There are few dishes that touch the soul in quite the way that Cassoulet does. A rich, slow cooked casserole of pork, duck, sausage and beans originating in southern France, there’s no better way to chase away the cold than to get this in the oven, sit back with the tipple of your choice, and await for this bubbling vat of beans and meat to be ready.
- Large casserole dish
- 2 400g tinned cannellini beans
- 1 medium ham hock skin on
- 500 g pork belly
- 4 Cumberland sausages
- 100 g streaky bacon chopped
- 2 confit duck legs with fat (or chicken thighs for a lighter dish)
- 2 medium onions peeled, roughly chopped
- 1 head garlic whole
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 medium carrots peeled, thinly sliced
- 1 stick celery finely chopped
- 1 400g tinned plum tomatoes
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 bayleaf
- 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
- 120 g breadcrumbs
- 2 tbps olive oil
- 800 ml chicken stock stock pots are ideal for this recipe
- Cut the pork belly into one inch cubes, season lightly with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate.
- In a medium saucepan, cover the ham hock and whole garlic head with water, bring to the boil, and simmer over a moderate heat for about about an hour or when the flesh just starts to pull away from the bone.
- Drain and cool, then flake the meat into large chunks. This can be done well in advance.
- Preheat the oven to 180c, 170c fan, gas mark 4.
- In a very large casserole (heavy cast iron if possible) heat the fat from the confit duck. Add the pork cubes (depending on the size of the pan you might need to batch fry), and cook over a moderately high heat until lightly browned all over. Set aside.
- In the same casserole, brown the ham hock and the streaky bacon. Add in the onion, carrot and celery and continue to brown. Add in 1 tbsp olive oil at this point to help stop it from catching.
- Add the tomato paste and the tinned tomatoes, the ham hock and belly pork, the herbs and the chicken stock. Cover, and cook in the oven for one and a half hours. Turn down the oven to 170c, 160c fan, gas mark 3, after 30 minutes.
- In a heavy pan, heat the remaining olive oil over a medium heat, then cook the sausages until browned all over. Take the casserole out of the oven, stir in the drained and rinsed beans, nestle in the sausages and duck legs.
- Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Bake for one hour longer, uncovered, until it's a lovely golden brown on the top.
- Transfer from the oven to a rack, and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy.
Of course, if you’re using chicken thighs, you’ll need to use olive oil instead of the duck fat for browning.