On offer here is a dish of porky delight, where the beans act as a sponge for those flavours and pork fat — the smoke of the bacon and the garlic of the Toulouse shining through. A dish that delivers flavour and that comforting feeling all in one.
Cassoulet is a dish of rare significance, known throughout the world and synonymous with one of the world’s most famous and revered cuisines. French provincial cooking has long been held up as a beacon for all that is great about food. The essence of convivial dining — generous feasts of simple rustic fare, cooked with perfectly ripe, locally grown and reared ingredients.
It is the scene that both restaurants and households in this country have been trying to replicate for decades. While this recipe has veered off course from the classic cassoulet (due to a lack of confit goose or duck leg), it does take its inspiration from the original.
Toulouse sausage, beans & bacon cassoulet
400g Dry-Cured Smoked Pork Belly, cut into two chunks
150g dried haricot beans, soaked in cold water for at least 24 hours
1 ltr homemade chicken stock
fresh bay leaves
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 leek, washed and diced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 handfuls of dried breadcrumbs
1 glass of white wine
1 level tablespoon of tomato purée
- Begin with the beans:
- Drain the beans and tip into a pan. Add 600ml of the stock, 5 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, and the green tops of the leeks. Bring the pan up to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 35-45 minutes. Place a cartouche over the beans to prevent too much liquid evaporating.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C.
- Separately, add a tablespoon of duck fat to a shallow, heavy-bottomed casserole dish. Once the fat is hot, place the sausages in the pan and brown them off. Then remove from the pan and set aside.
- To the pan, add the carrot, onion, and leeks. Season with sea salt and black pepper and cook on a gentle heat, stirring regularly for 10 minutes.
- Slice the remaining garlic cloves and then add them to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Tie the thyme and bay leaves with a piece of string. Add this to the pan, along with the tomato purée. Cook for 5 minutes, remembering to keep stirring.
- The beans should be fairly tender by now and only in a little stock. Pick out the leek tops and then tip the beans and their liquid into the pan with the vegetables, followed by the white wine and bring up to the boil. Stir well to make sure everything is well incorporated.
- Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary. A warning here, the smoked belly has a natural saltiness, so err on the side of caution with the salt.
- Also, at this stage, you need to check the liquid levels and add a little more stock if needed. The final dish doesn’t want to be at all ‘soupy’, but neither completely dry.
- Nestle the bacon pieces and the sausages into the beans and then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil over the whole thing and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes.