes are served in French creperie restaurants. They are savoury crepes usually filled with sausages or fried egg. You can make your own crepes if you have a crepe pan or a special crêpière, griddle pancake pan. My daughter- in- law is a specialist for this. But I opted the easy way and bought ready-made crepes from our supermarket in Nice.

The following recipe combines the buckwheat pancakes with tapenade, black olive purée, sardine fillets, and savoury tomato sauce. If you cannot buy ready-made buckwheat pancakes or tapenade, there are several recipes on the Internet. Tinned sardines can be used as a substitute for fresh sardine fillets.

2 servings

4 galettes de sarrasin, thin buckwheat pancakes
8 fresh sardine fillets
A small pot of tapenade noir, black olive purée

For the savoury tomato sauce:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
200 ml tomato sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200° C.

In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat and sauté garlic and herbs for a few minutes. Add the vinegar, tomato sauce, and black pepper. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer.

Clean the sardine fillets with kitchen paper. Place in an ovenproof oiled dish and roast for 10 minutes.

Spread some tapenade on the quarter of each pancake. Top with the tomato sauce and 2 sardine fillets. Fold the pancakes into quarters to make little triangular cones. Serve with some green salad for a carefree lunch or a light dinner.

Chicken legs with Asian twist

Chicken legs with Asian twist

Chicken is such a versatile ingredient; in this recipe chicken legs are first marinated and then simply roasted in the oven. Soya sauce, ginger, and lime juice in the marinade give the dish some Asian touch. Free-range organic chicken legs with skin are best for the recipe.

2 servings

2 free-range and organic chicken legs with skin

For the marinade:

1 tbsp. runny honey
1 tbsp. soya sauce
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried mixed herbs
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lime

Make the marinade by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl. Place the chicken legs in an oven-proof dish and pour over the marinade. Cover with film and refrigerate for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Roast the chicken legs for 45 minutes. Cover with foil if they get too dark.

Serve with brown rice and wilted Asia greens such as bok choy or chard.

Aspremont to Croix de Cuor and Mont Inarte

At Mont Inarte

After having hiked to Mont Cima and Mont Chauve several times from Aspremont (490m), we wanted to explore a new itinerary in this well-known hiking area. The village of Aspremont lies only about 10 km north of Nice as the crow flies.

Mont Inarte (801 m) is situated immediately northwest of Mont Cima (879 m). While you can’t quite beat the views from the summit of Mont Cima, this easy and leisurely hike follows good trails along Mont Cima’s western flank, offering views down to the Var River Valley and beyond.

We started along the GR 5 trail north, ascending through the Les Salettes neighbourhood (streets and footpaths) as far as to a dirt track marked “CDV 14 De La Croix du Cuor” where we forked left, leaving the GR trail, and continued along it, heading northwest. At the next hiking signpost, we forked left making a short detour to a viewing point at la Croix de Cuor (744 m), a cliff above Castagniers and the Var River Valley. The scenery from here was great, practically 360°.

We then headed northeast along a path to the nearby Collet de l’Eurier (736 m), then straight north following a wide dirt track that ran along the western flank of Mont Cima. After about 600 m, we forked right and continued along a footpath whereas the dirt track started to descend. Our goal, Mont Inarte, was visible all the time. There were no markings nor signposts, but the itinerary was easy to follow. We came to a crossroads of some trails in the woods, and took the one that went northwest to Mont Inarte.

We used the same itinerary back to Collet de l’Eurier, where we forked left and soon reached the GR5 which we followed back to Aspremont.

Climb: 350 m

Distance: 8.1 km

Duration: About 2h 30 active

Map: 3742 OT «Nice-Menton Côte d’Azur »

Aspremont to Inarte trail track

Braised carrots with turkey escalopes

Braised carrots with turkey escalopes

Braising is a cooking technique: the food is first fried at a higher temperature (medium- high), then covered, a little liquid added and the heat is reduced to medium- low. Braising carrots renders them sweet and tasty.

Serve the braised carrots with turkey or chicken escalopes or a piece of meat and green lentils for a healthy and colourful combination.

2 servings

2- 3 carrots, pref. organic
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp. black olives, pitted and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

For the turkey escalopes:
2 thin turkey escalopes
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
Bread crumbs
Olive oil

For the lentils:
100 ml green lentils
About 400 ml water

Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium- high heat in a heavy frying pan. Wash the carrots and either slice them or cut lengthwise into smaller pieces. Fry the carrots stirring frequently until golden brown. Reduce the heat to medium- low. Add the garlic, orange juice, black pepper, and olives. Cover and braise for about 40 minutes, stirring regularly, until the carrots are soft and almost caramelized.

Cook the green lentils for about 30- 40 minutes until soft. Cover and keep warm.

