One morning, around two weeks ago, Oddur, Hudson and I woke up extra early (and believe me we always wake up early) and headed for the lovely village of Lamarque which lies near the banks of the Gironde estuary, south of Pauillac. We drove into the quiet town and headed for the church where we had a rendez-vous with a man known as the ‘forest whisperer’. We said quick bonjours and then he led us down a ‘road’ to his fishing cabanon where he planned for us to spend the first part of what was to be a schorchingly hot and beautiful day. We lowered the big round fishing net and then we waited … and hoped. Yves Lajoux spoke with great enthusiasm of Médoc, the estuary, the forests. They are his playground where he spends most of his free time surrounded by nature, hunting, observing, loving every minute and dedicating his life to the wilderness.
But our story doesn’t really begin here, how does one get an appointment with a man like that? In our case it was pure luck. Lucky to have been invited to a lovely dinner party hosted by the Cazes family (of château Lynch-Bages) at château Cordeillan-Bages some weeks before, lucky to have been seated next to a most gracious and gentle man who on top of being a delightful ‘voisin de table‘ is also one of the most highly rated oenologist in the world or as my host put it ‘Monsieur Eric Boissenot is responsible for 60% of the best wines in Médoc‘. Eric’s laboratory near his childhood home in Lamarque happens to be next to Monsieur Lajoux’s house and the more we talked about him the more intrigued I was to meet him. When you are in love with a place, like I am with Médoc, you want to meet the man who knows it better than anyone.
After a few minutes Hudson’s impatience was growing so he asked permission to see if we had caught anything. Indeed we had, a lovely mullet and only a few minutes into our morning. This was a good start but alas the only thing we caught all morning (aside from a few shrimps that we set free again). The real catch of the day, though, was meeting the man himself. He spoke with great enthusiasm about preserving nature and living in harmony with the creatures of the sea and forest. He took us on a trail of the surrounding area, showed us a few sights and even took us to the top of Lamarque’s St Seurin church with its panoramic dome so we could better see what he was talking about. Of course a lot of time was spent discussing food and cooking, like many hunters and fisherman in the region he has a few cooking tricks up his sleeve and I was eager to know them all. His favorite food it turns out is gambas flambéed in cognac. A second favorite is anything made from wild boar, he makes sausages at his house and once a year he and his hunting buddies have a feast near his cabanon on the 14th of july and this year we are invited. Think Asterix and Obelix.
Yves invited us to his house for lunch (surprising his wife I might add, who had prepared a lunch for just the two of them), he said it would be simple, it was anything but. He opened some Sauternes, brought out the terrines he makes himself and delighted us with endless stories. My husband spent a good deal of time with Yves’s dogs who are taking it easy and recharging their batteries until hunting season begins again. He has beautiful griffons and recently had a litter. Luckily for me he had given away all but one which he’s training to be his next hunting champion. Repeatedly my husband asked to pick up the puppy (who was huge by the way) and I could see that dangerous look in his eye that I’ve seen too many times in the past. I don’t think that man has ever looked at a puppy without considering the possibility of owning it. Yves and I kept talking about his love for terrines and he gave me a recipe I used as a base to improvise on.
You would expect the prince of the forest to have a few skeletons in his closet and he did, a real one that he wanted to give to us. His wife is quietly removing all the hunting mementos from their walls and Yves was generous enough to give Hudson a hunting trophy, the head and antlers of a deer to hang on his wall. Hudson was thrilled, as for me, I guess I have to get used to it. Perhaps in the children’s playroom?
Back in my kitchen I was filled with emotions, feeling a little bit like an Amazon forest girl (one of my childhood dreams), coming home from the wilderness with a freshly caught fish for dinner. This is why I love life in Médoc so much, all this rawness, the untouched side of nature so rare these days. So I opened my notebook, scribbled a few recipe notes inspired from the day spent with Yves and there I was on a culinary adventure all over again. Yves told me to make a carpaccio out of the filets of the mullet, so I did. All you need is a great sharp fish knife, salt, pepper, olive oil, chives, lemon juice & rind. The lemon juice slightly cooks the fish, just like kitchen magic. The next day I bought fresh gambas and all the ingredients for the chicken liver terrines, Yves and I are kindred spirits when it comes to terrines (I always make at least 3, we are a big family and terrines go fast). I relived all those fantastic moments in the fishing cabanon, so grateful to have met the real man about Médoc. For that is what he is.
