The windmill in Blaignan


Two nights ago we were driving through the vineyards and saw the most spectacular view in Blaignan-Médoc. Millions of golden yellow flowers drizzled all over the growing vineyards, and to add to the show, a beautiful old windmill in the middle of it all . It was a picture perfect moment, but as my husband had forgotten his camera, we decided to return the next morning.

M. Fabien Courrian
M. Fabien Courrian

We came back to the beautiful spot, and walked through the vineyards with our beloved fox-terrier Sky. She’s our most joyful dog, so it suited her to run through the yellow field of dreams without a care in the world. We were just in time, as the flowers were being removed by the workers, patch by patch. A necessary procedure to prevent the flowers and roots to interfere with the vines. Oh well, at least we enjoyed the last of it!


To make our picturesque moment even more special, we bumped into the owner of Château Tour Haut-Caussan, Mr. Fabien Courrian. The Courrian family have lived in Blaignan-Médoc since 1634. Fabien greeted us so warmly, told wonderful stories, and gave us a tour of the fully functional family windmill (it was restored in 1981), followed by a visit to the château. What I loved most about the château/ family home is the warmth it exudes. You can feel the laughter, the close-knit family and above all the generosity of its owners. Fabien was very proud to show us his open table, where he greets friends and clients who drop by. If you are lucky, there will be good food waiting for you, an entrecôte grilling in the fireplace or a rustic stew. What an idyllic life! Wine, food, friends, a château and a windmill – a dream come true and an inspiration for all.  We left his home with a case of wine, a generous gift from Fabien. The windmill is on every label, just like a family crest. I told my husband that life was just like in the movies, and we’re right in it!




When we arrived home, the kids were anxiously waiting with my mother-in-law to jump in the pool. We set a table in the garden, and I rushed in the kitchen to make a perfect starter dish after our little vineyard visit. A vignarola, in other words a spring vegetable stew. Fresh fava beans, peas, artichokes, spring onion, parsley, mint and a dash of pancetta (or guanciale) are the ingredients for this delightful Roman dish. As a matter of fact, this dish is called vignarola (vigna, vine in Italian) because all the vegetables were known to be grown in between rows of Roman grapevines. As they had to be picked to give the vines space to grow, the vignarola recipe was born. At least that is what I heard from my Roman friends. When we were walking through Fabien Courrian’s vineyards, he plucked a few tender spring onions from the vines. We tasted a few, raw and fresh from the earth. ‘Best to be eaten steamed, accompanied by a vinaigrette, just like asparagus!’ he said.



For the main course, I made my family’s favorite chicken dish. Roast chicken with crème fraîche, garlic, shallots and herbs. I love the simplicity of the recipe. The result is the softest, juiciest chicken, filled with all the aromas of a rustic French kitchen. Who would have known that crème fraîche could work such magic in the oven.

After a beautiful lunch al fresco, we enjoyed a family gardening day – Wednesday afternoons are leisure days, because the kids don’t have school. I love this break-free day, making us feel that the school week is slightly shorter. We planted more roses, lavender, tomatoes, strawberries, herbs and camelias. I am especially excited about the tomato crops, as they were such a success last year. We all refilled our energy with a nutritious gâteau au miel, a golden brown honey cake, so old-fashioned, perfumed with orange blossom water.


It was a magical day, as if summer visited spring for one brief moment. All I can think of now are windmills and the warm, bright fun filled days that await us. This week was a sneak preview and I must say it’s looking good.

ps: By the way, I need your vote! I was recently nominated on Saveur magazine’s annual food blog awards 2013 for ‘Best Regional Cuisine Blog’! Voting closes on April 19th – that’s tomorrow! Click here to vote (you’ll just need to register – takes a minute). Merci! Mimixx


La Vignarola (spring vegetable stew)

2 large artichokes or 4-5 small artichokes (usually sold in a bunch), trimmed and quartered
250-300g/ 2 cups fresh fava beans (or frozen), shelled
250-300g 2 cups fresh peas (or frozen)
1/2 small head of romaine lettuce, chopped finely
2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
50 g/ 2 ounces pancetta or guanciale, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice + a few squeezes of lemon for the artichokes
A small handful of parsley, chopped
A small handful of fresh mint, chopped

If you are using large artichokes: Using a sharp knife, trim the artichoke bottom and stem until the pale leaves appear. Cut in half. With a spoon, remove the prickly spines and fuzzy choke. Cut into 4 wedges.
If you are using small artichokes: Same as above, but you don’t have to remove any fuzzy choke. Set aside.

