Pot au Feu

Pot au Feu

I followed Marie-Pierre Moine's recipe for pot au feu yesterday and the spouse, younger offspring and I had the resulting soup for our dinner this evening. The introduction says: "This classic French soup takes time to make, but is well worth waiting for." The listed ingredients include braising steak, a carrot, turnips, a waxy potato, a Spanish onion, garlic, cloves, a leek, celery, bay leaves, thyme and parsley. It is also suggested that you use beef bones, "if possible." The spouse asked for some at his usual butcher's and was given a solitary piece. I went out looking for more at a shop closer to home and the butcher kindly gave me a small selection. I continued along the road, this time in search of white turnips (we had only swede turnips) at young Stephen's. He didn't have any. Never mind. I engaged in a conversation about borscht with Stephen's assistant, and told him about the tomato borscht  I made a few months ago (see my blog of 2nd July 2011). The assistant (let's call him "Marek") was intrigued when I told him I had used tomatoes and sundried tomatoes as well as beetroot in this Eastern European favourite. He said he didn't often get the opportunity to talk to Irish people about borscht (or words to that effect).

From Stephen's I went to a nearby supermarket which didn't have white turnip either. I had called in to a local wine shop to buy something that might go with pot au feu (pinot noir) and was treated to that assistant's experience of eating traditional French meals in Paris! Then I went back home and got stuck into making the soup. As I said, we had it for dinner today. The spouse and I thought it was more like a stew than a soup. It lacked flavour - I thought I may have used a little too much water, but I followed the recipe carefully. Anyway, this soup is not one I will be rushing to make again. 

Bees About

Last week I re-read Edward Docx's The Calligrapher. I first read it back in 2003 or 2004 - a copy borrowed from the local library. I enjoyed it so much I went out and bought my own copy, which sat unread until now. Re-reading it brought me a great deal of pleasure, disliking and pitying the main protagonist/narrator, Jasper Jackson, while simultaneously admiring his wit and his ability to make the poetry of John Donne understandable. Did I enjoy The Calligrapher more or less on a second reading? I'm not sure: you never enter the same river twice (Heraclitus). Why am I mentioning this book? Well, there are bee and honey references, as if you didn't suspect. In chapter 14 (Love's Alchemy), Jasper's nemesis makes a cider and honey dressing.  Two chapters later (The Apparition), a hungover Jasper is annoyed by a friend who phones him to invite him to a party. The friend jokingly proposes an idyllic retirement together: "I want a nice farmhouse in the country where we can settle down together. You could paint your manuscripts ... and I could tend orchids and keep my bees and write wry letters to the newspapers ..." And finally in chapter 23 (The Canonisation), Jasper suggests a breakfast of nectarines, live yoghurt and honey to his lover.

Last night the spouse and I went into town to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I have to admit to dozing off at the beginning (an afternoon's cooking and a couple of glasses of wine will do that to you), but what I saw of the film impressed me. London in 1974 was depicted as a dull place of muddied colours and Gary Oldman's portrayal of George Smiley was brilliant! I'm mentioning the film only because there is a scene where one of the characters (Mendel) is shown to be a beekeeper and one of his bees gets into a car!


  1. Interesting post Christine. Having lived in Normandy, I can tell you that Pot au Feu is indeed oonsidered a stew and not a soup - therefore I don't quite know how the author has come to describe it as a "classic French soup". I have never been a fan of it, incidentally!

  2. Thanks for the feedback, MH. Relieved to hear it wasn't just me.


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