My idea of a gourmet lunch

Fava beans

Over the years I’ve spoken to many great chefs about their approach to food, what’s most important in creating a meal, what is cooking all about? Invariably I get the same answer – des bons produits (good quality ingredients).  If you start with bad food you’re probably going to end up with … bad food. Or at the very least you’ll have a mountain to climb, what should be an enjoyable experience turns into a salvaging operation. So when I go to the market I have all these little chefs sitting on my shoulder saying “I know you wanted this or that but look at those fresh cherries” or “I know you’re in the mood for a steak but how can you resist that fresh sea bass”. These days I go to the market with an open mind and without prejudice. I will simply buy what catches my eye, there is nothing better than a trip to a bustling food market, and when you don’t know what you’ll end up bringing home it’s even more entertaining.


The weather these last few weeks has been so fickle, some days are lovely, others seem to be from another season or another part of the world. Don’t they know we are in the south of France? A few sunny days lured out the roses by the hundreds and then the deluge washed over them, drowned them, robbed them of their color. My husband is stoic about all this “In Iceland this would be fantastic weather” he always says. The way I feel about it is that if there is no sun outside I have to create some in the kitchen.


And so it was last Wednesday that I set out for the market, armed with an umbrella of course, determined to make up for all the rain, buying not only the freshest products but quite simply anything I wanted. The first thing that caught my eye were gigantic fava bean pods with a sign next to them that read “fèves pour soupe”. My aunt once gave me a fantastic simple fava bean soup recipe that everyone loves so that was my first purchase. Next to the fava beans were the most attractive beets. The farmer told me to get them too and reminded me that you can make a lovely juice from the stalks full of vitamin C. I usually add a few carrots as well. We discussed the beets and he told me his favorite way of preparing them was to make them into chips with a pinch of fleur de sel. I couldn’t resist that idea.



What goes well with luxury chips? How about a luxury sandwich, filled with all the things I like most. I strode purposefully across the street, to one of my favorite little gems in Médoc, Les délices du palais, an old-fashioned gourmet store with hundreds of jars filled with a thousand delights, cheeses, wine and anything to do with duck. The owner, Pascale, is always in the best of moods and greets her clients with such a sunny smile, just going there is a pleasure in itself. I got some duck magret breast, a little cheeky bit of foie gras, some wine, just the pure necessities.



We hurried home and called the kids up for fava shelling duties. Hudson went straight to work, Louise just eyed the cherries, peaches and apricots and asked “What’s for dessert”. I had planned on making a meringue to go with all those delightful fruits but time got away from us and instead I just made an easy wine syrup that looks like red caramel, threw in a few vervain leaves, vanilla pods and wrapped them in a parcel like a little present to be enjoyed later.

Pascale Prats Monllao from 'Les délices du palais'.
Pascale Prats Monllao from ‘Les délices du palais’.

It was all lovely but in the end we all agreed that the winner on the day had to be the dessert. For me this is what cooking is all about, you take a few fresh fruits, each delicious on their own but mixed together with herbs, spices and wine, without hardly any effort you end up with something wonderful.

Des bons produits.  Rien que des bons produits.

Les délices du palais, 13 Place Gambetta, 33340 Lesparre-Médoc, France


Fava bean soup (serves 4)

450 g/ 1 pound peeled fava beans
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and sliced
80 ml/ 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
Water, enough to covet the vegetable
120 g/ 1/2 cup mascarpone
A large handful of fresh mint leaves
2 shallots
5 pancetta slices
A handful of croûtons
Salt and pepper
A dash of piment d’espelette

Cut off tip of each pod and squeeze beans. Peel skin from each bean.  In a large pot, heat olive oil and fry onions until translucent.  Add garlic, fava beans and sliced potato, continue to stir for 2 more minutes.  Add the chicken (or vegetable) stock, and pour water in pot, enough to cover the vegetables.  Bring to a boil and lower heat.  Leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Purée soup in a food processor and return to pot. Meanwhile, prepare the garnishing.  Fry pancetta in a pan until golden and crispy, drain and set aside.  Prepare croûtons – rub sliced baguette bread with a garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil – grill in oven until golden, season with sea salt and set aside.  Chop shallots and mint finely.  Chop pancetta and croûtons to little bits (you can also use a food processor).  Set aside.
Whisk mascarpone with 2 tbsp of chopped mint.  Set aside.
To serve.  Place all 4 garnishing – shallots, mint, croûtons and pancetta (all chopped finely) – in the bottom of each bowl.  Pour soup and add a scoop of mint mascarpone cream.  Sprinkle piment d’espelette. Serve immediately.


