In parts of the south and southwest France, people are crazy about Cassoulet.
It’s a rustic and robust French country stew that typically includes white beans, pork and poultry. It’s been a favourite for hundreds of years in France and legend has it that the origins go back to the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). During a siege at Castelnaudry, Languedoc, the inhabitants pooled their resources and came up with a casserole. The soldiers ate it and found the strength to fight off the English invaders. The legend of cassoulet was born! Or was it born in Toulouse? Or Carcassonne? Much like the ingredients, stories vary wildly from one area to another and families hold dear to recipes that have passed down the generations. Restaurants can make their name on the back of a delicious cassoulet. At markets, queues form at the most popular stalls.
Making it at home isn’t that difficult, but sometimes it’s not easy to get all the classic ingredients so I’ve given easy alternatives in this recipe. Besides, what’s a classic ingredient in one place, isn’t somewhere else. Some say goose, some say mutton and some say duck… some say breadcrumb topping – other don’t. And, though this dish is all about slow cooking, some recipes call for 3 days of preparation.
There are different ways to approach making cassoulet. Either it’s the epochal recipe of your region or family and involves only using specified ingredients which can be hard to get. Or you can think of it as a sausage and bean casserole…
most of us don’t have that long, so this recipe takes much less time to prepare.
Ingredients for cassoulet for 6 people
Here, I’ve gone for an easy cassoulet dish that you can make at home. It doesn’t use duck confit but it does have the flavour of a French cassoulet!
You’ll need a heavy dish to cook it in, in France called a cassole…
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or 3 chicken breasts halved when you serve)
6 large sausages (Toulouse sausage is traditional in France but you can use any type of pork sausage)
2 cans (15oz/425g) cannellini beans or white haricot beans rinsed and drained
150g lardons (bacon)
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz/400g) drained
1/2 cup chicken stock and ½ cup of dry white wine
Duck fat or 3 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 Carrot peeled and cut into big chunks
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
Teaspoon fresh parsley
½ teaspoon fresh thyme
How to make cassoulet
Preheat oven to 325° (Gas mark 3/170 C). Season the chicken with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat the oil. Duck fat is best at it really does add extra flavour, but use olive oil if you can’t get duck fat. Brown chicken on both sides. Remove from pan.
In same pan, brown the sausages, then remove. And then the lardons.
Sauté the onion in remaining oil until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add stock and wine, stir and bring to a boil. Then add tomatoes, herbs and carrot and bring to a boil.
Put the meat back into the dish and place in the oven (or pour into an oven proof dish).
Bake for 30 minutes uncovered, then stir in beans and bake until the chicken is tender, 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven and discard bay leaf and stir in bacon.
Delicious with a hunk of baguette!