Pork with sweet potatoes and prunes

Pork with sweet potatoes and prunes

This is a warming and effortless one-pot dish, just perfect for cold winter evenings.

2 servings

About 300- 400 g fat- free pork

2 carrots

1 medium sweet potato

2 shallots

1 clove garlic

8 pitted prunes

About 250 ml chicken stock

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. Piment d’Espelette or other mild chilli powder

A pinch of saffron

Parsley to decorate


Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy cocotte, casserole, such as Le Creuset. Cut the pork into about 4 cm x 4 cm pieces and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Peel and halve the shallots and add to the casserole. Add the chicken stock, minced garlic, saffron, and Piment d’ Espelette.

Preheat the oven to 200° C.

Slice the carrots and add to the casserole. Peel the sweet potato, cut into chunks and add to the casserole. Add the prunes and bring to the boil.

Transfer the casserole to the oven and cook for about 45 minutes until the root vegetables are soft. Check occasionally; if the stew gets too dry add a little water.

Divide the stew on the plates and decorate with parsley.

Tomato, white bean, and shrimp stew


This is a super quick recipe if you use cooked or tinned white beans and cooked peeled shrimp. Served with a green side salad, and some bread if you wish, it makes a perfect balanced winter lunch.

2 servings

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 shallots, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

About 16 cherry tomatoes

100 ml white wine

1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs

2 tbsp. pitted black olives

1 tsp. Piment d’Espelette or other mild chilli powder

About 200- 250 ml cooked white beans or a small tin of white beans

About 150- 200 g cooked shrimp

Parsley to decorate

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Sauté the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes together with the cherry tomatoes.

Add the white wine, Provençal herbs, and Piment d’Espelette. Add the cooked beans and black olives and stir. If using tinned beans, rinse them first under running water. Cook the stew for about 10 minutes until hot.

Add the shrimp, stir and cook for about 2 minutes until reheated. Divide into two bowls and decorate with parsley.

Isola 2000: Tête Mercière

Trail above Col de la Roubine

The itinerary to Tête Mercière (2491 m) is one of the most popular hikes from Isola 2000. We have done it a few times. Today’s hike in late June was dedicated to the wild rhododendrons that were in blossom in abundance. 


Our timing was perfect regarding the rhododendrons. Isola 2000 was quiet because the summer season had not yet kicked off. Hikers need to avoid the many mountain biking trails (marked) that cross walking paths and ski runs.

From the centre of Isola 2000, we walked to signpost #80 and #81. Instead of forking left along Chemin des Italiens (as advised in the local guide), we ascended first along a steep ski run, then forked left after 150 m and continued to climb along a less steep and grassier ski slope that went under the Pélévos Télécabine. After 700 m, we again forked left to a track that crossed ski lifts and runs. We hiked past the high-altitude landing strip and came to the quasi horizontal dirt track which we followed east to Col de la Roubine (signposts #96, 96a).

From Col de la Roubine, at the foot of Tête Mercière, the trail zigzagged to the summit along the north western flank with beautiful red and green rhododendron carpets by the trail. The summit marked the border of Mercantour National Park. The southern flank of the mountain comprised vast alpine meadows, and remains of bunkers were seen here and there.

We descended to Col Mercière (2342m, signpost #95). At this crossroads we headed north along a yellow-marked trail (some rockslides on the path after the col) to signpost #92 in Vallon de Terre Rouge. The ascending trail went up to the Terre Rouge Lakes and Baisse de Druos. We forked left at this crossroads and descended back to the village.

Rhododendrons in Isola 2000
Rhododendrons in Isola 2000
Rhododendrons around Tête Mercière
Rhododendrons around Tête Mercière

Climb: 550 m

Duration: 3h 50 active

Distance: 8,5 km

Map: “Haute Tinée 2” TOP 25 N°O 3640 OT

Our GPS (iPhiGéNie) track:

Tête Mercière loop hike track
Tête Mercière loop hike track

Aubergine gratin

Aubergine gratin


This is a rich vegetable side best served with a simple piece of grilled lamb or roasted chicken. In summer, you can make it with fresh tomatoes which in winter can be substituted with good Italian tomato sauce. Freshly grated parmesan cheese is a must for this gratin.

Aubergine is known for its capacity to soak up oil or butter if you fry the slices. I have started to roast the slices in the oven and this helps to control the amount of olive oil needed. Slice the aubergine rather thickly, brush the slices on both sides with a little olive oil and roast until soft. This takes about 20 minutes in 200° C. Then use the roasted slices for the gratin.

2 servings

1 medium aubergine, rather thickly sliced 

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs

200 ml Italian tomato sauce or 3- 4 fresh tomatoes plus a little tomato paste

Freshly ground black pepper

A handful of grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200° C, roast.

