Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Autumn Stews from France - Hochepot Flamande

Hochepot Flamande is a recipe from the north of France where Belgian and Flemish influences are apparent with this traditionally hearty cuisine. It's the northern version of Pot Au Feu and is a "hotch-potch" of mixed meats (pig's ears and tails, breast of beef, oxtail, shoulder of mutton, salt bacon); cooked with local vegetables (carrots, potatoes, leeks, onions, turnips, garlic, celery and beans).

The word Hochepot comes from the old French hottison meaning “to shake”. Each country has its own version: Scots usually add barley and the meat is mutton or beef or sometimes grouse and rabbit and the The Dutch Hutspot uses beef. The English call it Hot Pot and the famous Lancashire Hot Pot contains mutton, sheep's kidneys and, when available, oysters, all covered with a layer of potatoes.


1 kg beef brisket
2 kg beef bones
4 pig's trotters (optional)
4 pig's tails (optional)
500 g salt pork, in one piece
1 lamb shoulder, about 1 kg
300 g calf's liver
300 g small chipolata sausages
4 leeks
3 large onions
½ celery bunch
6 turnips
4 parsnips
½ green cabbage
500 g brussels sprouts
2 large carrots
60 g butter
2 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the beef bones in a very large pot and add 7 litres of water. Bring to a boil and skim the surface. Add the bay leaves, thyme, celery leaves, green parts of the leek, 1 onion (halved) and a little salt. Let simmer for 3 hours, skimming occasionally. Strain and degrease. You could make this broth the day before. Chop all the other vegetables separately into large pieces (except the cabbage and the Brussels sprouts). Bring the broth back to the boil, add the brisket and cook gently for 30 minutes. Add the pig's trotters tails and cook 30 minutes longer. Skim.

Meanwhile, bring two large pots of water to a boil and blanch the cabbage in one and the Brussels sprouts in the other for two minutes. Drain. Now add to the hochepot the salt pork, onions, parsnips, celery, carrots and cabbage. Return to the boil, skim and cook gently for 30 minutes. Finally, add the Brussels sprouts, turnips, leek and lamb shoulder. Add a little water if necessary and bring back to the boil, skimming again and simmering gently for 30 minutes longer. Remove the meats from the broth, place them on a large platter and keep hot. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest. Taste the hochepot and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Finishing and presentation: Dice the calf's liver and heat 2 frying pans, melt the butter in them and sauté the little sausages and the diced calf's liver separately. Season lightly. Cut up the meats, place some of each kind into large hot soup bowls and ladle some of the hot broth and vegetables into each bowl.

The wines of Château La Lagune (£27 a bottle) in the Haut Medoc will go well with this dish. The vineyards lie on the Ludon crest of fine Mindelian gravel and La Lagune is the only classified growth to be planted on this type of soil. These sands and gravels are similar to the terroir of Graves and the grapes planted at La Lagune have an unusually high percentage of Petit Verdot. Although it is classified as a Third Growth there are many who consider La Lagune's wines to be that of a Second as the quality is so high. The wines of La Lagune are rich and powerful with a rather masculine appeal. They are markedly oaky and have notes of spice, toffee, vanilla and ripe fleshy dark fruits. The wines are velvety smooth and well rounded with great ageing potential.

Those of Château Saint Pierre (£22) are also a good choice. Saint Pierre lies opposite its sister Château Gloria just outside the town of Beychevelle in Saint Julien. The château is one of the most ancient in Médoc and was bought in 1982 by Henri Martin who hailed from a family of coopers who had been barrel making for the châteaux of Bordeaux for more than 3 centuries. Martin became Mayor of Saint Julien, President of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux, co-founded the Commanderie de Bordeaux and is responsible for reviving the ancient fame of the village. The wines of Saint Pierre are fuller bodied than others from the appellation, fruity and smooth. They have smoky flavours of blackberries, ground coffee, toast, toffee, violets and oak. They are well balanced with firm tannins and good acidity.

From Saint Estephe I would choose Château Meyney (£14) which is founded on an ancient ecclesiastical site – known as the Prieuré des Couleys or sometimes as the Convent des Feuilles – the Château is still sometimes referred to as Prieuré de Meyney. The monks were the first to plant vines there. Meyney has very much been an insider's choice as the wines have a been of persistently high quality throughout the 20th century. The vineyards lie on a series of gravel ridges overlooking the River Gironde and the soil is a mix of iron rich blue clay and sand about 3 metres deep over a limestone bedrock from a depth of about two metres – this is similar to Château Petrus in Pomerol. The wines are deep, dark and concentrated with plenty of ripe blackcurrant fruit and a distinctive aroma of smoke, prunes, truffles, coffee and cherries.

Finally Le Roc Du Chateau Pellebouc (£8.57), just a few miles away from the Saint Emilion appellation is a great wine to pair with Hochepot. Pellebouc is owned by Pascale and Baudouin Thienpont – members of the famous wine making family who own Le Pin and manage several other top flight châteaux. The wine is a Gold Medal winner and it's a superb wine. It has a deep, intense purple colour, with a scent of red fruits and spicier notes. In the mouth, it is quite powerful in terms of both roundness and balance. It's a versatile wine and will accompany both beef and lamb as well as pork and chicken.

1 comment:

James P. Walsh said...

I have been meaning to make this for quite some time. I think it is from Belgium or Alsace, I can't remember. I think it is a variation on the traditional pot au feu.