For the fava beans and peas: Pod the fava beans and peas. Remove the skin on the fava beans (unless you buy ready-peeled fava beans). Set aside

In a medium-sized pot or shallow saucepan, sauté the sliced pancetta along with the spring onions in 2 tbsp olive oil for 2-3 minutes.
Add the artichokes, season with salt and pepper, add 2-3 tbsp water, cover and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the fava beans, peas and romaine lettuce. Add a tbsp or two of water if necessary. Cover again and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Drizzle with 1 tsp lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley/mint just before serving.


Roast chicken with crème fraîche and herbs

1 whole chicken, approx 1.2 kg/ approx. 3 pounds
300 ml/ 1 & 1/4 cup crème fraîche (you can also use fromage blanc – alternatively, you can mix 2 tbsp buttermilk or sour cream with 1 cup heavy cream)
4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 shallot, finely sliced
A large bunch of parsley, chopped
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea-salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350F

Take out the chicken approx 30 minutes before cooking so it is at room temperature. Mix crème fraîche with finely chopped garlic, parsley, thyme, sea-salt and black pepper. Spoon half of the mixture inside the cavity of the chicken. Truss the chicken securely with kitchen twine.  Rub the remaining cream all over the chicken (make sure to rub under the thighs and wings).   The cream must be thickly spread on chicken (see photo).  Sprinkle 1/2 tsp sea-salt on top of chicken.
Transfer to preheated oven and cook for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Check pan halfway and add 2-3 tbsp of water if the sauce in the pan starts to dry out.

Serve with mashed potatoes. After boiling peeled potatoes (I count 2 medium potatoes per person) add one egg yolk and 30 g/ 2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp crème fraîche, salt to season)


Gâteau au miel (Honey cake)

150 g/ 1 & 1/4 cup plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
4 tbsp milk
2 tbsp orange blossom water
100 g/ 7 tbsp unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
50 g/ 1/4 muscovado sugar (you can also use brown cassonade sugar, the cake will be slightly lighter colored)
100 ml/ 7 tbsp honey + 3-4 tbsp to drizzle on cake

Preheat oven to 180°C/ 350F

In a bowl, mix sifted flour and baking powder. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until frothy. Add honey, milk, orange blossom water, butter and mix well. Add sifted flour and baking powder.

Butter and base-line a cake mould with parchment paper (my cake mould is approx 8 inches wide).

Pour batter into cake mould and bake in preheated oven for approx 25 minutes. Unmould after 5 minutes and leave to cool on a wire rack.  Just before serving, drizzle honey all over cake. (if honey is too thick, heat it gently for a few seconds on a very low heat)


76 thoughts on “The windmill in Blaignan

  1. Hello Mimi, The Medoc is looking picture postcard perfect. Lovely to hear it’s warm enough for you all to swim (I promised I’d send our sunshine to you!!) Such a delicious meal to nourish you all as well. I do like the look of your honey cake…a piece would be delicious right now with a coffee. I think I may have to make this one this morning Mimi. Bon Weekend to you all. xx Anita

    1. Bonjour Anita! It was lovely to have a real summer day (yesterday), now it’s slightly cooler again. The honey cake is perfect with coffee, I love how it reminds me of pain d’épices but much milder. It’s my kind of afternoon cake! Thanks for sending sunshine – may I ask for more? Mimixx

  2. How lucky Mimi, such a fine day. We’ve had a few “Spring is here” days in Vancouver but now it’s back to the rain for a while. Such is life in the rain forest. Your honey cake looks very good. I love honey cake, honey cookies, honey in my tea…anything. This week my daughter left me with 12 limes, not a fan of limes, but I made some lime bar cookies which were amazing. And used 6 limes. Next is a lime and sea salt body scrub. I tried to vote but there seems to be a pop up virus in the link…one which my pc caught. I’ll try another approach. Hoping the sunshine comes back very soon. 🙂

