Adapted from Sacred Food: Cooking for Spiritual Nourishment by Elizabeth Luard (Chicago Review Press, 2001). Copyright 2001 by Elizabeth Luard.

Serves 6 to 8

The French, as might be expected of a nation that takes such a passionate interest in all matters gastronomic, probably have more pot-au-feu recipes than Napoleon had nights with Josephine—this, in essence, is one such. At the end, you might like to faire chabrot by pouring a little of the red wine from your glass into a final ladleful of the hot soup, and drink the health of your companions just as it comes, straight from the bowl.

  • 2 pounds beef shin
  • 2 pounds rolled boned shoulder of lamb
  • 1 chicken, cleaned but not jointed
  • 4-5 carrots
  • 2-3 turnips
  • 6 fine fat leeks
  • 1 head green unblanched celery
  • 1 onion stuck with 6 cloves
  • 2-3 tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
  • 6 peppercorns and 1 teaspoon salt
  • Small bunch of herbs: bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram
  • 3 tablespoons rice
  • 12 strands saffron

1. Put all the meats in a stew pot with the vegetables, well washed and roughly chopped, plus the cloved onion, tomatoes, the peppercorns, the salt, and the herbs. Cover with water.

2. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan, and turn down to simmer. Leave to cook gently (no large bubbles should break the surface) for 3-4 hours, until all the meats are tender. If some are soft before the others, remove them when they are done. When all the meats are cooked, arrange them on a large platter with the vegetables. You can replace the vegetables with new ones (plus a few potatoes) toward the end of the cooking time if you feel the old ones look too soggy. Keep the meat and vegetables warm.

3. Strain out 9 1/2 cups of the stock, return it to the stew pot, bring it back to a boil, and add the rice and the saffron. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the rice is soft. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve the saffron soup first in deep bowls.

The meat and vegetables follow, and are to be eaten from the same bowls. Accompany them with a vinaigrette made with olive oil and wine vinegar, into which you have stirred plenty of chopped fresh herbs—chives, parsley, and fennel fronds.