Place the aubergine slices in one layer on an oven- tray lined with baking paper. Lightly brush with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile warm 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the tomato sauce or the fresh chopped tomatoes and some tomato paste. Add the herbs and black pepper, stir and continue cooking until the sauce is nice and thick, about 5 minutes if using tomato sauce and about 10- 15 minutes if using fresh tomatoes. 

Lightly oil a gratin dish with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom and place the aubergine slices on the sauce. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce and divide the parmesan over the sauce. Sprinkle with a little olive oil. Roast for about 20 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned.

Pork tenderloin with bell peppers

Pork tenderloin with bell peppers

This tasty pork tenderloin, filet mignon de porc, recipe comes from the Basque country. I have somewhat modified the original recipe but I always use Piment d’Espelette, the local mild pepper, for more authenticity. Serve this hearty country dish with blond lentils.

2 servings

1 pork tenderloin, about 400- 500 g, cut into thick slices
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
150 ml red wine
100 ml tomato sauce
1 tsp. Piment d’ Espelette or other mild pepper
1 tsp. Provençal herbs
2 tbsp. black olives

Preheat the oven to 200°C, roast.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy casserole, such as Le Creuset, and fry the pork slices for a few minutes until golden brown. Turn the slices and add the bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Continue frying stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.

Add the wine, tomato sauce, Piment d’Espelette, and olives. Stir and bring to the boil. Then transfer the casserole into the oven for 30 minutes. NB! Do not cover, roasting will give the meat and vegetables a nice colour.

Meanwhile cook the blond lentils which take about 25 minutes.

Divide on the plates. Voilà!

Cime de Rocaillon above Lucéram

Viewing Lucéram from Cime de Rocaillon

Cime de Rocaillon (1444 m) is a less visited mountain top in Nice hinterland, moyen pays, about 24 km from Nice seafront as the crow flies.

The views south and southeast do not disappoint. The medieval village of Lucéram (650 m) is clearly visible deep down in the Paillon River Valley.

From Nice, we drove to Luceram along D2566, and further to Col St-Roch where we took the D73. We parked at Col de la Porte (1057 m) which was the highest point of the road; 35 km from downtown Nice. From Col de la Porte, the summit can be reached with a very moderate effort. Starting from Lucéram is a good option if you wish to do a longer hike but that requires more than twice as much climbing.

From Col de la Porte, we started from signpost #189, and ascended gradually along a nice and soft forest trail. The direction of the trail soon turned to south-southeast. We ascended more steeply, reaching the D2566 road and signpost #193. We crossed the road and found our trail that now became narrower, running in an easterly direction along a grassy ridge to Cime de Rocaillon. At some points the trail was almost ingrown but don’t worry, you won’t get lost if you just stay on the ridge.

On this super spring day, we had the summit and the great forest trail all for ourselves! We can definitely call it an off the beaten track. In short, it was a great half-day itinerary with super views, a pleasant forest trail with a moderate ascent!

Distance: 5.9 km

Climb: 390 m

Duration: 2h 30 active

Map: Vallées de la Bévéra et des Paillons TOP 25 N°o 3741 ET

Cime de Rocaillon trail track

Florence style chicken thighs


Florence style chicken thigs

Why Florence? Because one of the main ingredients in this care-free one-pot dish is white beans and people in Florence and Tuscany have been famous bean eaters. Beans are heart-healthy carbohydrates which also contain vegetable protein, help to keep an even blood sugar and are basic ingredients in the Mediterranean Diet.

Dried white beans need to be soaked overnight in a generous amount of water. Next morning, drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Cook them in fresh water without salt for about 1 hour, maybe even longer, adding more water if needed. Cooking time depends on the size and age of the beans so after 45 minutes start testing the beans. They need to be very tender but not falling apart. When the beans are done, drain them and discard the cooking water.

This is a time-consuming process but cooked beans can be frozen in batches. Of course, you can use tinned high-quality cooked beans. Just rinse them under running water before using.

2 servings

4 organic chicken thighs with skin

Olive oil

½ medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. Provençal herbs

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. from a chicken stock cube

150 ml white wine

2 tbsp. concentrated Italian tomato paste

2 tbsp. black olives, pitted and halved

2 handfuls of sliced mushrooms

About 250 ml cooked white beans

Chopped parsley or rocket to decorate

Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a heavy casserole, such as Le Creuset, and sauté the chicken thighs on both sides until golden brown. Add the onion and garlic and continue sautéing for a few minutes. 

Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a large frying an and cook the mushrooms until nicely coloured.

Preheat the oven to 200° C roast.