    1. Bonjour Veronica! The honey cake is very satisfying – I love these simple old-fashioned cakes, not too sweet and gently ‘perfumed’ with orange blossom. It’s soothing 🙂 I bet those lime cookies were amazing – and the body scrub sounds like something I could use right now! I always use lefover lemons for my hands and elbows – it’s an instant softener. So sorry to hear about the pop up – sounds like (from your next comment) that you managed to vote on Saveur- THANK YOU! It means so much to me. Merci Mimix

  3. Does the orange blossom water go in with the butter and milk? I think you left that ingredient out of the instructions, but it sounds delicious and I want to make it!

    1. Thank you Sarah! No matter how many times I re-read my recipes, there’s always a little something that escapes me! I am so lucky to have sharp readers like you to help me along the way! I updated the recipe this morning – the orange blossom is added with the honey and milk. Merci et bonne journée, Mimix

  4. It looks like you picked a meal that fits perfectly with the mood — I wish I knew what spring in Medoc was like. Sounds beautiful and energizing.

    Also, I voted for you — hope you win the award!

    1. Bonjour Amy! Yes, the meals I cook are always in season and match the mood/weather/craving of the day. Sending you sunny spring vibes from Médoc! And thank you so much for voting – it means so much to me! Mimix

  5. what an idyllic sunday.. and that’s what sundays should always be about.. so as to refresh you for the week ahead!! I make something similar to your roast chicken but give it an Indian twist.. ginger garlic paste to the yoghurt..along with some spices!!! I voted for you… hope you win! you deserve it!!

    1. Bonjour! I love the idea of the Indian twist – ginger-garlic paste sounds divine. I will give it a try next week! Thanks so much for the Saveur vote – the most important part was to be nominated! Merci and have a beautiful day! Mimix

  6. I’m really jealous. Your adventures are amazing. Lucky me I can create your beautiful food at home. Thanks for sharing. Love your blog.

    1. Bonjour Judy! It’s a pleasure to share these recipes – I always feel that a recipe accompanied with a passionate story is always more inspiring 🙂 Enjoy! Have a lovely day, Mimix

  7. Wonderful posting, inspiring photographs… I am waiting for the next beautiful occasion to make your gateau basque… And I visited the other nominated blogs. You definitely deserve to win! Greetings from Germany! Yushka

    1. Hello! Lovely to hear from you Yushka! Thank you so much for always being so encouraging! I was very happy to be nominated along with all the others – such a wonderful world of food blogging! It’s a pleasure to see so much generosity out there. Thank you! Mimix

  8. That chicken looks amazing! We always do our Thanksgiving turkey with an herb mayonnaise – very similar to your chicken, it seems. It’s always the best turkey anyone has ever eaten – I’ll have to try it with the creme fraiche this year. We usually use rosemary, thyme and sage for it, I’m definitely going to put the shallots in there next year! Thanks for your lovely pictures and recipes!

  9. Thanks for sharing your part of the world. I love the feel of the French countryside in all your photos. And the food, of course. Have you tried the creme fraiche mixture with Herbs de Provence? I was thinking about trying it.

    1. Bonjour Erica! It’s a pleasure to share – especially through food. I haven’t tried the mixture with herbes de Provence, but I am sure it will be delicious – what I love most about this recipe is its versatility – the main players are crème frîche, garlic and shallot – the rest is up to you. Bon appétit – enjoy the recipes! Mimixx

  10. I have read you before, but this is the first time i intend to make one of your recipes: that chicken!!! It looks so good.

    Im always thrilled with the love for cuisine and life that spreads from your notes and pictures. I love it!

    I have just voted for your blog.
    Good luck and all the best from Spain!

