Roland Mouret's earliest thoughts about fabric date back to the times he worked in his father's butcher shop in Lourdes. It was there he watched how the creamy cotton of the aprons could be folded to hide bloodstains. He is also said to have learned his cutting skills from the way the skin of an animal was sliced and structure from the method of dividing a beast into sections. It may be pushing the metaphor, but there's no doubt the structure of his iconic dresses, not least the 'Galaxy', have flattered the carcasses of many A-list celebrities in the last decade or so. What he also took from his Lourdes childhood is a butcher's knowledge of meat. His mother Élise's version of France's hotpot is robust to say the least, containing oxtail, top rump, beef ribs and a veal shank cooked in five litres of water for four hours with aromatic vegetables. The regular Saturday family meal, it is a dish to put hairs on your chest.
Ingredients (serves 6)
500g top rump beef
300g flat-top beef ribs
5 litres water
1tbs rock salt, plus extra to serve
1 stick celery
1 veal shank
3/4 garlic bulb
1 beef stock cube
1 tin peeled tomatoes
1 sprig thyme
1tsp pepper, to season
Place all the meat except the veal shank in a big pot, submerge in 5 litres of cold water, and sprinkle over 1tbs of rock salt.
Bring to the boil and leave to simmer, removing the foam from the top as it begins to appear.
While the meat is simmering, string the leek and celery together, stud the onion with the cloves, and add these to the pot. Bring back to a simmer.
Add the veal shank and the remainder of the ingredients to the pot, bring to a simmer and leave for at least 4 hours.
Season with rock salt and pepper to taste and serve
*It's best eaten reheated a day after it has been cooked.