Pot au feu is an old French classic. Not fine dining by any means, more of a peasant feast. The name simply means 'pot on the fire'. It requires nothing more than cheap bulk ingredients, a knife to chop them up into a big pot and a 'fire'.
About 1.5 kg vegetables -- a mixture of onion, leek, celery or celeriac and carrots
About 1.5 kg stewing beef -- a mixture of short rib, shank and chuck steak
A couple of marrow bones
Parsley, thyme and bay leaves tied up in leek greens to form a bouquet garnie
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
4 - 5 l water
3 carrots, cut into chunks
A rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks
4 celery stalks, cut into 5 cm lengths, or a celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
2 leeks, cleaned and cut into chunks
500 g potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
- Clean, peel and cut the 1.5 kg of vegetables into large chunks.
- Put the vegetables into a large pot, put the meat and marrow bones on top.
- Add the bouquet garnie, peppercorns and some salt (at least a teaspoon).
- Pour the water over and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for two and a half hours.
- Pick out the meat and marrow bones with tongs and put aside.
- Strain the stock and put the vegetables aside.
- Put the stock back in the big pot and add the uncooked celery, leeks, rutabaga and carrot, along with the reserved meat.
- Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for half an hour.
- Add the potatoes and simmer for a further 40 minutes.
- Taste for salt and add more if necessary.
- To serve, fish out the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in soup bowls. Add a couple of ladles of stock.
- Serves 8.
It is not traditional to brown the meat before you add it to the pot, which is one of the ways you can tell it is a very old recipe. However, modern palates are used to the caramelisation you get from the searing process, and there is no reason not to do it if you like (or can be bothered...).
A truly traditional pot au feu would contain generous quantities of turnips. Neither Simon nor I like turnips, so I have deliberately dodged them. I also haven't bothered to peel the potatoes, which a French cook would almost certainly do.
You will be left with lots of beef stock, which you can make onion soup with.
And you will have some very soft cooked vegetables put aside in Step 6. Pick out the peppercorns and puree the vegetables. Add stock until you have a velouté soup consistency. Reheat and serve with croutons.
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