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Pot au feu – classic beef and vegetable stew


One French word: pot, a French recipe: pot au feu, classic beef and vegetable stew.

Half of France must eat pot au feu at the weekend in Winter. It’s a staple of the French diet, cheap and easy to do, comforting, and with its different variations on leftovers, lasts all week. If not a pot au feu, then a potée or a ragoût, variously named each according to its region.

Pot au feu literally means pot on the fire, and used to be a cauldron bubbling over an open hearth. Now of course it’s a presssure cooker more often than not (but not in my house, I’ve never understood pressure cookers).

Un pot au feu is always made with beef, cheap cuts that need ample stewing, with onions (des oignons), leeks (des poireaux), carrots (des carottes), turnips (des navets), sometimes swedes (des rutabagas) and parsnips (des panais), and of course potatoes (des pommes de terre). It should stew for hours and hours, until the meat is meltingly tender, and the vegetables, some of which are just added half an hour before serving, tender and colourful.

Une potée is usually made with pork, a hock (un jarret), some fat smoked sausages (des saucisses de Morteau for instance), a piece of salted pork belly (un morceau de petit salé), and maybe a trotter or two (des pieds de porc). Accompanied by vegetables as above, but often also a Savoy cabbage (un chou frisé) cut in two or four pieces, tops the pot. It is then known as une potée au chou.

Un ragoût is usually made with mutton (du mouton ou de l’agneau), pieces of neck (du collier) and belly (du sauté d’agneau), fried first with a large onion, to which beans of one kind or another are often added.

Another variation on this theme is a poule au pot,    an old hen, stuffed with rice (it then becomes une poule au riz), boiled for a couple of hours with vegetables as before.  Legend has it that Henri IV, a popular French king, who was nevertheless assassinated, but not before declaring that he would ensure that each labourer in his kingdom should have the means to place a poule au pot on his Sunday table! Here is a video on the subject which you might like to listen to to practise your comprehension of spoken French

Since the word of the day is pot, here are a few expressions or meanings of the word:

un pot is a pot; a flower pot = un pot de fleurs; a chamber pot = un pot de chambre; a bribe = un pot de vin (literally a pot of wine); a drink = (just) un pot; to be lucky = avoir du pot; an expression “le pot de terre contre le pot de fer“, literally an earthenware pot against an iron pot, in other words, an unequal combat, where one side is stronger than the other.

But my recipe this week is for a pot au feu, the beef and vegetable stew described above.

Pot au feu, main ingredients

Pot au feu, main ingredients

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 1kg500 stewing beef, try a mixture of cuts
  • A marrow bone per person
  • A piece of celery, a bay leaf and some thyme to make a bouquet garni
This is a bouquet garni

This is a bouquet garni

  • 9 large carrots
  • One large onion
  • 4 cloves
  • 8 small turnips
  • 8 leeks
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 4 parsnips (optional)
  • 4 swedes (optional)
  • 8 large potatoes
  • 3 star anise
  • salt, pepper, pickled gherkins

Preparation, Day 1:

  • In a very large saucepan, or a pressure cooker, in which case you will have to modify cooking times all by yourself, place the meat (but not the bones) in enough cold water to cover it all amply. Add the onion, into which you have inserted the cloves (spices, not garlic), the star anise, a small handful of coarse salt, the whole garlic cloves, the whole green top of one leek, and one carrot cut into small pieces.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 hours.
  • Place in a cool place until the next day.


