Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Sort of Cassoulet

Cassoulet is, simply, a dish of meat and beans but such a description doesn’t do any justice to what is an absolutely divine pot of meaty, hearty, aromatic yumminess. Most cultures have this combination of beans and meat; the French the cassoulet, the Italians many variations of something similar to that, the Brazilians their Feijoada, the Mexicans their chilli con carne, it is a marriage made in heaven.

In France Toulouse is the cassoulet capital and traditionally it will contain sausage, pork, duck and goose. Also tradition calls for it to cook for ages but I don’t have time for that and so have come up with a version that really bears little resemblance to a dish that a Toulousian would recognise but it still tastes fabulous.

For mid week dinners I love these sorts of one-pot wonders, pretty easy to throw together, not much in the way of washing up and plenty of time to sit and read a book and have a drink whilst it bubbles away contentedly in the oven.

I use this recipe as a chance to use up leftover vegetables lurking deep in the fridge and I don’t really have any hard and fast rules about what I put in. The only thing I do is make sure all the veggies are chopped up really fine. Last night I used a real odd mixture that included carrots, mushrooms (dried and fresh), red pepper, Chinese cabbage and French beans but it was great.


300g pork filet
4 good quality sausages (spicy ones are good)
100g lardons
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped very finely
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped very fine
Small handful of dried porcini mushrooms
1 red pepper, chopped very fine
50g button mushrooms, cleaned and chopped fine
50g French beans chopped fine
425g tin flageolet beans, drained
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml white wine
100ml chicken stock
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp pimenton picante
100ml double cream
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 basil leaves, chopped
Plain flour for dusting

Pour about 50ml of boiling water over the dried mushrooms, let sit for 30 minutes then squeeze dry and chop very finely. Reserve soaking liquid.

Heat a large heavy casserole dish and put in 25g butter and 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the sausages and cook until lightly browned. Remove.

Dust the pork fillet with seasoned flour and chuck into the pot, cook gently making sure it doesn’t catch and burn. Once lightly browned remove the pork and put with sausages. Pour in 1 tbsp of the white wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up any bits on the bottom.

Add onions, garlic, lardons, carrots and a good pinch of sea salt, turn heat to lowish put on lid and leave to cook gently for about 15 minutes.

Add the rest of the vegetables – mushrooms, French beans, red pepper and cook for a further five minutes.

Add the flageolet, paprika, pimenton, tomato puree, chicken stock, white wine, mushroom soaking liquid and then place the browned pork and the sausages on top. Put lid on casserole dish and put in the oven (190C/375F) for 30 minutes.

Add cream (and 2 tsp of Dijon mustard if you like) and return to oven with lid on for another 20 minutes.

When ready remove from oven, stir in parsley and basil, adjust seasoning if required, and put the casserole dish on a thick mat in the middle of the table. Let your guests help themselves and give them a pile of fresh crusty bread and a simple green salad with a tangy sharp dressing to mop it all up with.

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