It seems ridiculous that I left a two year old and a four month old to fly to Bordeaux to play in someone else's kitchen. But maybe you will understand if you have followed Mimi's blog? tried her recipes? read her incredible posts that are so beautifully written you can smell the fresh strawberries at the market, hear the crisp snap of the white asparagus being prepped for a soufflé not to mention this incredible family of 7 children, an Icelandic husband (who takes all the delicious images on the blog) and have you had a peek at the book? I kindly received it as a Christmas present and I can't recommend it enough... so... when I read this post... at 2am... I sat bolt up right, I had to go... but how? This was probably the worst timing ever, Haven was due in a month. So I sent an email to Michael, yes an email, so I could whisper 'I really want to do this' if he thought I was stupid and selfish, reading that I was stupid and selfish, would be easier than hearing it out loud.
He replied, 'do it, just book it, we will figure it out.'
So last week I found myself in France, in Medoc, in Mimi's kitchen.
After the initial flurry of excitement, logistics and sending emails back and forth to France, I promptly forgot about the course and was plunged into a life of working and adjusting to being a family of four, so I arrived with no expectations only hoping to learn a thing or two, eat some lovely food and sleep!!
I can't really describe how beyond my modest expectations these two days were. It wasn't a school, it wasn't scripted and it wasn't forced. Myself and the four other totally lovely ladies on this workshop were welcomed with open arms into Mimi & Oddur's family home, their kitchen, their lives, they joked and shared and gave far more generously and openly than I could ever have imagined. The two days were so relaxed and comfortable, their dogs wandered in, were stroked, given a little attention and then ushered on their way. The children, their beautiful, delightful children, flitted in and out, 'stealing' a little food here and there, their laughter a layer of background noise to the cooking and bustling in the kitchen. Audrey, who is nearly one, joined us for most meals, helping herself to whatever we were having. We chopped vegetables, stirred pots, shelled peas, stuffed tomatoes all the while the conversation never stopped. We shared films, restaurants, tips, alternatives to the recipes we were making, and fervently tried to discover HOW Mimi does so much and looks so amazing?! And somehow we managed, and when I say we, I mean pretty much Mimi (along with help from Annie & Allegra), to put together a 3 course lunch and dinner on both days, with an additional two desserts made by Mimi's friend Gilles on the first day.
one of the first things we made where these Endive Tartlets - the recipe is here on Mimi's blog. They look so pretty and complicated and it was one of the easiest things ever. And so very tasty!
The Asparagus Soufflé was so delicate and light, utterly delicious and again pretty simple to put together. I couldn't find the recipe on the blog so it must be from the book but there is an Artichoke version here - artichokes are one of my favourite vegetables so this will probably be the one I attempt first at home.
Lunch & Dinner were always served in the green dining room with proper cutlery and linen napkins and lots of wine. Something I know very little about and something I haven't drunk in over a year with having Haven. I confessed my ignorance to Oddur very early on and still I made many a faux pas, like at dinner stating that my favourite wine had been the fourth red, only to find out that it was the same as the first! Everyone was very kind in telling me that the wine does develop and change over a few hours but still I obviously have a lot to learn!
The chocolate meringue's were crunchy and chewy and moorish (recipe here), we ate them for dessert after cooking duck on the open fire in the kitchen with a Potato Garlic Cake that I've already attempted since I've come home. I loved it! Somehow, it was 11pm by the time someone cared to check their watch and whilst we 'students' where horrified to still be in Mimi & Oddur's home, there had never been any feeling that we had outstayed our welcome, the evening was just so enjoyable, relaxed and the hospitality and generosity never faltered.
Day two began a little later but somehow we also managed a trip to Mimi's favourite antique store where I bought some french linen and some pretty tea strainers and a little visit to a nearby Chateau. But there was some serious cooking in between, a clear spring vegetable soup with crunchy garlic croutons and Tomates Farcies (it really does make a difference using local, fresh produce, I've not seen tomatoes this big in London.)
I would like to say so much, but I'm not sure I have the words, this wasn't a cooking course, this was a rare opportunity to meet an extraordinary person, her family and hear first hand how life, experience and circumstances brought them to this point. It's actually a real honour to have been able to meet them at all, let alone camp out in their home for nearly 48 hours. It has opened my eyes and answered many questions that I have been struggling with, with regards to work, family, the future and trying to combine all these things.
So I'll end with a heartfelt thank you Mimi & Oddur, I'm truly grateful for this experience, your kindness and generosity. merci beaucoup x
p.s Tim thank you for all the lifts!