I had cassoulet in a tiny restaurant in Toulouse called “Le Chat Dingue” (The Crazy Cat).I
t was freezing outside and I’m not sure that the restaurant’s heating was working but after a steaming bowl of cassoulet, doled out from an enormous cooking pot on the stove, we were fortified for the bracing walk back to our hotel.
I wouldn’t dare to suggest this is an authentic cassoulet – I have used it as shorthand for a hearty meat and bean stew. I have used “English” sausages and there is no duck or haricot beans in my recipe. I wanted to try out the borlotti beans beans I grew last summer. It still takes several hours slow-cooking though so you will have to make a day of it!
One note of caution. Many dried beans contain toxic levels of lectin. I don’t know if this includes borlotti beans but I soak them overnight and then boil them in fresh water for 20 minutes to be on the safe side.
- 150g dried borlotti beans – soaked and boiled as above.
- 400g belly pork, bone and skin removed, cut into 12 large chunks
- 150g smoked, streaky bacon, preferably unsliced.
- 4 garlic pork sausages (300g) – my supermarket has “Toulouse Style” sausages which are perfect
- 1 large onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1 bay leaf
Heat oven to 130C, gas mark 1. Heat a frying pan then add the belly pork, fatty side down. Brown the cubes on all sides and put them in a heavy casserole. Brown the sausages and add those to the pot.
If you have a slab of smoked bacon, cut into 2cm cubes – or 2cm strips of it is sliced. Fry those off too and add to the pot.
Chop the onion and carrot into large chunks and fry those until nicely caramelised. Add to the pot with the beans. Cover with water and throw in the bay leaf. Don’t add any salt at this stage because there will be plenty in the sausage and smoked bacon.
Cover and cook in the oven for 3 hours. Take the lid off and cook for a further 30 minutes or so until the liquid has reduced to a light gravy consistency then adjust the seasoning if you think it needs it. If you have a late pang of conscience, skim some of the fat off. If not just let some mashed potato soak it all up.
It is not low calorie, it is not low fat, but it is good. Enjoy.