I have recently been skiing the snow filled Trois Vallees in France with our wonderful son (who, by the way, is a much better skier than me) and our daily routine was to ski until 2pm (mostly off piste – so my son could try out his new K2 Powabungas!) followed by a delicious lunch somewhere on the mountain, before skiing back down to our cosy apartment in the centre of Meribel.
One of our gastronomic lunches was at Le Chalet de la Marine in Val Thorens, where we both sampled Pot au Feu – which on a cold winters’ day, has to be one of the best dishes I have eaten in a long while. So when I returned from holiday, I asked Grace if she wouldn’t mind cooking me Pot au Feu again at home.
Pot au Feu is definitely no ordinary ‘beef-stew’. It’s a combination of root vegetables, lardons, garlic, red wine and succulent shin of beef with its bone marrow oozing into the juices, all slowly cooked for five hours before being served up piping hot in its own Le Creuset dish accompanied with Dijon mustard, freshly baked bread and pickled gherkins.
Firstly, when you lift the heavy lid of the Le Creuset dish, your mouth begins to water and secondly when you taste the infused vegetables, lardons and meat, everything just melts in your mouth and gives you a warm feeling inside.
According to Raymond Blanc, pot-au-feu is “the quintessence of French family cuisine, it is the most celebrated dish in France that honours the tables of the rich and poor alike.”
All I can say is I’m just glad it honoured me again, this time on our table at home!
Here’s the recipe:
POT AU FEU
1.5kg stewing beef on the (marrow) bone
Pack of lardons
500ml beef stock (chiller cabinet of your supermarket)
4 banana shallots or small onions, peeled
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium sized carrots, peeled and left whole
2 leeks, washed and cut into three equal lengths
2 small turnips, peeled and quartered
2 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
Sprig of each bay leaves, thyme and parsley
200ml red wine
Brown the meat in a large frying pan, adding salt and pepper and sprinkling a little flour over the meat when you turn it over. Put meat into ovenproof casserole dish.
Briefly fry bacon, onions and garlic. Add the carrots, leeks and beef stock. Bring to the boil. Add to the casserole dish and then put in the turnips and potatoes.
Cook at 150 degrees for about 5 hours or until the meat falls off the bone.
As with any good stew or casserole, this recipe is best prepared a day in advance so that, once cooked and cooled, you can skim off the fat that solidifies on the top.