The sleeping lion & my grandmother’s soup


More than anything this is the story of a soup. But it has other characters. A sleeping lion, a few roses stubbornly refusing to go to bed, delicious quails, beautiful pears, a curious château and, of course, a dog. Let me take you back to last Sunday evening. It was cold and grey and humid. The kids were taking their baths and preparing their schoolbags for the week. I checked the weather forecast for Monday. It said, cold and grey and humid. As I’ve been a bit run down with a cold of my own I was determined to plan ahead and avoid a murky start to the week. I thought of my grandmother, what would she have done? Well, she would probably have made her vegetable soup, the one that was always brewing on her stove, throughout winter (and most of summer too, but in a lighter version – and sometimes with little alphabet pasta just for me), so simple and easy to make, so comforting and healthy. Most importantly it’s a soup that’s better the next day, so after the kids fell asleep I went back to the kitchen and started chopping.




I probably wouldn’t have thought of making that soup if we hadn’t taken friends recently to one of our favorite restaurants in Médoc, the Lion d’Or in Arcins, just a few miles from the storied Margaux. It’s such a classic place, you might have driven through Médoc fifty years ago and found a place just like it. It’s like a luxury canteen where wine barons bring their own wine and enjoy it with the menu of the day, bottles after bottles of the most prestigious wines in France. The Lion d’Or means “The gold lion” but Louise, who was very little when we started going there, always called it the Lion dormir, which means “The sleeping lion”. And now we just call it that. Somehow it really captures the spirit of the place, not quite a golden lion, but a calm, sleepy lion but with enough fire in it’s belly to roar if you step on its toes. And some people have, I’ve heard stories. So we try to treat it with respect. On that last visit I had the simplest but most delicious vegetable soup. It was just like my grandmother’s and reminded me, having been adventurous in the kitchen lately, that sometimes the best things are the simple things you grow up with. Next on the menu were some pigeon with foie gras and armagnac, then some cheese and canelés. It was the most satisfying restaurant experience I’ve had for a long time – when you are always cooking for others it’s such a nice change to sit back and be waited on. Not least when the food is brought to your table by a waiterly waiter who looks like Adrien Brody’s brother and serves every plate with a smile on his face.



Monday morning arrived, grey and cold as promised. I checked my soup, it had the scent of a very satisfying lunch and there would be enough for everyone at dinner too. That’s when I started thinking of the sleeping lion and those pigeons. I wanted them too. “Are you busy?” I asked my husband as he was knee-deep in dog trouble. His expression said “sort of ” but when I mentioned the pigeon he gave me an approving look and said “give me five minutes to lock up the beasts”. One of them, Squiffy, just refused to come in. He’s a year old now, a teenager, and is going through a rebellious face. He would go in the car, but not the house, so he came too. Fox terriers have a way of getting what they want. Sadly the butcher had no pigeon but he had the most tempting quails and I decided to improvise. The whole thing was improvised anyway, I would never have the courage to disturb a sleeping lion, just to ask for a recipe.




If our life here in Médoc has a thread running through it, that thread must be a tangled web of curious backroads and strange places. A different route means new discoveries, a turn in the road a new place to be found. Last Monday we took a different way back home from the butcher, just for the sake of it. We were dying for a walk somewhere in a vineyard, and Squiffy was eagerly scratching the car windows. A château caught our eye, the vineyards so golden and majestic magnolia trees all too inviting. We drove up through the gate and were greeted by a handful of pink roses that are defying late autumn and are refusing “to go gentle into that good night” This simply needed to be photographed. “I’ll be quick”, Oddur said. I thought it was more proper to get permission. We found a lady in a nearby house. Her husband’s family owns the Château and as they are renovating it they live in a lovely cottage next door. We wanted to buy some wine and she took us on a tour of the castle. It’s such an experience to walk through the grand halls of buildings like this, every room tells a story, and in this case, one room told the story of a previous owner’s taste for seventies decadence. The wine comes in an orange labelled bottle, it’s called château Escot, and we were very happy with it.
I love coming back home from these trips, with bread and wine and something wonderful to cook. It feels so cozy in winter to nest up in the house, light a fire, and play around in the kitchen. We had bought some pretty pears at the market on Saturday and even as I was peeling them I wasn’t sure what to make of them. Something with chocolate or a pear tart? In the end the simplicity of the soup inspired my to continue with that theme and just fry them on a pan with some crushed almonds. With some salted butter caramel they turned out just right. Actually, it was so good, I think this is my favourite pear dessert!




