Many recipes call for the addition of chicken stock to this classic winter stew from the south west of France – but this dish is so packed with flavour from the goose and pork belly fat I think chicken stock is wasted if added. Save your stock for a hearty vegetable soup instead. Cassoulet is a simple – though perfect – dish for the cold winter months and fairly simple to prepare. This traditional, hearty dish may originally derive from France but in a modern age we are fortunate enough to be able to purchase most of the ingredients at a reasonable price. You can omit the duck if you want or because you can’t find it. The other ingredients will still make this a wonderful meal. The dense texture from the beans gives this winter meal that comforting feel so many of us desire as we sit down to a dark evening meal.
400 gr of beans – an assortment. Use tinned. It’s easier.
1 kg tomatoes
1 kg carrots
2-3 celery sticks
2-3 onions (red or yellow or both)
2-3 sticks of thyme
1-2 bay leaves
2-3 Toulouse sausages (or any good sausage you can get a hold of)
300 gr. unsmoked belly pork
3-4 potted duck legs (optional but very delicious if you can get hold of them). Commonly known as confit de canard in France.
Goose fat or lard
Begin by placing the belly pork, fat side down, on the bottom of a thick casserole pot. A lecreuset pot is perfect for this but if you don’t have one use any pot you can get a hold of. Allow the plentiful fat from the pork belly to render into the pan but add some goose fat if you think it needs a helping hand. Brown the pork belly on all dies. Brown the sausages at the same time. Remove the meat from the pan, add some goose fat and start to fry the diced onions, carrots and celery on a medium heat until they start to soften around the edges and the onion begins to turn translucent. Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and add to the mirepoix. Put the cooked meat back into pan. If you are using the potted duck legs add now. They are already cooked and don’t need browning. Finally add the beans and the herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Add some water so that the liquid is just below the meat. Put into the oven on a low heat (around 150 degrees centigrade) for at least three hours. The belly pork needs this time to tenderise. You can serve as is or with some steamed rice with added turmeric and cumin seeds. The lovely yellow from the turmeric complements the shades of red in the cassoulet beautifully.