Gourmand sandwich (serves 3-4)

1 duck magret duck breast
16 thin slices of fresh foie gras (approx 4 thin slices per sandwich)
2 figs, sliced
1 egg yolk
5 small pickles, chopped
5 capers, chopped
1 tsp tarragon
1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp & 1/2 vinegar
180 ml/ 3/4 cup olive oil
Salt (fleur de sel de Guérande) & pepper
Beets, fresh & finely sliced with a mandoline, or as finely as possible with a knife
A few leaves of sucrine lettuce
Frying oil
Baguette bread

For the duck:
Score the magret duck breasts on the fatty side using a sharp knife, cutting in a cross hatch pattern (making the cross-hatches about an inch across). Season the magret duck breasts with coarse salt, and place them on a pan, fatty side down.  Heat the pan to medium.  Cook the breast until the skin is crispy and most of the fat has rendered, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness of breast. Pour off the fat from the pan frequently and reserve in a bowl (you can use this fat to fry potatoes, it’s delicious!).  It’s best to have the meat on the rosé side. Turn magret breast over, and fry for 3 minutes.  Leave to rest for a few minutes, and slice breast into slim slices.

For the foie gras:
Drain pan, wipe off residue. Sprinkle flour on the foie gras slices on both sides and fry on a sizzling hot pan for 10 seconds approx on each side.  Set aside and sprinkle with fleur de sel and black pepper.

For the tartare sauce:
Combine egg yolk, vinegar, mustard and whisk mixture.  Add oil, drop by drop, while whisking (I use a pair of electric whisks) until you get a thick mayonnaise-like sauce.  Add finely chopped pickles, capers, tarragon, a pinch of salt and black pepper. Set aside.

For the beet chips:
Slice beets as finely as possible with a mandoline or with a knife.  Heat oil in a large deep-frying pan, approx 1&1/2 inch deep.  When temperature of oil reaches 190°C/ 375F, throw in sliced beets by batches for a few minutes.  Drain on kitchen paper or parchment paper and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

To assemble sandwich:
Spread tartare sauce on bread, line with sucrine lettuce, add magret, foie gras, sliced figs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add more sauce if desired.  Serve with beet chips.  Enjoy!


Peaches & cherry papillotes (serves 2-3)
2 yellow peaches, sliced
15 cherries
A small handful of fresh vervain leaves
50 g/ 1/4 cup granulated sugar
60 ml/ 1/4 cup red wine
1 vanilla pod, split and cut in two
1 tbsp granulated sugar, to sprinkle
Aluminium foil

Preheat oven to 210°C/ 410F

To cook in papillote: a method of cooking in which the food is put into a folded pouch or parcel and then baked.  You can use parchment paper or aluminium foil.

In a small saucepan, add sugar and wine and bring to a soft boil.  Lower heat slightly and stir until mixture thickens to a syrup, about 5-6 minutes.  Set aside.
Slice peaches and remove stems from cherries.  Make a papillote with parchment paper or aluminium foil, place all the fruits inside, add the vanilla pod (cut in two and split lengthwise).  Sprinkle vervain leaves and pour red wine syrup.  Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar.
Close papillote by sealing the edges firmly and bake for 10 minutes.  You can have it straight from the papillote or spoon fruits and sauce on a plate.  Serve immediately while warm.