Mullet fish carpaccio (serves 4)
4 extremely fresh mullet fish fillets (you can use halibut, turbot, sea-bream or swordfish)
Lemon rind of 1 lemon, sliced into tiny slivers
A handful of chives
Sea salt & black pepper
On a serving plate, sprinkle sea-salt and black pepper. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and squeeze a quarter of a fresh lemon.
With a very sharp knife, slice the raw fish filets as thinly as you can across the grain. Place the slices on the plate. Sprinkle with finely chopped chives, lemon rind (sliced into tiny sticks) and squeeze a bit more lemon juice. Add more salt if desired. Serve immediately.
Chicken liver terrine (makes about 3 terrine pans)
5-6 chicken livers
1 kg/ 2 & ¼ pounds pork throat (gorge de cochon in French, which is commonly used for terrines & pâtés), alternately you can use fatty pork shoulder meat)
2 tsp sea-salt
1 tsp ground pink peppercorn
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
A small bunch of fresh thyme
2 shallots, sliced finely
120 ml/ ½ cup Armagnac
60 ml/ ¼ cup port
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
20 bay leaves
You will need a meat grinder with a medium hole plate or you can ask your butcher to mince the chicken livers and pork meat for you.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl (except the bay leaves), mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Scoop mixture into terrine or loaf pans (round or rectangular), leaving half an inch to the top. Decorate with bay leaves and cover with aluminium foil.
Preheat oven to 200°C/ 390 F
Place terrines in a large roasting pan and prepare a ‘bain-marie’ (pour boiling hot water in the roasting pan so it comes up nearly half-way to the terrine pans). Cook in oven for 45 minutes on 200°C/390 F, then lower heat to 180°C/ 350 F for a further 45 (to 1 hour depending on oven strength). Remove aluminium covers 25 minutes before the end.
Leave to set until cooled and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours. Enjoy!
Gambas ‘flambéed’ with cognac (as a starter, 5 gambas per person)
20 gambas, uncooked
80 ml/ 1/3 cup cognac
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
1 shallot, sliced finely
½ tsp ground nutmeg
A pinch of piment d’espellette
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
A handful of chopped parsley
Sea salt & black pepper
Place fresh gambas in a dish and drizzle with olive oil, sea-salt, black pepper, nutmeg, a pinch of piment d’espellette and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Cover and leave to marinate 3 hours or overnight.
Just before cooking the gambas, warm the cognac so it’s slightly heated. Set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and sauté gambas, shallots and garlic for a few minutes, until golden. Off the heat, pour cognac on gambas and light a match. Take a step back and be careful not to burn yourself! Let the gambas flambé for a couple of minutes or until it stops, tossing the pan from time to time. Return to heat and reduce for a minute. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.
64 thoughts on “A day in the life of Yves Lajoux”
Raw, inspiring, dark, beautiful, sensitive, magical… What else can I say to a once more exceptional posting, Mimi?! Thank you for sharing! Greetings from far away – always reading all of your posts… Yushka
Thank you Yushka! I hope you are having a fantastic summer holiday! Mimix
Each story you write here is wonderful..I always look forward to a post of yours appearing on my feed and this one is no exception. Beautiful.
Thank you Sarah! I am so happy you like the blog! Bonne soirée, Mimix
So do I !!!!!
Hi Mimi, looks like an interesting day spent, love your adventure Mimi. Delcious recipes, love the Gambas
Best wishes xoxo
Thanks Rowaida! And thank you so much for your duck recipe – I will make it when we have a little family reunion later this week. All the best, Mimix
what a charming expedition! and the deer skeleton….well….I feel like you…..now tell me please…are gambas shrimp?
Hello! Yes it was such an adventure – Yves Lajoux is as real as it gets here in Médoc! Andto answer your question, gambas are prawns. Bonne soirée, Mimix
This blog inspires me!
