A superb combination of white beans, pork, lamb, sausages, garlic and herbs. Cassoulet is arguably the ultimate meat and bean dish and one of the highlights of French cooking. This is definitely a winter dish to be enjoyed after a long walk!
As with our Toad in the Hole, there are many variations and controversy. Preserved duck or goose (confit) is often associated with cassoulet, in fact many French recipes omit confit. Whilst confit is superb served with crispy skin straight out of a frying pan, when cooked in cassoulet the meat is stringy and the skin unappealing. This recipe therefore omits confit, but feel free to add it if you want.
It is important to keep the bacon and pork rinds because they add so much flavour. These are cooked with the beans and removed once the beans are cooked and thrown away.
Making cassoulet is quite a perfomance, this recipe will make enough for at least 6 people. If you have any left over, it can be frozen or will keep in the fridge for a few days.
If you are feeling flush why not try the cassoulet kit from Dean & Deluca - a snip at $80 (only joking becuase they do not ship to the UK). Dean & DeLuca
500 g boned belly pork (with rind)
500 g boned shoulder of lamb or mutton (the older the better)
250 g piece of smoked bacon (with rind)
450 g Toulouse sausage
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons of goose or duck fat (optional)
Salt and black pepper
Place the soaked beans in a large pot with the rind from the belly pork, onions, garlic, bacon and herbs, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 1 hour or until the beans are tender
Meanwhile cut the belly pork and lamb into cubes (about 3 cm) and brown in goose or duck fat (you can use olive oil if you prefer)
Roast the meat in a medium oven (180C or gas mark 4) for 10 minutes, add the Toulouse sausages and roast for a further 20 minutes
Drain the cooked beans and reserve the cooking liquid and garlic
Place the beans, the pork rind and the piece of bacon into a large, oven proof casserole
Cut the sausages into 3 cm lengths and add with the belly pork and lamb to the beans
Combine 1 litre of cooking liquid (add water if needed) with the tomato puree, pour over the beans and meat
Mash the garlic and mix into the beans and meat
Cover and cook in a low oven for around 2 hours. Stir every 30 minutes and check that the beans are not drying out, if needed add more liquid
Breadcrumbs - you can add these to make a crust, if so add 1 hour before cooking is finished. The problem with this is that the crust makes if difficult to judge if the beans are drying out and absorbs precious liquid - we therefore prefer to omit them. However, we have used them to absorb excess sauce when the beans were cooked sooner than expected.
Remove the pork and bacon rinds
Cut the bacon into finger width strips and return to the dish
Toulouse or French country sausages