Pour the white wine in Le Creuset. Add the piece of chicken stock cube, tomato paste, herbs, and black pepper and stir into a sauce.  Bring to a boil.

Add the beans and mushrooms to Le Creuset. Then transfer the casserole to the oven and roast for 30- 45 minutes checking occasionally that there is enough liquid. Add a little water if needed.

Add the olives to Le Creuset after removing from the oven. Divide on the plates and decorate with fresh herbs.

Tomato Courgette gratin

Tomato courgette gratin

Many years ago, they still often served vegetable gratins in small individual dishes in beach restaurants on the French Riviera. Nowadays you are more likely to find hamburgers on the menus.

These traditional Provençal vegetable gratins are easy to make, look beautiful in see-through Pyrex dishes and go very well with simple chicken, meat or fish dishes. In the image, they are served with sautéed chicken cuts and potatoes. Simple summer cooking!

2 servings

1 small courgette
Olive oil
1 medium firm tomato
2 eggs
1 tbsp. crème fraîche, 15% fat
1 tsp. organic tomato sauce
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180° C, convection mode.

Wash a few basil leaves under running water and let dry on kitchen paper before chopping.

Warm a little olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Wash and thinly slice the courgette. Sauté the slices for 5- 10 minutes.

Wash and slice the tomato. Place the slices in a colander to remove the extra liquid.

In a bowl, whip together the eggs, tomato sauce, crème fraîche, black pepper, chopped basil, and a pinch of salt.

Oil 2 small see-through Pyrex gratin dishes and pace the courgette and tomato slices in layers. Pour over the egg mixture and bake for about 25 minutes until the eggs are set. Serve in their individual dishes.

Smoked salmon with leeks and green beans

Smoked salmon with leeks and green beans


This simple sauté makes a nice warm lunch during colder days when we are still dreaming about summer. Serve with some good whole wheat or rye bread and a green side salad for a balanced meal.

2 servings

2 leeks

2 handfuls of frozen green beans

1 bouquet garni or a sprig of thyme

2 tbsp. olive oil

100 ml vegetable stock

1 tbsp. grainy mustard, moutarde à l’ancienne

Freshly ground black pepper

120 g smoked Alaska salmon

Wash the leeks and discard the tough upper parts. Cut them into about 15 cm long parts, then halve lengthwise.

Warm olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Sauté the leeks for about 5 minutes. Add the green beans and bouquet garni. Stir the mustard in the vegetable stock and add to the pan. Continue cooking for about 8 minutes until the stock has almost evaporated.

Cut the salmon into pieces and divide on top. Grind over some black pepper and serve warm.

Beuil: Hike around Pin Pourri

Beuil and Mont Mounier

You will find many grassy and soft hiking trails around Beuil, in the upper Cians River Valley. We wanted to explore the trails east of the village, in particular Mount Pin Pourri (1826 m) which is located half way between Beuil and Roubion, another small ski resort.

We were inspired by the route described in another blog and first followed this itinerary.

We drove to Beuil (75 km from Nice) along the D28 road and parked just below the village where a narrow and paved road forked right to the hamlet and chapel of St-Ginié on the other side of River Cians. The original description advised to park there, near the chapel but there is very little space if any.

We located signpost #59 and followed instructions to a place called Liberture. After a short ascent to signpost #60 (la Moute, farmhouse, cows) we turned east, and climbed along a dirt track for just about 200 m. Our trail then forked sharply left along another dirt track as far as to a barn. We then continued the ascent along a path on a grassy slope. There were fading yellow markings here and there. In places, it was a bit hard to see the trail. Apparently, it was not one of the main hiking arteries! We reached signposts #63 and 64 next to Liberture (ruined houses, a chapel a bit lower).

Just after Liberture, the grassy southwestern slope of Pin Pourri became visible. We started to ascend along it to the summit. However, after a while we observed a big flock of lambs plus dogs guarding them. Not wanting to disturb them, we turned right and decided to circle the mountain instead.

We descended back to the marked trail and followed it to signpost#65, a place named les Compès. It was a crossroads of some trails and dirt tracks. We took the dirt track that ran along the eastern flank of Pin Pourri in the woods, then ascended to Col de la Couillole by the D30 road.

From here, we took the GR 52A trail which descended rapidly, first following the road. The trail went right through a cattle pasture area. This part of the trail was wet, trodden by cows. Having negotiated the pasture, the trail became nice and we descended back to signpost #59.

Climb: 450 m

Distance: 10,5 km      

Duration: 3h 50 active

IGN Map: Haut Cians Valberg 3640 OT

The map below shows our actual route in green, the planned shortcut in red. We have used the iPhiGénie mobile app.

Pin Pourri trail track