Brush a large oven-proof dish with olive oil. Spread a generous amount of bread crumbs on a large plate. Spread 1 tsp. Dijon mustard on a turkey escalope, then press the escalope against bread crumbs. Repeat the procedure on the other side and place the escalope in the oven- proof dish. Do the same with the other escalope.  Drizzle a little olive oil over the escalopes and roast for 20 minutes.

Divide the escalopes, braised carrots, and green lentils on the plates. Enjoy the colours as well as the food!

Risotto alla zucchini and oven-roasted salmon

Risotto alla zucchini

Risotto is such an elegant and versatile dish. In the wonderful cookery book, the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins I found a recipe by an Italian chef: Risotto with pumpkins. Pumpkins and butternut squashes are great in autumn and winter, whereas zucchinis, courgettes, are true spring and summer vegetables.

The following recipe is my twist of the original Italian recipe. It goes very well with oven roasted salmon.

2 servings

2 nice pieces of salmon, pref. organic
120 ml risotto rice, carnaroli or arborio (not to be rinsed!)
A glass of white wine
About 600 ml vegetable stock (you may not need to use all of it)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, courgette
2 tsp. dried parsley
A good handful of grated parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large heavy casserole warm the olive oil over medium low heat.

Wash the zucchini well under running water with a brush. Chop it, add to the casserole and stir well to coat with olive oil. Add the shallot and garlic, stir and cover the casserole. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring a few times, until the zucchini is very soft. Purée the zucchini and add the dried parsley.

Preheat the oven to 200° C, roast.

Add the rice to the casserole and increase the heat to medium- medium high. Add ½ glass of white wine and stir. Keep stirring and as soon as the wine has evaporated add the rest of the wine. Then start adding the vegetable stock, a ladle or two at a time, stirring constantly. As soon as the rice has absorbed the liquid add more. It is this constant stirring and adding only a small amount of liquid at a time which gives the creaminess to the risotto, without any cream or butter.

The rice is done in about 25 minutes, give or take. It should be al dente, with a bit of bite in it.

When the rice is done, remove the casserole from the heat and stir in the parmesan and black pepper. The risotto should be thick enough to be eaten with a fork.

Meanwhile roast the salmon pieces in 200° C for about 10 minutes, depending the thickness of the slices and how well done you wish your salmon.

Divide the risotto on two plates and spread with a fork. Place the salmon on top of the risotto.

L'Escalet to Plage de Briande

Cap Taillat

We have previously hiked along the coastal trail from Cap Camarat to l’Escalet and from Plage de Gigaro to Cap Lardier. The trail running along the shores of the southern St-Tropez peninsula is truly wonderful.

On a warm autumn day, we now drove to l’Escalet to explore the trail to Plage de Briande.

Soon after l’Escalet, it was possible to choose a narrower and rockier trail along the cliffs at Point du Canadel. This trail, marked difficile, was nevertheless quite easy to negotiate. We came near a small beach named Plage d’Amour after which we joined the easy upper trail.

We had Cap Taillat in front of us. After a devastating forest fire in 2017, the scenery had changed dramatically compared with our earlier visit. There were black, burned trees along the trail, and Cap Taillat was almost bare. We passed several small beaches, such as Plage de la Douane and Plage Taillat. From the Cap Taillat Isthmus, only a short stroll remained along some cliffs to Plage de Briande.

Plage de Briande is a magnificent sandy beach.  We waded in the sea to the other end of the beach for a picnic. This was our turning point, as the trail which continued to Cap Lardier, looked scarred in the burnt landscape. Luckily in some places the nature was already recovering.

On the way back, we took the easy trail all the way back to l’Escalet.

Distance: 6 km

Climb: 110 m

Duration: 2 h 30

Duck breast, blond lentil risotto and broccoli purée

Duck breast, blond lentil risotto and broccoli purée

Blond lentils, lentilles blondes, can be cooked in about 20 minutes, about the same time as risotto rice. I recently read an article about a French chef who cooked blond lentils in the same way as risotto. So, I thought why not try this. The result was so good that I wish to share this unusual way of cooking healthy blond lentils.

Sometimes one gets tired of plain steamed broccoli florets so a broccoli purée makes a nice change. It is quick to make with a handheld mixer. Make the risotto and broccoli purée while the duck breast is roasted in the oven.

2 servings

1 duck breast
120 ml blond lentils
150 ml white wine
About 600 ml vegetable stock (you may not need all of it)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
A handful of grated parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
½ large or 1 small broccoli head, florets only
Chopped parsley to decorate

Preheat the oven to 200°C, roast.

Criss-cross the fat side of the duck breast with a sharp knife and place the breast fat side up in an ovenproof dish. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the duck breast and continue roasting for 10- 15 minutes.  Remove the breast from the oven on a slicing board and cover with aluminium foil to keep it warm.

While the duck is roasting in the oven make the blond lentil risotto and broccoli purée.

