In this work we present a novel sampling method for time harmonic inverse medium scattering problems. It provides a simple tool to directly estimate the shape of the unknown scatterers (inhomogeneous media), and it is applicable even when the measured data are only available for one or two incident directions. A mathematical derivation is provided for its validation. Two- and three-dimensional numerical simulations are presented, which show that the method is accurate even with a few sets of scattered field data, computationally efficient, and very robust with respect to noises in the data. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.