On a nippy winter day, the French word for happiness is a hearty “cassoulet”.
The French cassoulet is a robust slow-cooked casserole made with white haricot beans and different ingredients according to what’s available, ranging from sausage and duck to rabbit or goose.
The exact specifications of the true original cassoulet are difficult to make out, because there are as many stories about it’s origins as there are versions of the recipe. The name comes from the cassole, the earthenware pot that is traditionally used to cook it in. The one ingredient that is common to all is the beans, so at least that’s a start. Cassoulet is now prepared all over France but its lineage can be traced to the Languedoc, mostly to the areas of Castelnaudary, Carcassonne and Toulouse. With all due respect to the purists, any deserving version of this very comforting dish is pretty much guaranteed to warm you up on a chilly day – wherever you are.
If you’d like to try your hand at a cassoulet, here is a simple one-pot variation on the classic.
Adapted from the recipe by Gemma Driver
(Serves 2 generously)
• 1 tin of haricot blanc
• 2 Toulouse or similar sausages
• 2 strips of pork belly, 0.5-1cm thick
• 2 duck legs, cooked (confit)
• 1 onion, finely chopped.
• 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
• bay leaf, sprig of thyme
• A good dollop of tomato purée
• Olive oil, butter or a little duck fat
• A pint of chicken stock
• In a cast iron pot heat two glugs of olive oil with a nugget of butter and/or duck fat
• Fry the sausages and pork
• Take the meat out, and gently fry the onions until soft
• Stir in the tomato purée and the garlic, bay leaf, and thyme
• Put the meat back in the pot (including the duck confit), add the beans, top up with stock enough to cover the ingredients
• Lid on, cook in medium oven for at least 1 hour. Stir it occasionally and top up with water or stock to keep it moist. When the cassoulet is cooked, it should not have any see-through liquid coming out of it, but everything should be coated in creamy binding sauce. Generously season according to your taste, and put back in a hot oven, uncovered, for 10 – 20 minutes, until a crispy crust has formed
Serve with a green salad and crusty bread, paired with a young red wine from the South West that can hold it’s own such as a Cahors, Côteaux de Quercy or Corbières. Bon appetit!
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