My Cassoulet

There is a lot of argument about what a true cassoulet consists of, but it seems to me that as long as it is a richly satisfying fusion of beans and meats, it is really up to personal taste, what ingredients you can get, and how much time you have. There is no point in thinking you can’t make a cassoulet if you haven’t got any preserved goose or Toulouse sausages. The crust of breadcrumbs on top of the cassoulet is an authentic touch worth doing. Serve with a green salad.

Ingredients

  • 500 g (1 lb) dried haricot beans, soaked overnight in cold water
  • 25 g (1 oz) butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large onions, cut into 5 mm (¼ in) slices
  • 6-8 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 large red peppers, halved, deseeded and cut into 1 cm (½ in) slices
  • 2 large bulbs fennel, trimmed, halved and cut into 1 cm (½ in) slices
  • 1 kg (2 lb) stewing pork, cut into chunks
  • 4 unboned breast joints of duck, halved
  • 500 g (1 lb) kabanos sausages, cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) pieces
  • 500 g (1 lb) tomatoes, cut up roughly
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 rounded teaspoons green peppercorns
  • 600 ml (1 pint) dry cider
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 6 slices 2-day-old bread, made into crumbs
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Extra olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

Drain the soaked haricot beans and put them in a saucepan. Cover generously with cold water. Bring to the boil for 10 minutes, then cover and simmer gently for 20–35 minutes until just soft but not breaking up. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft and browned, then add the garlic and stir for 1 minute.

Transfer the onions and garlic to a large bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil and the sliced peppers and fennel to the pan and fry until beginning to soften, then add to the bowl of onions. Add the final tablespoon of oil and fry the pork until just browned all over. Add it to the mixture in the bowl, then fry the duck pieces just to brown them.

Put the beans in a large casserole and add all the ingredients from the bowl, the duck and any fat from the pan, the sausages, tomatoes, rosemary, green peppercorns, cider and tomato purée. Mix together and season with salt and black pepper. Cover the casserole and cook at 230°C, 450°F, Gas Mark 8 for 20-25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 140°C, 275°F, Gas Mark 1 and cook for a further 2½–3 hours.

Mix the breadcrumbs and oregano together. Stir the cassoulet, then thickly sprinkle the breadcrumb and herb mixture all over the top. Dribble olive oil all over the top and return the cassoulet to the oven, uncovered, for another 30 minutes.

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