    1. Muchas gracias! I am so happy to hear you will try a recipe – and what a great way to start. This chicken is a must-try, and I love the softness it gives to the chicken. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do. And thank you so much for your vote – I am very touched. Bonne journée! Mimix

  11. Looks delicious, I will definitely give it a try- it looks like Spring is finally settling in London too! x

  12. Beautiful and delicious menu, love the images so beautiful. I have a dinner next week would love to do La Vignarola recipe and the roast chicken, can I do the recipe but using chicken breast fillet and not the whole chicken. Thank you for always inspiring me with your beautiful and delicious posts love

    1. Bonjour Rowaida! Thank you for your kindness! So delighted to hear you want to make these dishes for your dinner next week. Breast filets are absolutely lovely, just make sure to adjust the cooking time – I would perhaps advise to open up the filets and add cream in-between – then you’ll get a lovelier ‘moelleux’ (softer) tenderness to the meat. Vignarola is my favorite roman starter, when I go to Rome, one of the first restaurants i go to is ‘Al Moro’ (near the Trevi fountain) – I am in love with that place, and their vignarola is excellent! Merci, mimix

  13. Voting now! I am again thrilled to have two more of your recipes that will fit right in to my kitchen! Huge fans of roast chicken my kiddos are (we have our own brood of 5 kids) The honey cake will be for the weekend…as far as a day of summer in spring…well in Seattle that’ll have to wait for later…… : -)

  14. Buenas noches Mimi,hace tiempo que sigo tu blog he hecho algunas de sus recetas,la tarta de chocolate, el pastel de peras, la tarta de manzana con Calvados … y algunas mas, todas fueron un exito,maravillosas.Las fotografias, sus relatos, su vida… es todo tan hermoso ,lo cotidiano es especial… espero con ilusion cada nueva entrada . Mi hija Martina esta encantada con las fotos de sus perros. Mucha suerte con las votaciones, yo vote por usted sin ninguna duda, es el mejor. Feliz fin de semana.

  15. I do love your adventures and anecdotes Mimi… and it is somehow the way France is… chance findings and chance meetings…

    These recipes look entirely scrumptious.. as always… thank you for the inspiration and to your husband for the beautiful visuals… Happy weekend… xv

  16. Please, Mimi, don’t ever stop sharing with us! Your each and every post is sweet nourishment for the heart, mind, body and soul.

    Joyous spring to you and yours! With gratitude, Stacy

  17. Salut Mimi! Thank you for your beautiful blog. I love reading it all the way here in South Africa!

    I want to make your summer vegetable stew, but I am a vegetarian so need to substitute the panchetta. What would you suggest as an alternative?

    Thank you! Amy

    1. Bonsoir Amy! Thanks for visiting! Instead of pancetta, I would suggest adding roast mushrooms, or perhaps a few chunks of celery – it would definitely add a bit more flavour to the stew. I hope this helps! Bonne soirée, Mimix

  18. Bon soir Mimi! Great photos as usual, Medoc looks beautiful! I’ll be there in september to run the marathon and your pictures have me dreaming. Looking forward to it!

  19. I made this chicken yesterday and it was beautiful! Thank you for sharing! I enjoy reading your posts for the recipes, but not only…

  20. Salut Mimi,

    I just made your gorgeous gateau au miel for afternoon tea in sunny Sydney. It was delightful! I adore your blog! Thank you very much for all the petits bonheurs you share!

    x x x

  21. wonderful recipes, fantastic and delightful
    Greetings from switzerland, i got many, many ideas. Thank you so much!

  22. j’ai fait ce diner dimanche soir , quel délice ! je crois que c’est la meilleure recette de poulet rôti que j’ai jamais essayée 🙂 Merci !!!

  23. Mimi, these images are lovely and your writing is so poetic! I also love your blue shirt-dress, can you tell me where it is from? Bon journée from Burgundy.

  24. It’s amazing but I felt so happy reading this post – I think hearing about the warm generosity of Fabien Courrian and how well met you were – I really felt the pleasure and energy of both your families come through the post. Thank you!

    1. Bonjour from sunny Médoc! Every person I have met that knows Fabien and his family say the same thing – he’s the kindest person on earth! I am so glad this post made you happy! Mimix

  25. Mimi , have you ever tried this recipe over a turkey instead of chicken ? Obviously I realize you would have to double or triple the ingredients but thought it might be tasty for our American Thanksgiving this year.
    I wonder if turkey has the same or more or less fat so I’d have to adjust the recipe at all.

