Chick pea and shrimp stew


Chick pea and shrimp stew

From a tin of chick peas and some cooked shrimp plus a few other basic cooking ingredients, it is possible to make a quick and tasty lunch or supper. Serve this dish with fresh herbs and a green side salad for a balanced meal.

2 servings

A tin of chick peas

About 200 g peeled and cooked shrimp

1 shallot, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

100 ml tomato sauce

100 ml white wine

1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs

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

A few fresh stems of basil

Rinse the basil under running water and let dry on kitchen paper.

Warm the olive oil over medium- low heat in a large skillet. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Raise the heat to medium and add the white wine, tomato sauce, Provençal herbs, and Piment d’ Espelette

Rinse the chick peas under running water, add to the skillet and stir. Let cook for about 5 minutes until the chick peas are thoroughly reheated and the sauce has somewhat reduced. Add the shrimp to the skillet and reheat for about 2 minutes.

Divide the stew into bowls and decorate with chopped basil leaves.

Short loop above La Colmiane


Near Pic de la Colmiane

The mountain resort of La Colmiane (1500 m) was largely spared from the devastation caused by the storm Alex on 3 October 2020. Incidentally, we climbed to Caïre Gros from Colmiane just a few days before the storm hit the area.

Now, almost 9 months later, we went for a hike from Colmiane, our first visit to the upper valleys after the storm.

The weather forecast showed a high probability of afternoon thunderstorms. We therefore opted for a shorter hike above the resort.

We started along the same dirt track which we used last year as far as to signpost #94, where we forked left and continued along a forest path which eventually merged with the GR5 trail at signpost #98. We continued to Col du Varaire (1710 m; signpost #310) where we forked sharply left and continued northeast towards Pic de la Colmiane (1790 m).  The early summer greenery and flora was just fantastic! At the summit, we passed the ski lift upper station and the restaurant and descended to Col de Colmiane (1641 m) along a wide track/ski run.

Our option was to climb to le Conquet but clouds had become darker and menacing. We took a shortcut along the northern flank of le Conquet first along the ski run then along a path (they are visible in the satellite view not on the map!) directly to a steeper and grassy ski run marked as la Serentie on the map. We descended along it, zigzagging because of the incline. We passed the lake/water reservoir and reached our starting point after a short ascent.

Just before Col de Colmiane, we had a good view down to Venanson and the Vesubie Valley. The storm Alex had wiped away large areas of land on both sides of the Vésubie River. There is now usable road up to Saint Martin Vésubie and after that for the locals to the first houses in the Boréon Valley. They hope to open the road to the Boréon Lake in July. The road to Madone de Fenestre will not be opened until summer 2022.

Duration: 2h 50

Distance: 6,7 km

Climb: 390 m

Map: 3741 OT Vallée de la Vésubie

Pic de la Colmiane loop track

Colmiane loop hike satellite view

Chicken breast with black olives and orange sauce


Chicken breast with black olives and orange sauce

This quick and colourful recipe makes a tasty and healthy dinner. The ingredients are easy to find year-round.

2 servings

2 organic skinless chicken breasts

2 carrots, sliced

A handful of very small new potatoes or a few larger ones sliced

Olive oil

1 bouquet garni (a bunch of dried thyme and bay leaf)

Black pepper

8 pitted black olives, sliced

1 organic orange, zest and juice

250 ml chicken stock

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Fresh herbs to decorate

In a heavy casserole such as Le Creuset warm 1 tbsp. olive oil over low heat and sauté the bouquet garni for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile microwave the sliced carrots and potatoes until soft. Add to the casserole and continue sautéing until light golden. Add the olives, cover and keep warm.

Warm 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat and sauté the chicken breasts for 10 minutes. Turn and sauté the other side for about 5 minutes. Add the orange juice and zest and let reduce for about 10 minutes turning the breasts occasionally.

At the same time reduce the chicken stock and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan by 2/3; Then pour in the frying pan over the chicken.

Divide the breasts and vegetables on the plates and pour the orange sauce over the chicken. Decorate with chopped fresh herbs.

Roubion: Tête de Pommier from Colle de la Couillole

Tête de Pommier north eastern slope

For someone who enjoys hikes along soft alpine meadows along easy trails with super views, we can certainly recommend the following itinerary above Roubion, between the Tinée and Cians Valleys.

