Cassoulet and the tradition of a classic meal in the south west of France
This traditional dish and absolute classic especially in Toulouse in Occitanie was actually used to help ward off British soldiers as the legend goes. The townspeople people of! Castelnaudary, which was under siege by the British during the Hundred Years War prepared the meal using any available ingredients they could find to provide nourishment for the soldiers. The British were defeated and the meal became an instant staple.
The story is a little tricky to verify but it makes a good tale nonetheless and Cassoulet’s filling and hearty taste certainly makes the story worth believing. And what is more timeless than telling stories over a feast with family and friends.
Ingredients for a great French Cassoulet (for 8 people)
1kg lbs dry white beans, tarbals or lingot
4 onions (2 stuck with 1 clove each, 2 sliced into 1/8 inchrounds)
10 garlic cloves, crushed
225g lb pork rind
1 bouquet garni
225g lb garlic sausage
350g lb saucisses de Toulouse
225g lean pork belly
700g duck confit, with fat
700g boneless lamb shoulder, chopped into 2 inch chunks
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1.25 cups of dry breadcrumbs
1 bunch parsley leaves, minced
In a large pot put combine the carrot, 2 of the onions, stuck with cloves, and beans 6 garlic cloves, pork rind, and bouquet garni. Cover this with cold water and turn the heat on high. Turn down the heat before water bubbles, now simmer this for one hour. Add the garlic sausage and saucisses; then simmer this for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from heat. Add a little salt and pepper.
Put the pork belly into a large pot and pour in cold water to cover the meat. Bring this to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove pork to a colander, rinse with cold water, drain.
In another pot, melt 4 tbsp fat from confit. When hot, brown the lamb chunks over a high heat. Remove to plate. Cook the sliced onions in the same pot for 3 minutes over low heat; stir. Add the 4 garlic cloves, tomatoes and 10 tbsp bean cooking liquid. Let this mix bubble for 10 minutes.
Remove the bouquet garni, pork rind, onions and sausages from the bean-cooking pot. Discard the garni and leave the other ingredients on a plate. Drain the beans, saving liquid, now add the beans to the pot with the onions and tomatoes.
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Slice sausage and saucisses into 1/2 inch rounds. Line a large terrine with the pork rind and fill with alternating layers of meat, saucisses, garlic, sausage, and bean-onion-tomato mix. Finish with a layer of beans, top with 2 tbsp of confit fat (spread evenly over the surface). The liquid in the terrine should barely cover the top layer; if it doesn’t, add cooking liquid. Bake for 3 hours.
Mix the parsley and breadcrumbs. When cassoulet has baked for 3 hours, sprinkle with mixture and then put it back in the oven for an hour to brown.
Bon appétit and enjoy your Cassoulet!