Merci Marye! Mimix
Dear Mimi, ever since I started reading your blog I am waiting anxiously to receive the mail that the new post is already there. As always, beautiful pictures, inspiring story, lovely food. Thank you for yet another day spent in Medoc. All the best, Lilia
Bonsoir Lilia! You can’t imagine how happy this makes me feel – merci! Mimix
Oh Mimi, you are writing a book, aren’t you? It would be a wonderful read. Please consider it. Your fascinating life needs to be shared and I would definitely but a copy. Beautiful post today. Your life is what dreams are made of. The way you have with words and film allow me to almost smell the smells. I love everything about your blog and anxiously await each new post. Thank you.
Oh la la! I am so touched! Thank you Sandy, and yes, I am currently writing a cookbook! I am right in the middle of it and it’s so very exciting! Thank you for your encouraging words it means so much! Best, Mimix
I love gambas and I’m so much excited about the gambas flambees au cognac that you share in this post! One question before starting:
do we have to peel and devain the gambas (what we call in French ‘décortiquer’)?
From the picture, I’m with the impression that this was not done, but I’m not sure…
Thank you very much!
Have a great week!
PS. After a long and hectic work quarter, I’m glad to reconnect.
I’m now on vacation, just arrived in Cannes and plunged into local life; My place is 5 minutes from the fish market, so I’m look forward to cooking seafood.
Bonjour! So glad you are back in Cannes! And 5 minutes away from the fishmarket? Then you will also have to make a fish carpaccio. I do not peel or devain the gambas (I just rinse them under cold water), just marinate them as they are. We are lucky to have great local gambas producers in St Vivien de Medoc – I will definitely pay them a visit for my cooking show this fall. Happy summer! Mimix
Truly wonderful, i just love seeing a new post from you. I almost feel like i’m there with you. your pictures are aways breath taking.
Thank you Thamara! When I write, I also feel I am with you! I always imagine I am telling the story to my readers, at home, in my living room or kitchen… Have a lovely day! Mimix
Mssr. Lajoux reminds me very much of some dear family friends of my husband, a Cajun couple who lives off of the land in South Louisiana. They tell us, “If the grocery stores relied on us, they’d go broke!” They always send us home with vegetables from their garden, shrimp (or more exotic things like turtle) caught in the swamps, venison, and so on. I see this sort of French heritage (or maybe it’s a certain lifestyle of kindred spirits?) continues on both sides of the Atlantic.
Your blog is so lovely and inspiring!
Thank you Janelle! People like M. Lajoux are a rare find, they are the ones that are so connected to nature, who have seen the changes, who understand the balance we all need. So happy to hear you have similar friends in your part of the world! It’s all about kindness and generosity. All the best, Mimix
You write so well and your photographs are always beautiful. A joy to read.
Thank you Terri! Mimix
Comment allez-vous? Well and happy I hope.
Don’t you find characters like Monsieur Lajoux absolutely fascinating? It’s a rare gift to have that intense knowledge of the forest and sea but I suppose that comes with a lifetime connection a la terre.
Bonjour Anita! Oh M. Lajoux is a gem! Wishing you a lovely week! Mimix
Oh, what a wonderful treat for you! I’m thrilled for you that you got to meet him and experience his beautiful life and knowledge for an afternoon. Medoc sounds like such a dream…most likely because you describe it with such passion.
I read in an earlier comment that you are writing a cookbook – I hope that it includes beautiful photos as your blog does. I look forward to each post.
Bonjour Sarah! Medoc is like a dream, we are so grateful to live in such an untouched part of the world, with all the traditions that are still alive. Yes, I am writing a cookbook, it’s such a treat to prepare the manuscript! There will be lots of photos taken by my husband Oddur (it’s an big advantage to be married to a photographer! 🙂 ) Thank you for being so encouraging! Mimix
The joy of France… the characters that make her this unique and spellbinding place… Reading your post made me realise that it’s the people and the traditions of the country that make us so attracted to the life here…
Hi Vicki! Exactly, it’s the people and traditions that make France so special! I feel so connected to the people here, it must be the inner ‘sauvage’ side in me! Bonne semaine Vicki – I am in love with your photos on Instagram – your house and garden are like a dream! Mimix
A beautiful article, with amazing photography…Thank you for sharing it with us.
