This signature classic dish of France (pronounced cas-su-lay) is a rich slow cooked casserole. The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep round earthenware pot. Originating in the south of France and typically containing pork sausages, goose, duck and mutton. The region once known as the province of Languedoc is the traditional homeland of cassoulet, especially the towns of Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary, the town which claims to be where the dish originated. All are made with white beans (haricots blancs or lingots).
In the cassoulet of Toulouse the meats are pork and mutton and enriched with confit of goose, pork skin, and saucisses de Toulouse, a simple pork sausage with a distinctive flavor. The Carcassonne version is similar but doubles the portion of mutton and sometimes replaces the duck with partridge. The cassoulet of Castelnaudary use a duck confit instead of mutton. In older times the cassoulet was simmered in a cauldron over an open hearth fire of gorse wood collected in the Montagne Noire of the region.
Fierce debates arise in France as to which cassoulet recipe is superior. However from its humble peasant origins - whatever was available was put into the pot to the finest haute cuisine no two cassoulets are ever quite the same.
Below, a tried and tested favourite we look forward to each year with the first cool winds and evenings of autumn we hope you will also enjoy.
Prep time 25 mins
Cooking time 2 hours
300gm chicken thigh fillets
300gm lean pork loin - cubed
2 medium onions chopped
2 cloves garlic – crushed
2 sticks celery – chopped
1 tblsp plain flour (better still if you have arrowroot use that in place of flour)
1 x 440g tinned tomatoes drained – juice reserved
1 cup white wine
1tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
3 cloves (optional)
1 x 410g tin cannellini beans drained (or similar)
200gm spek chopped
100gm chorizo chopped
salt / pepper to taste
Trim meat of excess fat and cute into 2cm cubes.
Heat lard in a large pan & cook chicken until brown, remove.
Repeat with lamb and pork as above.
Add onions to remaining fat in pan, cook until well browned.
Add garlic & celery, stir 1 minute, remove.
If using arrowroot mix with a little water to runny consistency, if using flour sprinkle over base of pan.
Add chopped tomatoes, tomato juice and wine, stir with wooden spoon until sauce thickens.
Add bay leaves, thyme & pepper.
Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
Add meat, onion mixture and cannellini beans, cover and simmer 1 hour. (oven or cooktop)
Remove lid, add chorizo and spek, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!