The abundance of summer is glorious, a wall covered with hundreds of roses, crates of fresh peaches or plums. But a satisfying meal in late autumn is like the last rose of summer – it’s on cold days that a little beauty is most needed.


Vegetable potage

(serves 4-6)

Note: I usually make this soup in the evening, and leave to rest overnight until the next day for lunch. Or you can make it in the morning if you prefer to serve it for dinner.

3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled & diced
1 leek (white part), chopped into rounds
1 celery, sliced
1/2 head of Savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs of thyme
1 liter/ 4 cups water (or vegetable stock if you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and black pepper

Slice carrots, potatoes, leek and celery. In a large pot, heat olive oil and cook all the vegetables and thyme (except for the Savoy cabbage) for 3 minutes on a medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add water and bring to a boil. Add Savoy cabbage and continue to cook on a medium heat for 30 minutes. Leave to rest for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight. Reheat the soup, and add 2 tablespoons butter just before serving. Season to your taste. Serve with toasted baguette and butter.


Quails with foie gras and armagnac sauce

(serves 4)

Note: If you don’t have Armagnac, I would suggest red wine, it’s equally delicious!

Breasts and legs of 4 quails
4 small foie gras slices (optional)
100 ml chicken stock
1 tablespoon Armagnac
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
A few sprigs of chives, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 210°C/ 410 F

Slice the quails breasts and legs.
In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter until sizzling on a medium heat. Season breasts and legs with salt and pepper. Place the breasts (skin down) and legs and cook for 3 minutes on each side, until golden. Place in an oven-proof dish and transfer to oven for a few minutes, while you prepare the sauce.
In the same sauté pan, add the chicken stock, bring to a soft boil and add the Armagnac. Reduce for 3 minutes, until sauce is glossy and thick. Season with salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of butter and stir until melted. Set sauce aside in a small bowl.

Heat sauté pan again on a high heat and cook the foie gras slices 10 to 15 seconds on each side, until golden.

Place quail and foie gras on a serving plate, drizzle Armagnac sauce all over and sprinkle with finely chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper.

Pumpkin, Jerusalem artichoke and potato mash

250 g/ 1/2 pound pumpkin, peeled & coarsely chopped
4-5 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and sliced
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp salt

Cook vegetables in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain, mash vegetables with a potato masher, return pan on a medium heat and stir mash for 2 minutes to ‘dry’ it out slightly (pumpkin can retain a lot of water). Add butter and olive oil. Season with salt.


Pears with almonds and salted butter caramel

(serves 4-6)

4 pears (for this recipe I used William pears), cut into quarters
60 g coarsely chopped almonds
30 g salted butter

In a sauté pan, melt the butter on a medium heat. When the butter starts to slightly sizzle, sauté the pears on each side until golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the almonds mid-way and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, until almonds are golden.

For the salted-butter caramel sauce

100 g/ 1/2 cup granulated sugar
120 ml/ 1/2 cup cream (slightly warmed)
50 g/ 3 tbsp salted butter (at room temperature)
Melt the sugar in a saucepan on a medium heat. Do not stir until it has nearly all melted (it should be golden/amber-colored).
Take away from the heat, stir with a wooden spoon and gently pour the cream. Stir well, add butter, continue to stir.

Return to a low heat for 5-10 seconds , stirring constantly. If there are sugar lumps, continue stirring until it melts. Leave to cool.

To serve.
Place pears on a plate, scatter the almonds and drizzle the caramel. Serve immediately while warm.


110 thoughts on “The sleeping lion & my grandmother’s soup

  1. Haha! Mimi – what a coincidence! My mother made a french leek soup for us today, very similar to the one you just have! Although I must say that with cabbage and thyme it sounds a lot better.

  2. Wow, that waiter does look just like Adrien Brody, nose and all! I feel the same way you do about autumn. It’s such a wonderful time to curl up at home and cook. Now if only I had a fireplace. PS. this caramel sauce looks a lot easier than the one published in your feature in Bon Appetit. That one I burnt unfortunately (but the gateau breton was amazing).