The mountains south of Col de la Couillole (1678 m) are round, reminding us of fells in northern Scandinavia. Many of them have ski lifts serving the small ski resort in Roubion. There are marked hiking trails, tracks used by mountain bikers in summer as well as tracks in the terrain which are not shown on maps at all. This makes walking very easy as you can tailor-make your itinerary.

Inspired by last year’s hike around Pin Pourri (1826 m) from Beuil, we now wanted to explore the trail to Tête du Pommier (1913 m).

Mont Mounier
Mont Mounier

Towards Pin Pourri
Towards Pin Pourri

East of Pin Pourri
East of Pin Pourri

We drove up to Colle de la Couillole via the Cians Valley (D28 road) to Beuil, then took the D30 to the Col. There is a good parking across the road from the auberge. 

The shortest route to Tête de Pommier is to start along the dirt track which runs along the eastern flank of the small summits. 

Cime de Tournerie
Cime de Tournerie

Lauvet d'Ilonse
Lauvet d'Ilonse

Trail south of Cime de Tournerie
Trail south of Cime de Tournerie

Heading to signpost #62a
Heading to signpost 62a

Cowslips near Tête de Pommier
Cowslips near Tête de Pommier

We wanted to use the trails which were a bit higher, and first headed south towards Pin Pourri. We passed its summit, then descended to signpost #65 at Les Compés, and continued to signpost #66 at Terme Ribi. From here, we circled along the western flank of Cime de Tournerie. The itinerary followed a dirt track partly converted to a ski run, still wet after last night’s rain. We followed an unkept path parallel to it, then joined a good trail to signpost #62a where we forked right (southwest) to signpost #62 which was on the grassy north western slope of Tête de Pommier. We climbed directly to the flat summit.

Signpost#62 under Tête de Pommier summit
Signpost#62 under Tête de Pommier summit

At Tête de Pommier
At Tête de Pommier

Beuil viewed from Tête de Pommier
Beuil viewed from Tête de Pommier

Pin Pourri vast summit
Pin Pourri vast summit

On the way back, we descended along a very smooth ski run back to signpost #62a, then hiked over Cime de Tournerie, and joined our previous track. We made a detour to Pin Pourri’s vast summit plateau before descending back to our starting point.

Distance: 10 km

Duration: 3h 30 active

Climb: 530 m

Map: Moyenne Tinée 3641 ET

Tête de Pommier hike track
Tête de Pommier hike track

Tuna with tataki sauce


Tuna with tataki sauce

The French morning TV, Télématin, recently showed a nice clip from the fish market in Saint-Jean-de-Luz where a local chef cooked tuna with tataki sauce.

The tuna fishing season in the Bay of Biscay is from June to October. The fishing is sustainable respecting the quotas and every caught tuna is numbered. They seemed to weigh 30 kg in the market of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

The chef cooked the tuna filet mi-cuit gently over medium heat on all sides and leaving it raw inside. The tuna was then sliced, placed on top of sautéed green vegetables and drizzled with tataki sauce.

The simplest tataki sauce is lemon juice, soy sauce, grated garlic, sesame oil, and minced green onion whisked together. For more Mediterranean flavours, I replaced sesame oil with olive oil. Tataki sauce goes also well with salmon. Soy sauce is salty so if you want to reduce some salt in tataki sauce you could choose salt-reduced soy sauce.

2 servings tataki sauce

1 tbsp. chopped green onion

A dash of finely minced garlic

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. soy sauce

Whisk together all the ingredients until the sauce emulsifies and thickens. Keep refrigerated until needed.

Make a green vegetable sauté by cooking over medium heat in 1- 2 tbsp. of olive oil different greens in season such as green asparagus, courgette, green peas, spinach, and some shallot and garlic. Keep warm, covered while you cook the tuna steaks.

Warm 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan and gently cook the tuna steaks leaving them pink, almost rare inside. The cooking time varies according to the thickness of the steaks, about 2- 3 minutes on both sides. 

Divide the vegetables and tuna on the plates and drizzle the tataki sauce over the fish.

Loop in the Anelle Forest


Hiking in Anelle Forest

The following loop hike which circles Cime d’Anelle (1841 m) northwest of Saint-Etienne de Tinée (1160 m) runs partly in ancient pasture and agricultural land, partly in a verdant spruce, pine and larch forest.

The French name of the Anelle ForestBois d'Anelle,  is derived from the provençal word agnel meaning agneau, lamb.

We parked next to the Pinatelle Telecabin, crossed the river and walked past a school named Jean Franco to signpost #78 and started to ascend along the GR5 trail, crossing a road several times. The area on the sunny southern slope called Ublan comprised several old farmhouses, some apparently being renovated. 