Preparation, Day 2:

  • Skim any solidified fat off the top of the contents of the pan and remove the leek greens, the star anise and the bouquet garni.
  • Peel the carrots, cut them in halves or quarters lengthwise. Top and tail the turnips, leave the peel on.  Wash the leeks and remove the tougher parts of the green leaves, cut them into two pieces. No need to peel the potatoes, just scrub them clean and cut into two or four if they are too enormous. Peel and cut the parsnips and swedes into pieces if you are including them.
  • Place all the vegetables and the marrow bones into the pot (you see why you really need a very large one!). The marrow bones will add flavour and if you like beef marrow, will add an extra treat on your plate.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour.
  • Serve each person a helping of meat, vegetables and a marrow bone. Add only a little of the bouillon (soup), it is nice to mash the potatoes in it.
  • Place toasted bread, coarse salt and gherkins on the table to accompany.
  • The marrow should be extracted from the bone, spread on toast with a little salt on top.


Day 3:

  • Strain off some of the liquid into another saucepan, add some very fine vermicelli or alphabet pasta, heat for 10 minutes and serve as soup with crusty bread.


Day 4:

  • Boil some salad potatoes and season while hot with white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a chopped shallot, a chopped hard boiled egg,some chopped parsley and the rest of the pot au feu meat in 1cm cubes. This is a really excellent cold salad.

Day 5 :

  • Mix up whatever vegetables are left with the remaining bouillon with a soup mixer. I tend not to mix too much, to leave a rich coarse soup. It has become concentrated and is particularly flavoursome.


So you see that with very little effort on days 1 and 2, you will have readymade dishes on days 3, 4 and 5 as well! Just be careful to keep your pot in the fridge if you have room, or in a very cool place (out of doors if Winter temperatures are near freezing).

Bon appétit!


One French word: navet, one French recipe: pétales de légumes

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navet, masculine noun (un navet, le navet, des navets) = turnip (pronounced nah-vey)  .

Not most people’s favourite vegetable, but when they are young and fresh in spring their flavour is delicate and not overpowering as it often is in autumn and winter, and they can easily be eaten raw. Or used to accompany a meat dish, boiled briefly then glazed in a sugar and butter mixture.

Un navet is also currently used to denote a flop, when talking of a bad film, theatre performance or book.

My recipe today is a little different to the taste buds: pétales de légumes = vegetable petals

Main ingredients – looks a bit like a still life, doesn’t it…

For each person you will need:

  • One small raw spring turnip
  • One small raw beetroot
  • One ripe tomato (I used a beef tomato)
  • One small courgette (zuccchini)
  • and any other vegetables you may feel like that can be cut into fine slices (radishes?), or fruits (oranges, strawberries?)
  • salt
  • chili flakes
  • olive oil
  • raspberry vinegar


Wash and trim all the vegetables. Peel the beetroot but do not peel either the turnip or the courgette.

Slice the courgette into as many thin lengthways strips as possible, discarding the first slice, which is just skin (simply for aethetic reasons), and place around the edge of each person’s plate in wavy, curly shapes.

Peel and slice the beetroot into very fine slices and being careful not to taint the courgette with beetroot juice (again for the aesthetics), place an overlapping circle of beetroot slices inside the ring of courgettes.

Wash your hands, the knife and the chopping board. Finely slice the turnip and place another ring inside the beetroot ring. Do not season.

Core and skin the tomato (plunge it into boiling water for a minute or so, the skin will come off easily). Cut into small cubes, place in a bowl with the equivalent of one smallish dried chili (outside and seeds), flaked. Quite a lot of salt (tomatoes need salt), but you can rectify later. One tbs raspberry vinegar. 2 tbs olive oil (if you are several at table increase the oil and vinegar). Mix to a smooth paste with a soup mixer. It makes a sort of rather thick gazpacho-like mixture. Taste and rectify seasoning. It should be fairly chili hot, vinegary, with a good strong flavour of olive oil.  Place a spoonful of this mixture in a tiny bowl in the centre of your vegetable plate. Leave the rest of the tomato dressing in a larger bowl on the table, because it is more-ish and people can help themselves and drown their plates in it if they like. But it looks better to present only a small quantity.

This is an excellent starter, fresh and appetizing-looking, but you can also make a main course of it if you are feeling fragile and only want raw vegetables, maybe accompanied with crusty bread and butter, or viande des grisons (thin cured beef slices). Or parma ham.