Thank you! Mimix
Your lifestyle, photos, food and dogs make me dream more. It`s a pleasure for me to look on all of this and understand that it is real. Thank you so much) It`s a ray from far little Ukraine.
Thank you so much Catherine! Warm regards from Medoc! Mimix
Beautiful story and inspiring to create my own adventures…thank you. Also will be one of the first in line to buy your book when ready!
Oh thank you so much Christine! We all have daily adventure, and it’s so great to be able to write about them! Thanks for being so encouraging about the book! It makes my day! Mimix
The raw fish sort of frightens me since it’s so hard to get it fresh enough to use that way but love a good terrine recipe! Thanks Mimi lovely inspirational post as always!
I’m so pleased you met Stephane. I introduced him to your blog as I have a love of food and your husband’s photos!
Thank you Liz! Mimix
This place, your space is an entangling adventure of thoughts, food, people, information. 360º of absolute beauty. An inspiring weekly rendez-vous. Thank you 🙂
Merci Elvira! We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place – surrounded by nature and beauty! Bonne semaine! Mimix
Just stunning, the light in these photos is heavenly. I just went cherry picking here in NY and I cannot wait to add them into a rustic dessert.
Thank you Alison! Enjoythe summer! Mimi x
Hi, Mimi. I live in Oklahoma, and my life is very, very different than yours, but I really love visiting your online space. Isn’t that the beauty of the blogging world? 🙂 Your photos and storytelling are always so lovely, and I look forward to your posts!
So happy you like visiting Manger! There’s always an adventure or a little story to tell, inspiring me to cook new dishes every day! Happy summer! Mimix
Hi Mimi! Beautiful post. I wanted to know who makes the jacket you are wearing. Looking forward to more posts!
Thank you Rita! My jacket is from Urban Outfitters – I like it because it’s ‘waisted’ 🙂 Mimi x
Thanks, Mimi! It looks just perfect on you- very understated chic 🙂 I too, love the cinched waist. Hope all is well!
Mimi, I’m so in love with your blog and photos. You’re such a big inspiration!
Thank you Tammy – I hope you will enjoy the recipes! Mimix
MIMIx and her food for the soul! amazing post!!…
have a great day, Luana.
Thank you Luana! Mimix
Ah those little jetties and round nets. There are paintings in those images. What I’d give to spend an afternoon with pen and watercolours sketching. Great lines. Compliments to Oddur. x
Merci chère Margaret! Mimix
What an inspiration all of your blog posts are! They always give me such a good mood! Somehow I had not read for a few weeks and to be able to read several of the posts in a row – THAT in itself was already like a good meal! 🙂
Since English is not my first language, I also always learn a lot from your posts – this time about all the different types of fish one could make into a carpaccio. I will definitely be trying that next! I have been looking for a good fish filleting knife, so if you have any recommendations for the best kind then that would be greatly appreciated!
Hi Maiken, Thank you so much for your kind words! Regarding your questions about fish knives, I am a fan of Haiku knives. Here’s the one I have and love to use for slicing fish:
I’m living vicariously in Médoc through your delicious blog Mimi.
It’s so easy to fall under the spell of the region and give in to its many charms; characters and all!
Médoc and Manger are a true feast for the senses!
Hope that cookbook of yours has a big print run…it’s going to be very popular!
MERCI mille fois! You are a gem – you can’t imagine how happy it makes me feel to read your encouraging words! Thank you, Mimix
I just found your blog via Girls Guide to Paris. What a feast for the eyes. As a photographer, I’ve devoured your photographs, and hope to try the recipes as well. I will most certainly add your blog to my sidebar as well. V
Thank you so much! Happy summer, Mimix
I love red mullet–I have always had it grilled with lemon & olive oil nearby an Aegean taverna. As usual your recipe looks amazing too! Happy to hear about your adventures with Yves. Happy Bastille Day enjoy the fireworks. I remember them 12 years ago today from Saint Loup.
Thank you! Happy summer, Mimix
Beautiful, Mimi! Is there a way to make the terrine without using pork?