Le Cassoulet

There are three sorts of cassoulet, from Castelnaudary, Carcassonne, and Toulouse. Naturally each place claims its version is the best. They all have lots of beans and goose or duck fat in them, it’s the other ingredients that vary. Anyway this is the ‘quick’ version that I make (doesn’t include separately cooked stewed lamb), which is probably closest to the Toulouse version. If you are going to make it, make plenty — it freezes well, and it’s one of those things that’s better reheated. Credit: the infallible Mireille Johnston.

1 kg dried haricot beans, soaked for several hours
1 large onion, chopped
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a tin)
3 stalks celery, sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme and parsley
500g salt pork belly
350g green bacon
1 tbs oil
600g saucisse de Toulouse or other good sausage
8 pieces of Confit de Canard (preserved duck) — scrape off fat and reserve
2 tbs chopped parsley and 25g breadcrumbs

Drain the beans and put in a large pan with fresh water. Bring to the boil and cook on a high heat for 10 minutes, skimming off any scum. Then add the onion, tomatoes, celery, garlic, herbs, salt pork, and bacon. Cover and cook gently for 1 hour — the beans should be undercooked. Meanwhile, brown the sausage (cut into lengths if in one piece) in the oil.

Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Cut the meats into chunks. Spoon half the beans into a large ovenproof dish (ideally it should be earthenware). Add the meat, sausages, and duck, then the rest of the beans. (NB: if you can’t get confit, you will have to use cooked joints of duck instead.) Pour in bean liquid to cover, adding extra stock or water if necessary. Sprinkle with parsley and breadcrumbs. If you used confit, it should have come with a coating of fat. Melt this and drizzle it over the top. Bake in a hot oven for an hour and a half, breaking the crust on top into the stew every half hour or so. If it seems to be getting too dry add a little more liquid.

You won’t be able to eat anything else with it, except bread. To drink: a nice bottle of Corbieres.

This recipe is based on one from Mireille Johnston’s Complete French Cookery Course.

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