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Pot au feu

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall / 11 October 2011

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall shares his recipe for a hearty French stew of ox heart, winter vegetables and pearl barley to keep you warm during winter.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's pot au feu
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's pot au feu

Cooking time

2 hours



For the first stage:

  • 1 ox heart, cut into four, trimmed and rinsed well
  • 1 beef tongue
  • about 500g beef skirt, cut in two
  • 1 oxtail, cut into short pieces
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and washed but left whole
  • 4 large carrots, peeled
  • 4 onions, peeled and halved
  • 3 parsnips, peeled
  • 4 tomatoes, halved
  • 1 head of celery, washed and quartered
  • 1 garlic bulb, halved around the equator
  • 1 bouquet garni (a bay leaf, some sprigs of thyme and some parsley stalks tied with string)
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns

For the second stage:

  • 500g pearl barley, soaked in cold water for an hour or so
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1.5cm slices
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1.5cm slices
  • 1 head of celeriac, peeled and cut into 1.5cm dice
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and cut into 1.5cm slices

Put the heart, tongue, skirt and oxtail in a pot large enough to hold them all comfortably. Fill with water, up to the level of the meat. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 1½ hours. Periodically skim off the scum that rises.

Add the whole leeks, carrots, onions and parsnips, the tomatoes, celery, garlic, bouquet garni and peppercorns. Simmer for another hour, or until the skirt is tender. Remove the skirt from the pot. Simmer the remaining meat for another hour or so, removing each cut as it becomes completely tender – the oxtail will be ready first, then the tongue and heart.

Cut the oxtail off the bone. Remove the skin from the tongue. Cut all the meat from the tail, tongue, heart and skirt into 2-3cm chunks.

Remove all the veg and herbs from pot and discard them. Strain the stock (or ‘bouillon’) through muslin or a fine cloth into a wide, shallow saucepan. Bring to the boil, then keep boiling until the bouillon has reduced by at least one-third and is well flavoured.

Drain the pearl barley and add it to the reduced bouillon. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the barley is about half-cooked. Add the fresh sliced carrots, parsnips and celeriac, simmer for another 5 minutes, then add the leeks. Simmer for another 5 minutes or so, or until the leeks are almost tender, then add the cubed, cooked meat. Simmer for a few more minutes, until all the meat is piping hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then ladle into deep dishes or bowls, and serve.

River Cottage Winter's On the Way is available to buy on DVD now


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.