A classic French dish with heart and bags of flavour
- SERVES: 6 – 9
- PREP TIME: 15 mins
- COOK TIME: 2 – 3 hrs
- DIFFICULTY: easy
- IDEAL FOR: crowd-pleaser, weekend indulgence, family
What is cassoulet?
For one thing, it’s easy to make.
And I’ve never had a disappointed friend or family member when I’ve cooked it.
It’s also perfect for cooking in advance when you have a crowd coming.
We often would stick it in the wood oven and go for a long walk.
Then tuck into it on our return.
But it’s not a dish you make when you want to feel the need for a health kick.
This is proper French fare and that means a simple flavoursome dish.
So, in a nutshell, cassoulet is a hearty slow-cooked dish usually made up of sausage, confit (typically duck), pork, and white beans.
But you can have some license with the ingredients.
There is a great quote from Julia Child who describe cassoulet as…
“Cassoulet, that best of bean feasts, is everyday fare for a peasant but ambrosia for a gastronome, though its ideal consumer is a 300-pound blocking back who has been splitting firewood nonstop for the last twelve hours on a subzero day in Manitoba”
I can’t argue with that description.
Although as a Kiwi, I’m obliged to switch out ‘blocking back’ with ‘prop’.
But this dish is a go-hard or go-home dish.
And it makes no apologies for its meatiness.
So, buckle up and enjoy… it’s truly a fabulous, crowd-pleasing dish.
An interesting history of the cassoulet
As I said, the cassoulet is a peasant dish.
And gets its name from the dish it’s made and served in, a cassole.
It comes from southwestern France, specifically Castelnaudary.
Which is known as the home of cassoulet.
And according to folklore, it was invented here during the 100 years’ war.
(*An aside; the 100 years’ was an intermittent struggle between England and France in the 14th–15th century.
They came into conflict over things like disputes over English territorial possessions in France and the legitimate succession to the French throne.)
During this war, the villagers were trapped by the English.
So, to avoid starvation, the villagers pooled together their last scraps of meat and beans.
And cooked everything in a giant clay pot (cassole).
Which helped feed the French soldiers.
And gave them the strength to push back the English.
So, it’s an impressive dish to have made that happen 😉
2 Tips for the best cassoulet
- Don’t rush a cassoulet
- Brown your meat properly – do it in batches if necessary
- Let it cook low and slow for hours so the beans absorb all the goodness
- And if you can, do it the day before… it really does taste even more amazing the next day
- White haricot beans are the best
- Buy dried and soak the night before if you can (but I’ll be honest, I just buy good quality jarred or tinned beans)
- This is the final topping, sprinkled breadcrumbs
- But apparently the authentic version doesn’t have them but personally, I think it really adds to the dish.
What to serve with cassoulet
It’s a one-pot meal.
So you could argue, just serve as is.
But it’s rich so I serve with greens or a salad.
Or even just a crusty bread to soak up all those juices.
If you want some more crowd-pleasing, hearty recipes.
Then check out this slow-cooked pork in beans & smoked bacon recipe.
Seriously easy cassoulet
- 500 g pork belly, rind removed, cut into 2 – 3cm cubes
- 4 duck legs
- 250 g bacon lardons
- 6 Toulouse sausages
- 1.2 kg white beans (Haricot, cannellini, butter beans)
- 1lt passata (or make your own with 2x tinned chopped tomatoes & some Herb de Provence)
- 2 onions, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 100 ml white wine
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 300 ml chicken stock
- 125 g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 50 g duck or goose fat
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- fresh parsley, chopped as a garnish
- Pre-heat the oven to 150C/300F.
- In a large casserole dish, brown the duck (take your time), then remove to a plate while you brown the sausages and lardons, remove these and brown the pork belly pieces.When cool enough chop the sausages into 4-6 pieces.
- In a large bowl, mix the beans with your passata, onions, garlic, white wine, thyme leaves and season well.
- Now start layering your casserole dish.(*if you have a lot of fat from the duck etc in the bottom, pour some out into a jar).First, put a 1/3 of the bean mix on the base of the casserole dish, then 1/2 the meat on top of this, and repeat.
- Pour the stock into the casserole dish and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.Dot the duck or goose fat over the breadcrumbs, along with any of the fat you took out earlier.
- Put the dish in the oven (no lid) and cook for 2 – 3 hrs when you will see a nice crust formed on the top.*if the cassoulet dries out a little during cooking, add in a little more chicken stock.
- Serve with parsley sprinkled on top.