French,  Savoury

Pot-au-feu (French beef stew) and disruptive mothers

Tennis tournament season is back and, once again, I’m in the market for a gag. If I don’t find one (and let’s face it, there seems to be a dearth of reasonably stylish ones), I’ll have to stop accompanying Léo to matches until I learn to control my gratuitous and unhelpful comment reflex, which never fails to kick in. I can only be thankful that the majority of the other spectators don’t understand English; I won’t go into details as I wouldn’t want to sully reputations, particularly mine. The strange thing is that neither Léo nor I are particularly competitive, but there’s something about people either criticising or applauding (I don’t know which is worse) my son’s ‘faults’ that brings out the devil in me.
This is a simple version of ‘pot-au-feu’, a traditional French dish which, strictly speaking, should include several different cuts of meat as well as oxtail. In any case, it is very comforting after a day spent in the cold having your nerves ripped to shreds! It used to be that the pot containing the stew would stay cooking over the fire nearly all winter, with bits and pieces being constantly replaced. Usually the ‘bouillon’ or sauce is eaten as soup and the vegetables and  meat as a main course with mustard and pickles, although I like to eat the two together.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Vegetable stock (roughly 500ml)
1kg stewing beef, cut into large cubes
4 leeks, washed and sliced
1 red pepper (optional), cut into slices
1 stick of celery, cut into four pieces
6 small carrots, cut into 3cm pieces
2 swedes or turnips, peeled and quartered
¼ white cabbage, sliced
4 small potatoes, peeled
Bouquet garni (parsely, thyme, bay)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon piment d’espelette (or paprika)
Preheat the oven to 150°C. In a fairly large casserole dish (Dutch oven) brown the onions and garlic very briefly in the olive oil. Add the beef and continue to brown for a couple of minutes. Add all the vegetables (except the potatoes) and then enough vegetable stock to cover. Add the seasoning, herbs and spices and bring to a gentle boil. Transfer to the oven and cook for about three hours, checking from time-to-time that there is sufficient liquid (the vegetables should be covered). Add the potatoes and cook for a further hour.


  • andreamynard

    It’s definitely the weather for stew here with frosty mornings and the woodburner lit. Made a beef stew myself last night (left it to cook slowly in the falling heat of the woodburner) and looking forward to it this evening. It’s also tennis club at my daughter’s school tonight and I’m feeling so grateful that she opted for Rainbows instead and I don’t have to stand outside shivering! Your Pot Au Feu looks wonderful.

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      Thank you! I bet your stew will be wonderful by this evening – the longer and more slowly they cook the better they are! Rainbows sounds far less of a nightmare than tennis. Don’t think my son would buy it though. 🙂

  • apuginthekitchen

    Oh I love pot au feu, I love making this when it’s cold out, so comforting. I love all the vegetables you have in your stew I’ve never used pepper or cabbage in mine must give that a try.

  • Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs

    I enjoyed this post…. there is nothing like the mama bear coming out in us when it comes to our kids… I’m right there with you, except it was my son playing football, and the other spectators understood my English!!
    The stew looks absolutely divine.. and yes, I’d eat the vegetables and the meat together too…

  • Eat Your Veg

    Deliciously, comforting and warming Pot au Feu. I like my meat and veggies together too, and never really ‘got’ the whole french thing of having a separate course for salad or veggies. Your is certainly packed full of plenty of veggies, fabulous!

  • Fig & Quince

    You mean the tradition was to keep the same pot on the stove the whole winter? Very interesting and guess explains the name. Looks delicious and super comforting. And ah … food can be the best gag, I mean you can’t chew and spout comments at the same time .. right? 😉

    • The Healthy Epicurean

      Yes – that’s what they did – brings a whole new meaning to ‘slow cooking’ doesn’t it? Ha ha about the food gag, although unfortunately I’m an excellent multitasked – I can quite easily make cutting comments with a mouthful 😉

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