85 thoughts on “My idea of a gourmet lunch

  1. That’s it Mimi. I’m packing up, jumping on a plane to France and moving in with your lot. I hope your family appreciates what a a bonne mama they have! I’m bookmarking the fava bean soup recipe. Hope the weather improves. It feels like snow here 😐

  2. Mimi, I’m sure you could make a baloney sandwich look like a gourmet meal!!! Everything looks delicious. Merci!!

  3. I wonder if the the beets still stain after frying? I will have to try. I love frying radishes also thinly sliced chips–they don’t even require salt or pepper as they have a natural kick to them. Happy Nesting.

  4. I couldn’t agree more about using great ingredients! To me, the most simple dishes are the best with minimal effort and wonderful flavors. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Dear Mimi, it’s hard to believe that the weather is just as bad in the South of France as it is in London! That’s where we escape from the endless rain and wind of England. There is no hope for us this year I am afraid. Luckily, I am with you on creating sunshine in the kitchen. Cherries and peaches in wine sauce sound lovely!

    1. Bonjour Julia! Hopefully we will truly ‘enter’ summer next week – fingers crossed 🙂 Enjoy th epapillote recipe – so simple and delcious! Bon dimanche mimix


    1. Bonjour Diane! Thank you for your kind words! Hoping that the situation will clear up in Lourdes – you must have been so upset to see the damages. Wishing you a lovely Sunday. Mimix

    1. Bonsoir! Simple cooking with excellent food – one of the biggest pleasures in life 🙂 You will love this store, especially the owner – she’s a ray of light! Bonne soirée, Mimix

  7. I wish I had the vision and the skill to gather ingredients and put together such a beautiful presentation….

    perhaps I need to move to France for some inspiration and tutoring! 🙂

    Beautiful photos as always…I just adore visiting you.

    1. Bonsoir Sarah, Thank you for being so lovely! A good food market is always a good way to start when it comes to food inspiration. I hope you’ll get a chance to try out the recipes, especially the peaches and sherries papillote – a real treat! Bonne soirée, Mimix

  8. Fantastic…makes me long for a trip to France more than ever. Making the soup…can’t get all of the ingredients for the sandwich here on our island….dreaming of how delicious it must be! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Gorgeous. That’s another weekend in the kitchen for me. Market on Wednesday for beans I think. Great photos too!

  10. Hi Mimi,

    This is the first time I have commented but have been following your amazing blog for 6 months or so. I’m from San Francisco but am in Paris with my lovely mother for a trip of a lifetime. We recently went to one of the open air markets here in Montparnasse, I thought of you and the amazing pictures your husband takes…I felt instantly inspired to make one of your recipes…maybe your fava bean soup : ) it feels right for this weather.

    Cheers and thank you for being so inspiring to me.


    1. Bonsoir Alisa! How lovely to hear from you – I am so touched to hear you enjoy the blog, and most of all, that you are on a wonderful trip with your mother in Paris. I am sure you are having a superb holiday. I would love to share 3 of my favourite things in Paris: Lunch at Aux Lyonnais, a chocolate éclair at la maison du chocolat, and a mont-blanc at Angelina’s. Bonne soirée and have fun! Mimix

    2. Salut Mimi,
      I have just picked a basket of peaches and wanted to know if I should leave the skin on when I make les papillotes. Should I take the pits from the cherries? Are the vervain leaves crucial to the recipe? Substitution? Merci! I’m married to a Frenchman but we’ve lived in Southern California our whole married life, so thank you for sharing tes recettes!

      1. Bonjour Julie! Thanks for visiting ‘Manger’! I leave the skin on the peaches and leave the pits in the cherries – it’s just like eating fresh fruits but baked 🙂 Vervain is not crucial to the recipe, you could add lemon thyme or lemon zest? It’s just to give that extra ‘uplifting’ flavor. I hope you’ll enjoy this treat! Best, Mimix

  11. Chere Mimi,
    I thought I’d sent you all our sunshine!!! We just can’t get enough soup here at the moment but will wait patiently for the return of the fava beans to the market so I can make your wonderful recipe . Freezing nights but blue, blue skies fill the days for now with yesterday, the sea being the colour of sapphires. Can only dream of eating peaches and cherries ….but what a delicious dream. The children are looking so well Mimi and is there any wonder with all des bons produits they eat and a mother who prepares them so beautifully.
    xx anita

    1. Bonsoir Anita! I love the idea of sapphire blue skies. The weather is certainly confused these days in France – I hope we will settle for some sunshine this week 🙂 I wonder what you are cooking today? You always have such great recipes… Merci pour votre joli message Anita et a bientôt! Mimix

  12. All those things look beautiful, especially the fava bean soup. I am always amazed that with just a little effort, having the freshest ingredients on hand, one can come up with a truly gourmet meal. Bravo. Wonderful story, pictures and food.

