The Italians call it Bollito misto the French, Pot au Feu, here in Wales we call it Cawl like Owl but with a C in front of it. Whatever, it’s peasant food at its best bold seasonal flavours, tasty and comforting, using what was available at the time to create a meal & providing sustenance on a budget.
Il Gran Bollito Misto
From Antonio Carluccios book the collection
Mixed Boiled Meats
Credit: Antonio Carluccio
This is a great winter celebration dish for a large gathering. It is found in other regions, but this version is very typical of Piedmont. Gran bollito combines at least five different types of meats, and has several little accompanying sauces: salsa verde, salso rossa (tomato and onion), salsa bianca (onion-based), and mostarda do Cremona (fruits candied slowly in a heavy sugar syrup flavoured with essence of mustard).
- 600g pork skin without fat
- Cayenne pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Finely chopped rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- 2 uncooked (or pre-cooked) cotechino sausages, 300g each
- 4 celery stalks, cut into chunks
- 2 large onions, 1 spiked with 4 or 5 cloves
- A Few black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 1.5kg beef brisket
- 1 salted veal tongue, about 600-800g
- 1kg veal brisket
- 1 boiling chicken, about 1.5-2kg
Lay the pork skin flat on a surface and sprinkle with cayenne, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary and salt and pepper. Roll up and tie with string. Put into a saucepan with the uncooked cotechino sausages and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 3 hours. (If using pre-cooked cotechino, add them to the pork pan 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time).
Meanwhile, put three celery stalks, the clove-spiked onion, peppercorns and bay leaves in a large pot of slightly salted water and bring to the boil. Add the beef and cook gently for 30 minutes.
Add the tongue and veal brisket to the beef and simmer for two hours, skimming regularly to remove any scum from the surface. Top up with boiling water as necessary to ensure the meat is always covered. (If you don’t have a large enough pot for all the meat, divide the vegetables and meat between two pans).
Cook the chicken separately in water to cover, with the remaining celery and onion, for 1-1 1/2 hours, depending on age.
When all the meats are cooked and tender, remove them from the liquor. Peel and trim the tongue. Slice the meats and arrange them on a large serving plate. Serve hot, accompanied by salsa verde, a little of the beef or chicken stock, and some mostarda di Cremona.
Photo: Andy’s Bollito Misto
It’s one of my favourite things to make this time of year, don’t be in a hurry to make it either, ideally making it a good day or so before you wish to eat it. The essence of making these stews is a one pot stop of all things good & tasty, don’t discriminate most cheaper cuts will suffice I made one recently & put pigs trotters & cheeks in along with some left over game from the freezer I finished it with some ends of my homemade charcuterie & sausages, it was awesome. I made one after Christmas last year using all the odds & ends that needed using up, including some on the bone gammon, turkey and beef. I portioned it all up and put it in the freezer and it’s kept me going for nearly 9 months having one a week usually as a quick lunch after walking the dog!
Pot au Feu
Here is my favourite recipe from Raymond Blanc for Pot au Feu, it gives you an idea of ratios and the essence of what you’re trying to achieve by simmering all the vegetables to achieve a tasty broth. The cooking liquor is quintessentially the glue that binds this dish together, it should stand alone in strength, body & flavour, the meat and vegetables serving to compliment the dish providing nutritional goodness and sustenance.
Pot au feu
By Raymond Blanc
The quintessence of French family cuisine, this must be the most celebrated dish in France. It honours the tables of the rich and poor alike. Despite its lack of sophistication, it has survived the passage of time. Pot au feu is a triumph of simplicity and the inspiration for many other dishes, such as poule au pot, potée au choux, navarin, daubes, carbonnades and not forgetting the beautiful chicken soup. You can feast on it for several days.
Preparation: 30 mins, plus soaking ham hock
Cooking: 2¼ hours
Special equipment: large stockpot
Planning ahead: you can prepare this dish a day or two in advance and keep it in the fridge, ready to reheat and serve as required.
ham hock 1, about 1kg, soaked in cold water in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight
flank of beef, outer fat removed 500g
smoked streaky bacon, rind on 300g
cold water 3 litres
sea salt 2 pinches
bouquet garni 1 (6 bay leaves, 10g parsley, 4g thyme, tied together)
black peppercorns 20
garlic cloves, unpeeled 3
best quality sausage, such as Morteau 1, about 350g
marrow bone 1, about 400g (optional)
For the vegetables
Savoy cabbage 1 cut into 6 wedges, core retained
medium carrots 6 (480g), peeled and quartered
celery stalks 2 (120g), cut into thirds
turnips 2 large (300g), peeled and halved
onions 2 (300g), peeled and quartered, root left on
flat-leaf parsley, chopped to garnish
To cook the meat and vegetables, place all the meat, except the Morteau sausage and marrow bone, in a large casserole. Pour on the cold water to cover, add the salt and slowly bring to the boil. Let bubble gently for 1 minute while skimming to remove the impurities2.