    1. Bonjour Liza,

      I always feel i am in a movie when I step into that restaurant, with Adrien Brody as my waiter 🙂 Caramel sauce can be a bit tricky, it took me a while before getting caramel confidence! Enjoy! Mimi x

  3. Hi Mimi, This soup looks so comforting and delicious. I’m still getting over a cold and its been quite a few weeks now. There is nothing more delicious on these brisk days than a bowl of soup. I love the idea of making it at night…just the smell of homemade soup would help me sleep. I love your site and recipes. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Hi Tammy,
      I am just like you, still getting over a cold from a few weeks ago – this is so nasty! This soup is so simple, and the key part is to let it rest overnight so all the flavors get released. I could have it everyday, even for breakfast it’s so comforting! Enjoy! Mimi x

  4. Mimi,
    Thank you so much for the stories and recipes you share from your heart and your home. I look forward to reading your notes more than anyone else’s. You have the unique and rare gift to captivate and transport the reader into the world in which you live.

  5. I have to tell you something. One year I decided to plant some Jerusalem artichokes in my tiny potager and they came up like beautiful sunflowers and I was so proud of them. Then I didn’t quite know what to do with all the tubers and some stayed in the ground. The next year the whole potager was completely overrun with them! Oh my goodness they multiply. It took years to eradicate them. One day when I have more room I’ll grow some again, but for now I’ll just buy them at the farmer’s market. I’ve been making a lot of soups lately. All sorts of soups from left-over roast chicken and clean-the-fridge-out soup to elaborate bean and vegetable mixes, But you know what I really want to make these days? A good old fashioned, two day cassoulete. Mmm, think I just might have to. Do you have a good local recipe? I’ve always used the same one I learned when at Cordon Bleu but never bother to look up recipes any more. 🙂

    1. Hi Veronica! Oh la la it sounds like an invasion! This season is all about comfort, nourishment and vitamin-rich food! It’s freezing these days, and I am not used to it! Cassoulet is very big in my family because my family on my mother’s side are all from Moissac & Toulouse – it’s our local dish. I’ll gather my notes and send you the recipe shortly. Mimi x

  6. Bonjour Mimi,
    I love a good soup and being vegetarian, this soup is perfect. I find soup so comforting and love how versatile it is.
    Médoc looks stunning in Autumn, here in Cannes we are still waiting for Fall to fully arrive. I can’t wait to cozy up by the fire with a big bowl of your soup!

  7. Hope you’re feeling better. I am coming to Medoc this summer for sure- you and your husband made me fall in love with the place. I will try the soup for sure. I think it’s November that makes you long for simple warming dishes from your childhood. I just made classic Grandma’s chicken soup with homemade noodles- they say it’s traditional remedy for cold. All the best to you!

  8. Chère mimi
    Magnifique recette et je me délecte à l avance de préparer toutes ces merveilles ce week end
    Suis aux Bahamas en vol pour le travail et je ne pense qu a l hiver qui s installe doucement en Irlande.
    Ces cailles vont être parfaites pour changer du traditionnel Sunday lunch à l anglaise!!! Et ne parlons même pas des poires!!!

    1. Hello Karine! Tu es aux Bahamas! Quelle chance – il fait froid ici! J’espère que tout le monde se porte bien – je t’embrasse ainsi que que ta jolie famille. Bisous, Mimi x

  9. This post is so lovely. It beautifully captures the spirit of autumn, both in food and nature. I always find the ritual of making soup on a cold autumn day to be one of the greatest sources of comfort in this world. As Thanksgiving nears here in the States, I have many autumnal recipes swirling in my head — and your pumpkin, artichoke and potato mash is now at the top of the list!

  10. I have the same cement garden chair in my garden in the first few photos!!!Is that yours or the Chateau’s?I would love to think we have the same chair!Sorry, to hear you have had a cold.You still look gorgeous!!!What a treat too to get a tour of the old home and that ROSE!Hanging on for the final curtain call!!!!!!!!!!!!XOXOX

  11. This is the PERFECT Autumn post. The colors, the flavours jump out at you. Rich tapestry of landscape is breathtaking. Will make that soup today: thyme is lovely addition. Mimi – you are an artist. Merci for this from New England.

  12. Great! I can’t wait to read your posts Mimi. They are always so enchanting and inspiring. The restaurant sounds incredible. Time has passed since the last time I was in a restaurant so cozy and with simple but yet great food!

    1. Bonjour Daniela! Thanks for saying hi! Le Lion d’Or is a real gem, the kind of restaurant you would want to find (but so hard to find these days – authentic with good food!). I hope you’ll try it one day! Mimi x

  13. Lovely post. perfect restaurant and excellent menu. Everything as it should be, except for Jerusalem artichokes. I love them to death, but hate peeling them and the fact that they make me fart like mad.