    1. Bonjour Lilia, Thank you! That’s the wonderful thing about cooking – it’s all about finding the right ingredients and patience – the rewards are amazing! Bonne semaine! Mimix

  13. Merci beaucoup, Mimi, for another visually breathtaking and gastronomically inspiring post! Visiting here is a delightful and special treat. I always find the fresh ingredients in Europe superior in flavor to ours here but I do see more and more interest and care in growing and sourcing the basics locally that ensure a fabulous meal, no matter how simple. All the best for a beautiful week ahead! Georgianna

  14. Bonjour from Kuwait, beautiful images Mimi and delcious recipes. I would love to try your duck recipe with foie gras, love it. The only duck recipe I make is the Peking duck one of my specialties in my dinner parties. Best wishes xx

    1. Bonjour Rowaida! Thanks for your kind words – the peking duck sounds amazing – coming from you I can just imagine how delicious it must be – would you mind sharing your recipe? Best, Mimix

  15. Bonjour from sunny Greece. Such lovely recipes again at Manger! Perhaps you don’t know that the ‘papillote’ method is very popular here -19th century warriors roasted meat in similar parcels. But PLEASE tell me: do you put the alumimum foil directly on a rack? (I thought you did but I wonder if it’s better to place the little parcels in ramekins because the content -wine sauce and all- would be a little runny.)

    1. Bonjour! Lucky you it is sunny in Greece 🙂 Thank you for visiting Manger! To answer your question, I put my parcels/ papillotes on an oven-proof tray just in case they leak. They usually don’t leak but there is always an occasional one that leaks just a little. Bonne semaine! Mimix

  16. Wonderful and inspiring as usual! I agree completely with farm-fresh ingredients! I will definitely try the fava bean soup too!!

    I’m curious, your wonderful companions [dogs] are allowed in the shops?

  17. To market she goes with two pups and TA DA……….what a meal she creates!
    Sending FAVA bean soup on to a real ITALIAN to try……..and I will try to make the dessert!
    You are so inspiring!

    1. Hello! It’s sunny again here in Médoc! Ouh la la j’espère que tu vas aimer la soupe! Can’t wait to hear from you and the soup reviews 🙂 Fingers crossed you’ll like it 🙂 Have a beautiful day Contessa Mimix

      1. I made the FAVA BEAN SOUP!Delicious…….it was about 100 degrees here in California, but I made your soup!I even had two helpings!I never have two helpings!
        Look forward to the next POST!

  18. New blog posts are becoming highlights in my week! Your husband’s photography never ceases to amaze and delight. Stunning, classic with beautiful light and composition. Does he ever do any workshops on photography?

  19. Sometimes I wonder how your life can be real. It looks so dreamy and wonderful. If you ever need a Nanny over the summer months, sign me up!

  20. I was reading this lovely article filled with beautiful stories and incredible photos when my heart stopped… Oh my! The gourmand sandwich! It looks absolument divine! I feel like the next two months until my next trip to France are going to be far too long and now all I want is this incredible duck sandwich (luckily my French hometown is Challans so it is literally duck heaven there).
    (a little silly question a bit out of context: is that a Comptoir des Cotonniers trenchcoat? It looks identical to the one I have here drying on a chair.)

