Monday, July 21, 2014


I don't know if history books record how many wars started over food. My guess is quite a few. Some might have started because a city's food supply was cut off. That's enough reason reason to go into battle. I wonder how many battles started over a recipe. I wouldn't be surprised if there are a lot of them.

I remember a Rick Stein TV program where Carcassonne and neighbouring Castelnaudary battled over what goes into a true cassoulet. I remember Jamie Oliver cooking in an Italian village in which the local women almost beat him out of town for the liberties he was taking with a traditional pasta dish.

So it is with this humble French country stew. It seems that recipes for pot au feu are treasured family secrets and each is the only true way to make this dish. So at risk of upsetting French families with their firm beliefs about what should and shouldn't go into a pot au feu, here's mine.

This one started when I bought a nice piece of wagyu topside at the local markets. I immediately thought of a slow braise. I used red onions, parsnips, potato, tomato, celery - because I had them all on hand. I used bay leaves and thyme - also because I had them on hand.

It cooked for 5 hours at 140C. It was delicious. Was it authentic enough to satisfy a French country woman? I don't know. It satisfied me and our guests and worked a treat with a 1982 Chateau LĂ©oville Barton.

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