    1. Perfect restaurant indeed! So authentic and great food à la carte – they also have an excellent daily set menu, a 5-course meal with a glass of wine and coffee included for 13,40€!! Can you believe it? Oh la la, your thoughts on topinambours are too amusing! One of my farmer friends says she puts a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to the boiling water and that does the trick… perhaps you have a solution there? 🙂

  14. I agree. You never disappoint with your stories! They are worth waiting for! Everything seems delicious, especially dessert.

  15. You said one my favorite words “improvise” it is one of the keys that open the door to creativity.
    Cold, gray, and rainy here in my neck of the woods but I shall have soup, and all shall be good and delicious.
    The pear with almond looks so delicious. Thank you for a transporting post, it’s like waiting for that perfect summer peach…mouth watering.
    Be well!

    1. Thank you Gee Gee – it is always a pleasure to transport you to Médoc! I find that ‘improvising’ dishes in the kitchen often lead to wonderful surprises. I hope you will enjoy the pears – I did! Have a lovely day, Mimi x

  16. This is a magical story. It’s cold and rainy here today and it was so lovely to read your adventure and imagine your comforting soup.
    Thank you.

  17. Have you tried the restaurant at Chateau Beau Jardin just north of Lespare . Great food reasonably priced. Hidden from the road .

  18. Good morning, Mimi
    That beautiful story, is hypnotic. Nothing is missing, includes a recipe of your grandmother and the waiter Adrien Brody. As I read I felt transported. Thank you for this wonderful menu. In Barcelona also started cold and today also do for dinner the rich soup of your grandmother.
    (Saturday go to La Boqueria market to find Jerusalem artichokes, not known until now).
    Thanks for the hope and joy that you transmit, a warm embrace.

    1. Gracias Yasmina! Enjoy this lovely soup – I have to admit I have been making it every two days lately – it’s that comforting. I can just imagine how lovely the markets in Barcelona must be – vous me donnez envie de partir à Barcelone! 😉 Merc! Mimi x

      1. Hello Mimi,
        I hope you’ve recovered from your cold and you’re okay.
        Yesterday I made for dinner a soup recipe, we love it, thanks for sharing.
        Barcelona markets really are beautiful. For “explorers” like you and your family this city has much to offer.
        (After 7 years living here, I keep in my bag a small notebook to record new discoveries and a camera to portray charming places I find in every corner of this city).

          1. I’ll be happy to provide information of some parts of this city that I think are lovely and are not included in the tour guides.

  19. In fact, our grandmothers always make us delicious soups. Also in Portugal we have that tradition: when we are sick we make a confortable and very vegetable soup.
    Many greetings from Portugal and a big kiss for all your family and dogs 🙂

  20. Lovely. I eat a version of this soup every year, just after Christmas. Every year, with visit my boyfriend (“the Frenchman”)’s family for the holidays on the western coast of France. After the oysters and foie gras and goose and champagne, there is simple vegetable potage. We pile into the tiny living room to eat this soup and play tarot by the fire. Thank you for sharing. The pears look delicious–simple and well balanced.

  21. I always look forward to your posts, Mimi, your writing is so poetic, and you have an eye for beauty. The sleeping lion sounds delightful – I wish we had a ‘lion dormir’ nearby, too!

  22. Hi Mimi,

    I love your blog, absolutely beautiful photos, stories and meals.

    Random question, but I love your scarf. Where is it from?

    Looking forward to more posts,

  23. Beautiful!
    I have one silly question – when you say 1 celery do you mean 1 whole bunch or just one stalk?
    Thank you!!!!!

  24. What a perfect day to read your beautiful post with a warm nourishing soup, I’m on the other side of the world, the weather this morning being wet and wild,thunder and lighting a soup it will be for lunch today. Thank you. If it clears a trip to the morning farmers market to get some quail.

  25. Bonsoir ma chere Mimi, Tasty restaurants, old chateaux and country drives……… I just can’t hear enough about the Medoc Mimi. J’espere que votre rhume est mieux…. grandmother’s soup to the rescue xx Anita

  26. That is the sweetest thing of how Louise calls the place the Sleeping Lion! I am going to give this soup a shot in my nest since its even cold for us in Southern California! Happy Nesting!

  27. Hello!
    I enjoy your blog very much and the few things that I have have made at home from your blog turned out great, thank you!
    Would you be able to share your rabbit recipe, please? i saw on instagram that you went hunting for one but I do not think I saw a post online for it. If I am wrong, I do apologize.