Turn down to a gentle simmer, add the bouquet garni, peppercorns and garlic and cover with a lid, leaving a small gap3. Cook very gently, with one bubble just breaking the surface, for 1½ hours. Skim off most of the fat4, then add the Morteau sausage and marrow bone.
Blanch the cabbage wedges in boiling water for 3 minutes, then add to the casserole with the rest of the vegetables. Cook very gently for a further 30 minutes or until the meat just starts to come away from the bone and the vegetables are soft but still holding their shape. Taste the liquid and correct the seasoning.
To serve, you could simply serve the pot au feu straight from the casserole and let guests help themselves, but serving will be easier if you portion the meat in the kitchen. Divide the meat between warm soup plates, surround with the vegetables and pour on some of the cooking liquor. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and accompany with Dijon mustard, gherkins and a French baguette.
Variations: other cuts of meat, such as feather blade steak, shin of been, lamb shank or pig’s cheeks could be added to the dish at the start of cooking. Other root vegetables could be used, such as parsnips, swede, potatoes, celeriac, etc.
1) This smoked French sausage from Morteau in Franche-Comté is probably the best quality sausage you can ever eat. It is strongly flavoured and densely textured. In fact, the flavour is so pronounced you could use the sausage alone in this pot au feu, doubling the quantity and leaving out the other meats, as I often do. Morteau sausage can be easily purchased online.
2) This clarification process coagulates the blood and impurities, which can then be skimmed away, producing a much clearer stock.
3) The pot au feu must be simmered not boiled, otherwise the meat will become tough and the broth will turn very cloudy. When covering with a lid, it is important to leave a gap – if the lid is on tight, the heat will accumulate and the broth will boil.
4) A little fat will improve and enhance the flavour of the broth, so I recommend that you do not skim all of it away. However, if you are determined to remove all the fat, the best way to do so is to allow the pot au feu to cool completely; the fat will then solidify on the surface of the liquid, making it easier to remove.
The Welsh national dish Cawl
From the Bodnant Welsh food website.http://www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk/welsh-cawl-3668/.html
In medieval Wales an absence of grain and vegetables led to a dependence on meat in the diet. The Welsh were a nomadic people who relied upon their flocks for sustenance and the only vegetables readily available were leeks and cabbages. The poverty of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries turned this around as meat became scarce. The bacon would be boiled for one meal and then the cawl would be made from the stock for the next. Cawl twymo means second eating and it wasn’t unusual, indeed still isn’t, for the cawl to be bulked up with extra ingredients for several re-heatings.
Traditionally eaten during the winter months when food was scarce and winter vegetables were available, cawl can be made using lamb, mutton, beef, or bacon, or even fish and seafood in the coastal areas. Cooked in an iron pot over an open fire, it was not common practice to brown the meat and vegetables before immersing in liquid. Modern cooks know that browning meat sets off the reactions that create flavour on the surface of the meat so these days it is often browned first.
There are many recipes for Welsh cawl
Recipes for cawl abound, varying between season and place, although it is generally considered to always contain potatoes and leeks. The word cawl means soup or broth in Wales, but outside of Wales we use the word when referring to the particularly traditional broth of Welsh lamb, leeks and potatoes. A cheap cut of meat is used with extraneous fat removed and usually in a whole piece with the bone in. Best end of neck is a good cut of lamb to use.
The broth is eaten as a first course which is then followed by the meat and vegetables. Cawl is served with bread and good salty Welsh butter, and if following the Brecon tradition, a piece of cheese. You can now buy handmade Welsh butter online from the Bodnant click and collect service; made in their on-site dairy from the milk of local cows, I guarantee that you won’t have tried better butter. Best made the day before then the cooked solidified fat can be cracked off and all the flavours will have developed, Cawl is often considered even better if left for a day or two when all the vegetables have absorbed the juices and become soft and yielding. It is traditionally eaten from a wooden bowl, with a wooden spoon and served with a wooden ladle.
The strong tradition of Welsh spoon-carving is not limited to love spoons; cowl ladles, bowls and spoons are an important cottage industry, although these days is much bolstered by the tourist trade. Made mainly from sycamore and ash, some spoons have a wide bowl at one end and a tapering point at the other. These were made in areas where peat was used for fuel and the point could be stuck into the peat by the fire, presumably to keep it clean.