Bon appétit!

One French word: acidulé, a (French) recipe: petite salade acidulée

Acidulé, adjective (acidulé (m.), acidulée (f.), acidulés (, acidulées ( = a sharp, sour, tart taste (pronounced assi-du-lé, as it is written, no particular stress).

A word used mostly of fruit, sometimes of sweets (candy), cf. English acid drops (in French, bonbons acidulés).

A very short entry today, a super simple recipe, more of an idea really. My English grandmother, who only learnt to cook in the 1950s because up to then she had always had a staff, had a standard list of very few, very easy recipes, which were usually quite successful. This one of hers is a simple salad to go with rich food such as duck, goose, pork, even English sausages. It takes the edge off the richness of the rather fatty meat. It is a salade acidulée aux oranges et à l’ail.

Salade acidulée

This is one of those recipes where I don’t need to give you ingredients (but they are oranges, a lime, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper). I hardly need to give you instructions in fact. Just take an orange per person, a nice juicy one (blood oranges are good for the colour they add); don’t skin it with your fingers in the usual manner, but take a sharp knife to it and trim off the skin and the pith at the same time. If your oranges are large, cut in half and then slice fairly thickly, about 0.7cm per slice and arrange in individual dishes. Pour any juice back over the orange. Squeeze some lime juice, drizzle olive oil, add salt and pepper and a little grated garlic.

Some of you may recognize English sausages – one of the things I miss about England!

Each person will toss his or her invidual salad as and when. Try it, it’s really good, refreshing and light with the meats mentioned above, as well as any other vegetables you may choose.

And here with duck breast and chips

Bon appétit!

One French word: chaud, a French recipe: salade de chèvre chaud

Chaud, adjective (chaud (m.), chaude (f.), chauds (, chaudes ( = hot (pronounced show (for the masculine singular and plural), showed (for the feminine singular and plural).

Du chocolat chaud = hot chocolate; une journée chaude = a hot day; des marrons chauds = hot (roasted) chestnuts; des braises chaudes = hot coals.

The film Some Like it Hot = Certains l’aiment chaud; but the film Cat on a Hot Tin Roof = Chat sur un toit brûlant (literally burning).

The verb chauffer = to heat (je chauffe, tu chauffes, il/elle chauffe, nous chauffons, vous chauffez, ils/elles chauffent = I heat, you heat etc.)

My recipe is for a salade de chèvre chaud = salad with toasted goat’s cheese. Very much a standard starter in French restaurants, or sometimes as a cheese course on longer menus, I have made it a main course by adding this and that.

Salade de chèvre chaud

Crottin de chèvre, about 4cm across

About 3cm thick. This is a whole cheese, not a slice, fairly hard. If too fresh it will melt.

For two people you will need:

  • 2 crottins de chèvre (little round fairly hard goat’s cheeses – see photos)
  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread
  • some nice, firm lettuce, good and green, not iceberg, or other salad greens of your choice
  • a ripe avocado
  • a ripe pear
  • 10 little slices of smoked duck breast (or petals of parma ham)
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  1. Prepare the lettuce leaves (or other salad leaves of your choice) and place them on a plate to form a bed for the cheese.
  2. Peel the avocado and cut it into slices, place half on each plate, squeeze a little lemon juice so that it keeps its colour.
  3. Peel the pear, cut into chunks, place half on each plate, squeeze a little lemon juice so that it doesn’t go brown.
  4. Cut the crusts off the bread so that you have two pieces about 7cm square, and toast them. Allow to cool and place on top of the lettuce.
  5. Place 5 slices of smoked duck breast on each plate in a fan shape (vegetarians just leave out this step).
  6. Squeeze a little lemon on the lettuce, and drizzle olive oil over the salad ingredients on the plate.
  7. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  8. In a small frying pan, put a little olive oil (a teaspoonful, no more) to help the cheese not to stick. Cut each crottin in half horizontally and place in the hot pan, outside skin downwards to begin with. Cook for a minute, and turn with a spatula, very gently. There will be a skin trying to stick to the pan, slip the spatula under this skin so that it is on top when the cheese is turned; cook for a minute on the other side. Again very carefully lift the half crottin, with the skin that will be trying to stick to the pan, and place two halves on top of the bread on each plate. The cheese is not meant to melt all over the place. It should almost keep its shape, just go brown and soften a little.

