Tom Kitchin: Beef cheek and pot a feu recipes

Tom Kitchin. Picture: Contributed
Tom Kitchin. Picture: Contributed
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While we’ve been luckier than some when it comes to the weather this winter, temperatures are still pretty chilly and on the cold dark nights you can’t beat a hearty warming dish that’s comforting and filling.

Despite sometimes getting a bit of a bad reputation, red meat – sourced locally in Scotland – is a good source of iron, protein and minerals. For me, a meat-based dish can be the perfect way to keep you feeling warm and full. Visit your local butcher or look out for the Quality Meat Scotland labels as a mark of reassurance that your meat has been sourced and reared responsibly.

The French are masters of creating wonderful comfort food that is full of flavour. There are many classic French dishes that I enjoy cooking, and giving them my own twist, using the best Scottish ingredients.

Pot au feu is a brilliant way to use up any leftover meats, and while I’ve suggested what to use here, you can choose a selection of meat and vegetables to suit the season and your own taste. This is proper soul food. The dish originated in France and it’s one of those classic family recipes. It may not seem the most sophisticated of dishes, but its simplicity is what makes it so outstanding. You would have found this dish gracing the tables of both the rich and the poor and that’s the real beauty of it – you can add any ingredients to it and still create wonderful flavour combinations. The key is in getting the right balance of meat, root vegetables and spices. Traditionally, this dish was served with a sprinkling of nutmeg, and the bone marrow, if it was used, was spread on toasted bread. Pretty much my idea of heaven.

Another brilliant winter warmer is beef cheeks, or daube de boeuf as it’s known. The dish originated in Provence and traditionally it’s a stew made with braised beef, wine, garlic, herbs and vegetables. To prepare this dish, you’ll need to start the night before. It takes quite a long time and there are a few processes to go through to get the desired end results, but believe me it’s absolutely worth it and you won’t regret putting a little love and attention into getting this recipe right.

At this time of year, the chilly nights are the perfect excuse to spend a little more time in the kitchen, and even more time with family and friends, taking the chance to linger over these rich, comforting and warming French classics. Bon appétit!

Daube de boeuf – Beef Cheeks

Serves 4

4 whole beef cheeks

1 75cl bottle of medium quality red wine eg cabernet sauvingon

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

half onion, peeled and chopped

1 bouquet garni

2 cloves garlic, cut horizontally

6 black peppercorns

4 rashers of pancetta

plain flour for dusting

150ml of beef or veal stock

100g button mushrooms

For the 24-hour marinade you also need the following additional ingredients:

1 75cl bottle of different medium quality red wine

half onion, chopped

1 bouquet garni

2 cloves garlic

6 black peppercorns

4 rashers of pancetta

To serve:

mashed potatoes

100g diced pancetta

1 handful winter kale

1 carrot


Place the beef cheeks in a container with the onion, bouquet garni, garlic, black peppercorns and pancetta, and cover with one bottle of red wine. Cover the container with cling film and marinade in the fridge for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, strain off the cheeks and discard the other ingredients. Keep the cheeks aside and dry on kitchen paper. Then take the four cheeks and flour each one gently. Heat a non-stick frying pan, add salt and pepper to the cheeks, place in the pan and colour all over.

Meanwhile in a heavy-bottomed pan, add oil, then add the pancetta and caramelise. Then, add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, bouquet garni, garlic and peppercorns and sweat together. Now, add the second bottle of wine and bring to the boil. Place the beef cheeks into the red wine. Add 150ml of beef or veal stock, season, and cook slowly for four to five hours, adding water or stock if the liquid reduces too much, until the meat is flaky. Once cooked remove the cheeks from the stock, pass the liquid through a sieve, reduce by a third and serve with mashed potatoes and winter kale. Make carrot chips by frying thin strips of lightly-floured carrot at 150C. Garnish with diced pancetta and the carrot crisps.

Pot Au Feu

Serves 4-6

1 ham hock

1 smoked sausage, about 250g

200g piece of pancetta

500g piece of beef flank

4 x 3 inch pieces of bone marrow

1 garlic bulb, halved horizontally

6 black peppercorns

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 onion, peeled and quartered

2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways

½ celeriac, peeled and cut into 4 pieces

2 turnips, peeled and halved

2 leeks, trimmed, washed and halved lengthways

1 Savoy cabbage, cut into quarters

thyme sprigs to garnish

bouquet garni

2 leek leaves, washed

handful of parsley sprigs

handful of thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

To serve:

English mustard



Put the ham hock, smoked sausage, pancetta and beef flank into a cooking pot and pour on enough cold water to cover. Slowly bring to the boil and skim off any scum from the surface; this is the only time the stock should come to the boil.

To make the bouquet garni, lay one leek leaf flat on a board, put the herb sprigs and bay leaf on top and cover with the other leek leaf. Tie with kitchen string to secure and use as required.

Add the garlic, peppercorns, bouquet garni and a pinch of salt to the pot. Lower the heat and cook gently for 3½ hours – the stock should be below simmering, with just the occasional bubble breaking the surface.

Check the pieces of meat at this stage by inserting a roasting fork into the thickest part; if the meat yields easily, it is nearly cooked, which is as it should be; if not, cook for a little longer.

Now add the onion, carrots, celeriac, turnips, leeks and cabbage wedges to the stock and cook gently for a further 30 minutes. To prepare the bone marrow, poach it for six to eight minutes, by adding it to the stock. Use a small knife to check each vegetable is cooked.

When ready to serve, divide the meat and bone marrow into portions and place in warm serving bowls. Add a portion of vegetables to each bowl and a ladleful of the stock. Grind over some pepper, garnish with thyme sprigs and serve with mustard and gherkins.