My version of cassoulet most closely resembles the one from Castlenaudary. This city tends towards the simplest (and my favourite) recipe of the dish famous in Toulouse and Carcassonne as well. The Languedoc lays claim to the dish, but some say it was the Arabs who brought the white haricot bean, and the first version of the dish that became cassoulet, to the region as long ago as the 7th century AD.
As in Castelnaudary, I make mine with pork rind/fat, pork sausage, garlic and beans as the main ingredients. I do sometimes use confit d’oie (goose or duck confit), but then I stick to a more traditional format. This time I’ve gone goose free and added a selection of garden veg and tomatoes instead.
If you are using dried beans you will need
- about 600g of white beans.
- Soak them overnight then discard the water.
- Put the beans in a large pot with 2 litres of water
- a large peeled onion with a clove embedded in it
- 2 whole peeled carrots
- 2 whole crushed garlic cloves
- a bay leaf
- 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Bring to the boil and cook until the beans are tender (around 1 1/2 – 2 hours)
Alternatively, you can use a tin of organic haricot or kidney beans.
For the rest:
Soften 2 onions (chunkily chopped) in a little olive oil.
When they are translucent add 3 large cloves of garlic, 2 chopped and one whole. Allow to colour slightly.
Add 1/2 cup finely chopped celery, including the tender inner leaves, and soften
Add 1 large tin of whole peeled plum tomatoes, or 6 large peeled and seeded fresh tomatoes.
Add 2 large peeled and chopped carrots, or a small bunch of baby carrots (these you can leave unpeeled)
A bouguet garni or a couple of fresh bay leaves would be good now too.
Add your cooked or tinned (drained ) beans in a layer on top and season generously.
Top up with 2 cups of boiling water, bring the whole mix to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
Rub an oven proof casserole dish with a clove of garlic, then
Add 4-6 fresh pork sausages and allow to brown.
Add the rest of your ingredients to the pot, with a touch more water if you feel it is necessary.
Put a lid on your pot and cook in the oven on low heat (around 120*C) for a further hour – 1 1/2 hours, checking and stirring occasionally.
Serve with fresh chopped herbs and plenty of fresh ground sea salt and pepper.