Salade de chèvre chaud as a main course

Bon appétit!

One French word: aubergine, a (French) recipe: salade Marocaine aux aubergines

Aubergine, feminine noun (une aubergine, l’aubergine, des aubergines) = eggplant (pronounced oh-bear-jean with a soft j, with equal stress on each syllable).

Une aubergine is used to denote a bruised and violet bump resulting from a fight (il a une aubergine au front = he has a violet coloured lump on his forehead).

Aubergine is also a colour, of course, and then becomes an invariable adjective.

No information on the etymological origins of the word seems to be available.

Une aubergine used to be the familiar name for a lady traffic warden, the kind who gives parking tickets, because of the colour of their uniform. That colour has now changed to an awful bright blue (at least you can see them coming a mile off), and they are known as pervenches (= periwinkles, a blue flower). The proper term for a traffic warden is une contractuelle. I don’t know why these are all female? Maybe just Paris? Where I live it is men that give parking tickets. Often.

Salade marocaine aux aubergines

Salade marocaine aux aubergines

My recipe is a salade marocaine aux aubergines,  a Moroccan eggplant salad, called zaalouk in its country of origin.

Moroccan aubergine salad, main ingredients

For four people you will need

  • 3 large aubergines
  • 6 large cloves of garlic
  • 8 large cocktail tomatoes (larger than cherry tomatoes, that you buy on the stem)
  • some good quality tomato sauce, or pasta sauce
  • 3tbs olive oil
  • 1tbs honey
  • 1tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chopped dried whole chili
  • 3tbs chopped parsley
  • 2tbs chopped fresh mint
  • salt
  • pepper


Aubergine frying

  1. Put a saucepan of salted water to boil.
  2. Cut the aubergines with their skin into dice sized cubes.
  3. Peel the garlic and cut three cloves in half. Finely chop the other three.
  4. Poach the aubergines and the halved garlic cloves for 10 minutes in barely boiling water.
  5. While this is going on, cut the cocktail tomatoes in half and fry gently in olive oil. When they soften, add a tbs of honey, the other three garlic cloves, finely chopped. Stir and continue to fry gently.
  6. Add 1tsp cumin, 1tbs chopped parsley, 1/4 tsp chopped dried chili (optional, this dish should not be hot, just full of flavour).
  7. Drain the aubergine and add to the pan, stir and crush the cubes with the back of the spoon.
  8. Add 3tbs tomato sauce and continue cooking until the aubergine is quite soft and no longer forms cubes.
  9. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve sprinkled liberally with more chopped parsley and fresh chopped mint.

Salade d’aubergines marocaine

This “salad” can be served hot as a vegetable with a meat dish, alone as part of a vegetarian meal, warm as a salad, or cold. It keeps well until the next day, and so can be used in two different ways. It is smooth, slightly sweet, slightly chili hot, with lots of textures and flavours to discover.

Salade d’aubergines marocaine

Bon appétit.

One French word: pamplemousse, a French recipe: salade de pamplemousse au concombre

Pamplemousse, masculine noun (un pamplemousse, le pamplemousse, des pamplemousses) = grapefruit (pronounced paan-pler-moosse)

BUT mousse by itself is a feminine noun (une mousse, la mousse, les mousses) = froth, or a mousse (as in chocolate mousse for example), or moss, or slang for a beer.

My recipe for today is for salade de pamplemousse au concombre.

