Pot au Feu is a classic French comfort dish. It takes the better part of an afternoon to prepare, but is low maintenance and makes the house smell absolutely wonderful. No doubt it’s the perfect recipe to use when entertaining guests or simply warding off the Winter chill.
Pot au Feu

Pot au Feu
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
To Serve: Crusty bread such as pain de campagne; cornichons (pickled gherkins); capers; Dijon mustard and coarse sea salt
Recipe type: Soups and Stews
Cuisine: French
Serves: 6 to 8
  • 2 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin or brisket of beef, tied into a neat joint
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 onion, peeled and studded with 4 cloves
  • 4 cloves garlic, skin on
  • Bouquet garni (a bundle of bay leaf, thyme and parsley stalks tied together)
  • 2 celery sticks, cut into large chunks
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 turnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks and parboiled
  • 1/2 green cabbage, trimmed and cut into wedges
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and white part cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (thoroughly washed of sand)
  1. Place the beef and ham hock into a large pan and fill with enough cold water to cover (about 2-3 litres). Bring to the boil and skim off the froth and scum that rise to the surface. Turn down the heat and keep skimming until the broth is clear. Add the onion, garlic, bouquet garni, celery and half the carrots. Season, cover, and poach the meat for 3- to 3-1/2 hours, skimming occasionally, until the meat is fork tender.
  2. Lift the beef and ham hock out of the poaching liquid and cover with a piece of foil. Strain the poaching liquid into a pot and discard the solids.
  3. Bring the liquid back to the boil. Add the rest of the carrots, the turnips and the potatoes to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the cabbage. Cook for another 5 minutes before adding the leeks. Simmer for a few more minutes until the vegetables are tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and strain the stock again.
  4. Thickly slice the beef against the grain. Similarly, cut the ham into large pieces. Place the sliced meats in the centre of a platter and surround with the vegetables. Serve the hot broth in a tureen along with crusty bread and bowls of cornichons, capers, coarse sea salt and Dijon mustard.
There are many variations of this classic dish, some of which have a whole capon cooked alongside the beef; others include bone marrow and Toulouse sausages. You can vary the combination of meat, but remember to use joints that require slow-cooking so you end up with a richly flavoured broth. Traditionally, the French would serve this rustic dish with lots of day-old bread to soak up the broth.


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