    1. Hi Latecia,

      No I haven’t. I am sure it’s really good – turkey has a little less fat than chicken, but with all that cream and herbs, there’s no worries there! Perhaps you could add a bit more cream? Have a lovely thanksgiving! Mimi x

  26. Hi Mimi,

    I love your recipe for the honey cake, it’s so delicious! I was wondering how it would be if I made it a day ahead of when I was intending to serve it? I’m not sure how it would keep… Thank you! 🙂

  27. Médoc is beautiful! as is your food. I am excited to make the honey cake.

    Thank you for the lovely recipes and pictures!

  28. Your blog looks wonderful and your anecdotes and photos have resolved me to have a meandering holiday in the Medoc, a region of France totally new to me.

    Your recipes are inspiring, many with unusual touches. However… this afternoon tried your honey cake. I don’t know if ‘cake mould’ in American English means a tin without a removable base but I used a cake tin with a push-out base (not a spring-form). Result? Most of the mix ended up on the bottom of the oven – not ideal. The batter was fairly liquid but pretty much what I expected from the recipe, and I’m sure I followed it pretty closely. I hope this is down to using the wrong type of cake tin (in which case you should amend the recipe) because I’m intending trying your garlic soup and the roast chicken with creme fraiche for starter and main course.

    1. Bonsoir John, Oh no, I can just imagine the look on your face when you saw the batter on the bottom of the oven! Could your cake tin be a bit on the loose side? I would suggest to use a classic cake tin, lined with parchment paper. Enjoy the recipe, it’s delicious! Mimi x

  29. Bonsoir, mimithorisson

    Sorry for late reply; no, cake tin not loose. Don’t know what happened. I was left with a cake about 1/2 – 3/4″ high! Tasted quite nice but suspect it was overcooked. The garlic soup was wonderful and will definitely make again. We went to Calais on Friday (mainly for cheap booze) but, among other foodstuffs, bought a lovely corn-fed Poulet Fermier which I used for the roast chicken. Very nice indeed but I think I should have used a simpler recipe you give with just herbs – I suspect the creme fraiche masked the the true taste of the chicken which is almost impossible to find in the UK (perhaps Harrods but it’s a long way away and a tad expensive and, even if I could afford to, I will not shop there on principle).

    Anyway, nice to chat and thanks; will try some of your other recipes,


  30. Hi Mimi ! I tried the Vignarola and it was delicious ! Thanks for the recipe.
    Two questions though :
    – Do you think it is possible to replace the pancetta with another meat that wouldn’t be pork? Dried duck magret maybe?
    – For how many persons are the ingredients you listed? I intend to cook this as starter for a 7 person-dinner and I really don’t know about the quantity of peas and beans…especially when it comes in pod, from the market. At the end there is only 10% of bought weight remaining… !
    Thanks for your help !!

  31. Bonjour Mimi,

    J’ai essayé pour la première fois des recettes de ton blog. Le poulet rôti à la crème fraîche et le gâteau au miel un franc succès !! And your blog is just so perfect ! I am very excited about this new discovery ! I will surely add of your recipies on my regular cooking list. By the way, it is really appreciated that you put the metric and imperial measurments for your ingredients ! Thanks for sharing all the ideas, recipes, pictures and life moments.

  32. Hi Mimi! After graduating high school, my friends and I are going on a vacation to Europe and wanted to do some planning over dinner. I decided that we should make this chicken after reading your blog for years. I was scared to do this because it was my first time making food that wasn’t pasta or eggs, but it turned out as delicious as I had hoped!! I was very proud of it, my friends were still talking about it the next day, and I will definitely make it again. Thanks for an amazing recipe that was as easy to make as it was tasty!! (that also reminded me so much of when I used to live in France!!!)

  33. Those tomatoes are jewels! I happened to be making broth and added a couple ladles of broth to my clay pot with a bit of feta brine and morsels lowered the heat a notch and discovered that I love the herb cream fraiche sauce more than the bird…can’t stop sopping it up with bread. Happy adventures to you!

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