Salade pamplemousse concombre

For 4 people, you will need:

  • 2 grapefruits
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • a fresh red chili if you like it
  • a few lettuce leaves
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)
  • 2 tsp oriental sesame oil
  • the juice of a lime
  • salt and pepper


Halve the grapefruits and, with a grapefruit knife, remove the segments into bowl. Keep any grapefruit juice for another use.

Wash the cucumber and cut into 1cm slices, and each slice into six triangular pieces with the peel. Add to the grapefruit segments.

Cut each cherry tomato into four pieces. Add to the grapefruit.

Make the dressing: in another bowl combine the honey, nuoc mam, sesame oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the grapefruit, cucumber and tomato and mix well. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving, stirring occasionally to blend the flavours.

Place washed and dried lettuce leaves on individual serving plates. Spoon the mixture on top of the lettuce carefully, heaping it up, and only adding about a teaspoon of liquid. You don’t want the plate swimming in dressing. Finely slice the chili on top if you are using it.

This is in fact a Vietnamese inspired dish. But since Vietnam was at one time a French colony, I am allowing myself to include Vietnamese dishes among my French recipes. Their food is so delicate, inventive and full of flavour that I can’t resist it!

Cucumber and grapefruit salad

Bon appétit.

One French word: coriandre, a French recipe, saumon au four, pesto de coriandre

Coriandre, masculine noun (le coriandre, du coriandre – one never says un coriandre or des coriandres) = coriander (UK Eng.), cilantro (US Eng.), (pronounced korrie-aan-dr, both rs in the back of your throat, slight stress on the first syllable).

A lot of French people (including me at one time, I have to say) put coriandre in the feminine, which it is not. I once lost a bet on this.

Coriandrum sativum (picture from Wikipedia)

Coriandrum sativum is widely cultivated for its culinary and medicinal properties but it also grows wild all around the Mediterranean. The leaves, the root and the dried seeds are all used. It is good for the digestion.

My recipe for today is for saumon au four, pesto de coriandre = baked salmon with coriander (cilantro) sauce.

Saumon au four, pesto de coriandre

For 2 people you will need:

  • 1 tbs slices spring onion greens
  • 1 very small clove of garlic (don’t put too much or it completely masks the other flavours)
  • 4 tbs roughly chopped coriander (cilantro) (stems and leaves)
  • salt, pepper
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • a large handful of pine nuts

Some of the ingredients

Le saumon

La papillotte


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  2. Peel and boil the potatoes. This will take 20 minutes from boiling point.
  3. Place a portion of salmon on each sheet of paper, salt very slightly, grind a little black pepper, and close the parcel. Add no butter or oil.
  4. Cook  for 12 minutes in the hot oven.
  5. In the meantime, put the coriander, garlic, pine nuts, spring onion and olive oil, with a ¼tsp salt and 4 turns of the pepper mill, into a mini mixer and grind, pushing down the ingredients which stick to the sides, but leaving some texture. Not too pulpy in other words.
  6. Drain the potatoes, open the salmon packets, and run a knife between the fish and the skin (often the skin sticks to the paper a little and it is easy enough to leave the skin behind). With a fish slice or a spatula, transfer the salmon without its skin to individual serving plates.
  7. Cut the potatoes into chunks, spoon a little pesto over them and the fish, and garnish with sprouted seeds.

I cook a lot in little packets (papillottes), it is quick, clean and easy.

Pesto de coriandre

This pesto is also good on cold beef, pasta or rice, and as a basis for vinaigrette for salads (just thin it with a little vinegar). It will keep in a jar in the fridge for a couple of days.

Saumon et pesto

Bon appétit.

I have to go away for a week or so, and I shall not be connected to internet. So try as I might to pre-publish posts, I have not been able to accomplish a week’s worth. My challenge is broken, too bad, I’m not too worried about that really. I’ll get going again in March when I’m back.

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