    1. Bonjour Yolène! Hello from sunny (finally) Médoc! Ah yes, that sandwich was my fantasy turned into reality! So so good – I would make one for you if you were here 🙂 And yes, you are right, it is an old Comptoir des Cotonniers trench – I believe they have the same models every year in different colours – they are fanstastic! I love trenchcoats and have been collecting quite a few over the years. Can’t wait for you to make that sandwich! Bonnes vacances, Mimix

  21. Gorgeous photos, as always, and a fun narrative about a charmed lunch. We’re cycling in the Vaucluse later this summer, and I’ll recreate as much of your lunch for friends in Menerbes as local markets allow.

    Re: the tartar sauce. I’m a dreadful proofreader of our own posts, so forgive me if something is there, but I just can’t see it. In your directions for the tartar sauce you mention vinegar, but I don’t see it listed in the ingredients. Is the tarragon supposed to be tarragon vinegar? Also, when you say to “add the oil drop by drop… until you get a thick mayonnaise…” I see that there’s only 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil in the ingredients list. We usually use about 3/4 cup of oil per egg yolk (whisking by hand). Do electric beaters make that much of a difference? Thanks.

    1. Hello Ken! Thank you for proofreading – I forgot the vinegar and mispalced it as olive oil! So thanks SO much for pointing this out – most of my recipes are written in French in my notebook, so sometimes a few lines get misplaced. I just updated – it was indeed 3/4 cup olive oil and 1 & 1/2 tbsp vinegar! Merci Ken, should I call you my guardian proofreader? Best, Mimix

  22. I totally agree that good ingredients are esencial for a good meal. I am always trying to buy producks on farmers market, it makes a big difference indeed. I love all the pictures, thank you for sharing a piece of your life with us. And I hope that sun will return to your area soon 🙂

  23. Ah, gorgeous. I am going to make that soup, the texture looks so delicious. I am visiting the South of France next year in early April. I am so looking forward to our stay and just shopping the markets and cooking at home. We want to rent a home in the countryside, shop markets, cook and drink many glasses of rose of course. Would you mind recommending some of your places for me to look into vacation rentals? Merci! -kari

  24. I like your philosophy, Mimi. I’ll be in Saint-Jean-de-Luz soon, and am looking forward to figs, melons, greengages, freshly caught squid, magrets de canard, Landes chicken, macarons and the best chocolate in the world!

  25. I love the portraits that you often include in your posts of these very people who are responsible for des bon produits. It is nice to see their faces as they are the ones that make good cooking so easy because of beautiful, loved ingredients.

  26. Fava Beans….a favorite of mine. Very important to the local Portuguese population…I adore them made into a puree of sorts (although I usually mash them)…mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and fresh garlic or garlic scapes. My husband and I made it fresh last summer and ate it on toast points while standing at the kitchen island last summer. Looking forward to this years harvest…and to trying your soup recipe. And I totally understand your need for sunshine.Thanks for always brightening my day.

  27. I`m so happy seeing that more and more people try to eat healthy, try to choose ingredients grown in the garden instead of those imported and kept on the shelves Market for months. Your photos are amazing and all is so delicious, you gave me ideas to cook , my son is very
    fastidious when it comes to food 🙂

  28. haha!! your husband’s comment about the weather made me laugh out loud! my icelandic husband always reacts in exactly the same way. even if it’s 14C and rainy in july i’ve learned not to complain (to him at least!) – i’ve shivered through worse “summer” weather visiting family in the west fjords. we bicker far too much about the way we experience weather – ridiculous! and in the end pretty amusing. i do hope some of that stoicism will eventually rub off on me…

  29. I wrote to you earlier about beeing a vegetarian, but when I look at your recipes and the way you put things together you might make me change my habits! You have one of the most beautiful cooking blogs I have yet seen!
    Local products and great decor, fun and healthy looking ambiance! You dont have “chambres d’hôtes” by the way? Well I will now try some of your vegetavle recipes as soon as I find the time! Thanks for making us dream!

    1. Thank you Haydé! Perhaps one day I will adventure myself into opening chambres d’hôtes – how fun would that be 🙂 I would love to recommend the ratatouille recipe – it’s a personal favourite! Mimi x

  30. I made the fava bean soup for dinner tonight – so, so delicious. Thank you for a great recipe!! I’ll be making it every spring from now on! P.S. Loving your book 🙂

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