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy casserole over medium heat and sauté shallot and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the lentils and stir until well coated with olive oil. Start adding the wine, then vegetable stock ladle by ladle the same way as cooking the risotto while stirring the lentils regularly. They won’t become as creamy as risotto rice so don’t worry about stirring them all the time as you would with risotto rice.

While the lentil risotto is cooking, microwave the broccoli florets with 1 tbsp; of water for about 4- 6 minutes until soft. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil and some vegetable stock and purée with a handheld mixer. Add more vegetable stock, if needed, for a nice consistence. Cover and keep warm.

When the lentils are cooked into a nice consistence, al dente, soft but still offering some resistance just like risotto rice, remove the casserole from heat and stir in the parmesan.

Divide the broccoli purée on the plates and flatten with a spoon. Slice the duck breast and place on top of the broccoli purée. Divide the lentil risotto on the side and decorate with chopped parsley.

Lemon spaghetti with parma ham

Lemon spaghetti with parma ham

In these corona virus times, we are told to be confined in our homes and even simple food shopping has become a major procedure to be postponed as much as possible. From a few simple ingredients it is possible to make a “creamy”, tasty, and healthy pasta dish.

Instead of real cream I used thick French fromage blanc  0% fat and added a generous amount of good local olive oil. If you don’t have fromage blanc in your shop, you could use thick Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche. If it is low-fat or zero fat, simply use more olive oil and it works well in this recipe.

I topped the spaghetti with slices of parma ham, but smoked salmon, defrosted shrimp, or tinned sardines would go just as well. Feel free to experiment!

2 servings

Juice of ½ lemon
100g fromage blanc 0% fat or Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche
2 – 3 tbsp. good olive oil
A handful of grated parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 slices of parma ham
1 tsp. dried parsley
Spaghetti, pref. organic whole wheat, for 2 servings

Brush the lemon with liquid soap and rinse to remove any possibly lingering corona viruses. Then press ½ lemon into juice.

Bring the pasta cooking water to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook as long as indicated on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, pace the fromage blanc / yoghurt in a large bowl. Add the grated parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, dried parsley, and black pepper. Stir well.

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and add to the bowl. Toss well, the sauce thickens and coats every spaghetti strand.

Divide the spaghetti into two bowls and top with parma ham.

Easy loop trail above Vence

Circuit du Malvan near signpost 113

This loop trail above Vence called Circuit du Malvan represents another great winter walk on Côte d’Azur. The French description can be found on the randoxygène web site.

To reach the trailhead behind Chateau Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs, fork right (when driving from Vence) from the RM2210 road about 3 km west of Vence, just after the roundabout.

Behind the Chateau, signpost #119 showed the start with the text Circuit du Malvan among other locations. We headed north, and ascended passing signposts 118,117 and 116. We soon came to the trail that we had hiked along on several occasions, reaching Chapel St-Raphaël. A bit higher up in the incline, ruins of the Malvans Fortress were visible. We continued straight north, crossed the tiny Malvan Stream, then forked sharply southeast (right) at signpost #114. At signpost #113, we again forked right, now heading towards Vence.
Circuit du Malvan was not anymore written on these signposts, only Vence and the M2 road. But navigation was easy enough. We soon reached residential areas and paved streets, and followed the yellow marks. The trail took some shortcuts between residences as at signpost #111, which took us to Chemin de l’Ormée (signpost #110, a bit hidden) and forked right (west). We walked along it about 900 m before turning left to Chemin des Quatre Vents. We descended rapidly along it to M2210 which we followed till we reached the roundabout. From this point, it was just a short walk and ascent back to our starting point.

The M2210/Route de Grasse running above the main road (M2210A) had light local traffic, and walking along it did not pose any problems.

Distance: 8,2 km

Duration: 2h 30 (walking time)

Elevation gain : 308 m
Circuit du Malvan GPS track

Map: 3643ET Cannes Grasse Côte d’Azur

Tomato spaghetti with burrata

Tomato spaghetti with burrata

There is an old saying in Naples that you shouldn’t serve parmesan with tomato pasta. But they say nothing about burrata, so…

Summertime I am fond of burrata which goes very well with tasty tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive oil. The following easy pasta recipe makes a colourful summer lunch.

2 servings 

About 3 tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. Provençal herbs
Freshly ground black pepper
200 ml good, preferably organic, tomato sauce
About 8 cherry tomatoes or 2 tomatoes coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. black olives, pitted and sliced
1 burrata
Fresh basil leaves
Spaghetti for 2 servings

Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Sauté the shallot and garlic about 10 minutes until soft. Add the Provençal herbs, black pepper, tomato sauce, and black olives to the pan and mix.

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti, drain and add to the pan. Mix with the tomato sauce until the pasta is evenly coated.

Divide the tomato spaghetti into the bowls, and top the pasta with ½ burrata. Place some cherry tomatoes or chopped tomato on the side, drizzle over a little olive oil and decorate with fresh basil leaves.