Roughly translating to ‘pot on the fire’ – as in on the hearth – this dish is simple and classic. Just unload a bucketload of various stewing meats into the biggest pot you’ve got, fill the rest up with a modified mirepoix, add water and simmer until tender.

Of course, its not entirely that simple. The ingredients took a bit of hunting for. Carrots & onions, cloves, the white part of 6 leeks, cabbage, potatoes – check. Celeriac was a bit harder to find, but I found a huge one and cut it into eighths – as opposed to quartering two small ones as instructed.

Veal shank, ox tails, blade steak – sure. Beef short ribs? Noone sells that cut here in NZ. So I substituted with a big pile of relatively meaty brisket with the bone in.

The first step is to cover the meat in water, bring to the boil, take the meat aside, then throw out the liquid and clean the pot and start over. The reasoning here isnt explained, however a vast amount of scummy filth leaves at this stage and as far as I know it didnt lessen the flavour of the finished dish. The meat at this point is grey and very dead looking and smells particularly rank. It was very hard to see how things would improve.

It should be mentioned that ‘the biggest pot’ we had, was a rather flimsy aluminium affair, and the next one down is the one that leaks out the side when full, so I went out and bought a shiny new big pot.

All the meat, a bouquet garni, and most of the veges go in, to be simmered for a 3 hours. The potato and cabbage jump in closer to the end. Enormous amounts of fat and scum get lifted off the surface periodically.

I dont have an enormous serving platter with which to arrange the meat and vegetables in “an attractively disheveled fashion”, but instead unloaded the contents onto the biggest plates available, along with a bowl each of sea salt and cornichons, and as much mustard as could be mustered. The meal satisfied all my flatmates(err.. except the vegetarian), and my parents – which in itself was an interesting and successful experiment. There was more than enough to go around, and loads of leftovers. All the meats were deliciously tender and flavorsome, and the veges interesting. Especially the large sections of leek, and the celeriac. A delicious success, and Im left looking forward to next time.

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