We continued to signpost #80 and 81 where we left the GR 5, forked right (Tour de Bois d’Anelle), followed a dirt track then a good path which soon dove into the forest. The day was hot for mid-September, and it was nice to continue in the cool Bois d’Anelle where the trail undulated in the shade.

We followed the yellow-marked PR trail as far as to Col d’Anelle (1739 m) where we re-joined the GR 5 (signpost #71). We forked left and followed a wide track, climbing a bit. After about 1 km, we left the dirt track, and descended in open terrain with old fields, barns and some houses on both sides. We came back to signpost #81, completing the loop, then to #80, and descended fairly rapidly back to the village.

Distance: 10,7 km   

Duration: 4 h

Climb: 680 m

Map : « Haute Tinée I » 3639 OT

Bois d'Anelle loop hike track
Bois d'Anelle loop hike track

Location of St-Etienne-de-Tinée
Location of St-Etienne-de-Tinée

Salade Niçoise revisited


Salade nicoise revisited

The following salade niçoise recipe is not authentic. It is inspired by a lunch in the restaurant of Galeries Lafayette Nice some time ago.

The centrepiece of this salad is fresh tuna cooked like a steak. The tuna steak was mi-cuit, pink in the middle. For this kind of cooking, tuna needs to be fresh; pink- reddish, clear in colour. Tuna which is dark red, brownish is old.

2 servings

2 handfuls of baby salad leaves, mesclun

1 green paprika

2 eggs

A handful of cherry tomatoes

A handful of cooked green beans

2 tbsp. pitted black olives

2 spring onions or minced chives

1 sliced avocado, optional

8 anchovy fillets, optional

A few wedges of Italian artichokes from a jar

About 200- 250 g tuna steak

2 tbsp. olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Basil leaves to decorate, optional

For the dressing:

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Boil the eggs for 6- 7 minutes until the egg white is set but the yolk still soft and a bit runny. Place in cold water for a while, then peel and set aside.

Divide the salad leaves on two large plates. Wash and chop the green paprika and divide on the plates. Scatter with cherry tomatoes, artichoke wedges, black olives and avocado slices. Place the eggs on the plates and halve them. If using anchovy fillets, divide them on the plates. Finely slice the spring onions or chives and sprinkle on the plates.

Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil in a steel pan over medium heat. Cook the tuna steak about 2-2,5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness. Be careful not to overcook- pink or even a little red in the middle is tasty whereas thoroughly cooked tuna is dry. 

When the tuna steak is cooked, halve it and place on the plates. Whisk together oil and vinegar and pour the dressing over the salad. Decorate with basil leaves.

Serve the salad with some good whole wheat bread for a balanced lunch.

Exploring Col de Vence

Viewing point near Col de Vence

We planned a leisurely walk near Nice as the city was preparing itself for a weekend lockdown due to the pandemic. The main reason for preferring a moderate exercise was, however, the deteriorating air quality in the region. Authorities even recommended prudence regarding outdoor activities. Desert dust from Sahara had reached vast areas in eastern France.

Parking at Plan des Noves (at 780 m elev. and a 10 min drive from Vence along M2) is a popular starting point for walks. We wanted to explore trails near Col de Vence (962 m). Studying the map, we found several trails and tracks some of which were neither signposted nor marked officially as hiking trails.

From the parking, we crossed the M2 road to signpost #135, and followed the GR51 trail southwest to signpost#136 where we forked right and ascended to Col de Vence, crossing the road a few times.

Just before the Col, we followed the M2 a few hundred meters. At the Col, we forked right and headed north along a wide trail which was used by riders. The trail was easy to follow in the mostly open terrain. At about 1000 m elev. there was still a lot of haze, reducing the visibility on this otherwise clear winter day.

We walked till the end of the of the trail, where an unnamed viewing point was marked on the map. There were parallel trails leading to the same turning point. We were high above the Cagnes River Valley. We had the Cheiron mountains to the left and Mouton d’Anou to the right, and the snow-capped Mercantour peaks further away.

We used the same trail back to the starting point.

This trail was much less frequented than the one leading to Plan des Noves. The only disadvantage was that you had to cross the M2 road a few times, minding both cars and cyclists.

Distance: 8,2 km

Climb: 270 m

Duration: 2h 40

Map: Vallée de l’Estéron Vallee du Loup 3642 ET

Col de Vence walk track