    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank you,

    1. Hello Alex, Thanks so much for saying hi – and I am so happy to hear you enjoyed some of the recipes 🙂 I will definitely share the rabbit recipe – it’s coming out on my show very soon, so once it’s out, I shall send it to you (hint hint – civet de lièvre) Bonne soirée, Mimi x

    2. I second the request!! We love rabbit and I have one waiting to be cooked (in the freezer, fresh ones are hard to come by here….)

  28. Bravo pour votre article dans ELLE!
    Absolument magnifique tout comme “Manger” dont je suis addict. Peut-être nous croiserons nous aux Quinconces pour la brocante.

    1. Merci beaucoup Nathalie – j’étais très heureuse d’être dans ELLE 🙂 J’espère que vous aurez l’occasion d’essayer quelques petites recettes hivernales? Et oui, j’ai très hâte d’aller aux Quinconces! A bientôt! Mimi x

  29. As fate would have it, I’m reading this on a blustery Sunday night and thinking of the week ahead. Fortunately I have everything for this soup in my possession. Thanks for the inspiration, Mimi. I enjoyed your charming story immensely.

  30. I had all the ingredients on hand for the pear dessert, even homemade caramel I made the night before, and it was delicious! I would have never thought of that combination but you are opening my eyes to what is already in my kitchen and ideas are brewing!

  31. I love the diptych of the carrots and dog-walking–the images seem to blend into one another. Similarly the textures of the tree and bowls of soup toward the end of the post echo one another.

    Such lovely photography, and the pears with salted butter caramel sound simply delish.

  32. It’s been cold, wet and dark here in Austin. Your grandmother’s soup sounds so comforting. I think I’ll add this one to the list for when we return from the Thanksgiving holiday.

    Hope you’re feeling better, Mimi! Seems like colds this year are hanging on a bit more ruthlessly!

  33. Hello Mimi – I have always throughly enjoyed reading your stories, anecdotes and recipes.

    I have a cottage in the Elgin Valley, Western Cape, South Africa and I have just written my first blog – A nervous experience but now that I have got over the first one, I am encouraged to start with my next.

    I know we are all busy people, but any tips and advice would be greatly appreciated.

    I am starting a links page and wondered if it is OK to add you blogs details? Of course, I would love you adding my link to your list?

    Many thanks, michael

  34. Mimi! I thought I left a question for you here the other day, but I don’t see it! Well, here it is again…

    I want to make your mendiants! But we do not have “black chocolate” here in the states. What would be the equivalent here to your black chocolate? Would it be bittersweet chocolate? MERCI! Anita

    1. Here Anita – I did answer – here’s the response below! Enjoy! Mimi x

      November 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm
      Hi Anita, When I say black chocolate, I mean dark chocolate, for instance I use Nestlé Chocolat dessert Corsé 64% cocoa. It’s rich and dark with all the right deep flavours. I think bittersweet chocolate sounds very nice – so I would go for that if you ca’t find 60 or 65%. let me know! Mimi x

      1. Be mindful of chocolate products sold in the states as they use gmo soy. I always look for a non gmo label and for personal political reasons I do not buy nestle products.

  35. mimi, comment faire pour avoir votre blog en francais! je vous découvre et vous adore déja, grace a cuisine +.

  36. I made the vegetable potage and it was amazing. I did make a couple of adjustments like deglazing the pan with some white wine and a squeeze of fresh lemon at the end. I was so happy with the results! I omitted the butter at the end but suspect it would be wonderful. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us.

  37. Hi Mimi…..I made your soup yesterday and took it out to rewarm and enjoy today. It tastes the same as it did when I made it. I used fresh thyme and followed your directions…what happened? The lapsed time did not enhance the soups flavor.

    1. Hi mary Anna,
      How long did you cook it for, and how much water did you add? did you season accordingly – it needs a decent amount of salt, in my opinion. My advice is too cook it longer? Mimi x

  38. I just have to tell you, I’m on my second pot(which is a double batch this time) to take in to the girls at work tomorrow.
    We have fallen in love with your recipe, I think the little butter before serving might be my favorite part (I just love butter =) )
    Just had to tell you, it’s delicious & will now be a staple in my kitchen.
    Thank you so much for sharing such a yummy recipe!

  39. I love your grandmama’s soup. It has replaced the one I’ve been cooking since I attended L’ecole Francais Culinary School in NYC. I went for Artisanal Breads, but we learned soups and other accompaniments. I also love your half and half face dog, he is adorable.

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