Cassoulet is a traditional Southern French peasant dish. The name is a derivative of casserole and refers to the name of the pot it’s cooked in. There seems to be many differences of opinion over what makes a good cassoulet, try it for yourself and see what you think.
What I love about this dish, other than that it is delicious, comforting and simple, is that you can use up pretty much any leftover meat that you have at hand. You can vary the meats used but pork works well so should be included in some form. You can confit the duck leg yourself (ask me for a recipe) or buy ready-prepared in specialist shops (such as Castellano’s). Toulouse sausages are, arguably, an essential addition and I like the inclusion of braised lamb shoulder. I don’t think there are many things more satisfying than a big pot of Cassoulet replete with meaty goodness with a glass of robust red, especially when coordinated with cold, dreary weather outside.
This recipe for Cassoulet is just a suggestion and not intended to be authentic (I’m not French after all) but I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
1 confit duck, goose or rabbit leg
250g lamb shoulder
250g pork belly, or shoulder
300g Toulouse sausages
2 medium onions
3-4 cloves of garlic
bay leaf, thyme & parsley, tied into a bouquet garni
100g pork rind
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (or fresh, skinned and de-seeded)
About 75g breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
450g dried white haricot beans, soaked overnight
Drain the soaked beans, place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a peeled onion studded with the cloves, peeled garlic, pork rind and the bouquet garni. Bring to the boil, skim any scum that comes to the surface, and simmer until the beans are tender. Season well and discard the onion, pork rind and herbs. Cut the sausages, and pork belly into chunks and brown in a pan in batches, preferably in a little duck fat. If using cooked/confit duck, rabbit, lamb shoulder, flake into large chunks and brown in the pan too. Leave on the bone if you like but remember to warn your guests. Dice the remaining onion and garlic and sweat off in a pan until softened. Add the tomatoes and simmer until thick and saucy, season. Stir the beans into the tomato sauce and then assemble in an earthenware dish with the browned meats. Top with breadcrumbs and bake at 150-160c for 1-2 hours until piping hot with a golden crust on top.
Wine match from Grape & Grind:
Cassoulet is a big fave of mine and I like to go quite rustic and chewy for
the wine to go with it.
Domaine Berthoumieu Madiran 2007 £10.75 – From the grapes Tannat and
Cabernet Sauvignon, Madiran is a full-bodied and full flavoured to match the
rich food of SW France. Perfect for Cassoulet.