Beyond doubt the ultimate bean dish, there are three main variations on the cassoulet theme which are said to be based on the Languedoc towns of Carcassonne, Castelnaudry and Toulouse. In reality, there are certain ingredients without which it would be improper to describe the dish as a cassoulet - dried white beans, confit of goose or duck and pork sausage. You can buy ready-made confit and goose fat in tins; if making your own, however, substitute lard as the French do. The confit is best made days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
This is a substantial dish, so no first course is needed and just a sharpish salad to follow, such as dandelion or rocket with a peppery vinaigrette.
If you are wondering why a dish so closely associated with South-western France should be included in a book of Mediterranean food, consider its key meat elements - notably corn-fed farmed duck, animal fat and pork. None of them are typical of the food of the sun. It is also a dish suited to a cool day. The logic escapes you? Well, think about it. (Answer at foot of the opposite page.)