Regatta cassoulet

This was our sustenance at the annual Dartmouth Regatta evening festivities. It is full of flavour with a soothing consistency - perfect for outside eating or a winter meal. I usually made it ahead, then reheated it just before we left for the regatta and kept it hot in a huge, wide old thermos. If you want to save time you can use those good Spanish jars of large flageolet beans, but home-soaked beans are that much better.

Ingredients

  • 500 g dried flageolet beans
  • 3 large onions
  • 6-8 large cloves garlic
  • 2 large red peppers
  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • 25 g butter
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 kg stewing pork
  • 500-600 g kabanos sausages
  • 2-3 tender rosemary stems
  • 2 rounded teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 600 ml dry cider
  • coarsely grated rind and juice of 1 large orange
  • sea salt, black pepper

Method

Put the beans into a large bowl, pour on plenty of cold water and leave to soak in a cool place until the next day.

Drain the beans, tip them into a saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring to the boil and cook at a rolling boil for a few minutes, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 20-35 minutes until the beans are just soft but not breaking up. Drain and leave on one side.

Peel the onions and cut up roughly. Peel the garlic cloves and slice crossways. Halve the peppers lengthways, discard the core and seeds, then slice across fairly thinly. Trim, halve and quarter the fennel bulbs.

Melt the butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a wide, deep frying pan over a fairly high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until well browned.

Add the garlic and stir for a minute, then tip the mixture into a large bowl. Heat another 1 tablespoon oil in the pan and fry the peppers until beginning to soften, then add to the onions and garlic with the fennel.

Cut the pork into chunks and slice the kabanos sausages roughly into 3 cm lengths. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in the pan over a high heat. Fry the pork in batches, just enough to brown them all over, then add to the bowl along with the sliced sausages.

Heat the oven to 230°C/Gas 8. Tip the cooked beans into a very large casserole and add the contents of the bowl together with any fat from the pan. Strip the rosemary needles from their stems and add to the casserole with the fennel seeds, tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, cider and orange rind and juice. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix all the ingredients together, seasoning generously with sea salt and black pepper.

Cover and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the juices are just bubbling, then lower the setting to 140°C/Gas 1 and cook for a further 2½-3 hours, stirring once or twice. Check the seasoning before serving.

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