A Hearty Cassoulet
by Diane Clark
There is no dish in the South West of France more iconic, cherished and controversial than the cassoulet.
- Serves: 6
- Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
- Cooking Time: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
The first cassoulet is claimed by the city of Castelnaudary, which was under siege by the British during the Hundred Years War. The besieged townspeople gathered up the ingredients they could find and made a large stew to nourish and bolster their defenders. The meal was so hearty and fortifying that the soldiers handily dispelled the invaders, saving the city from occupation!
- 1 tsp sunflower oil
- 6 butcher’s herby sausages
- 4 celery sticks
- 3 medium carrots
- 2 medium onions, halved and slices
- 2 slender leeks, trimmed and cut into 2cm slices
- 6 boneless chicken thighs (about 450g)
- 150ml red wine (or water)
- 300ml cold water
- 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
- 200g piece of smoked gammon, trimmed and cut into cubes
- 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
- 400g can of cannellini beans in water, drained and rinsed
- 400g can of butter beans in water, drained and rinsed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 4-5 bushy sprigs of fresh thyme
- Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Finely grated zest of ó well-scrubbed large orange
- Brush a large non-stick frying pan with the sunflower oil, using the tip of a pastry brush. Add the sausages to the pan and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, turning every now and then until browned on all sides. Meanwhile, trim the celery and peel the carrots and cut them into diagonal slices.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas 4. Add onions to frying pan and cook with the sausages for 8-9 minutes, stirring regularly until softened and lightly browned.
- Trim the chicken thighs of any visible fat, and then cut them in half. Add the garlic and chicken pieces to the pan with the sausages and onions and cook for 4-5 minutes, turning the chicken twice until coloured all over. Transfer everything to a large flameproof casserole dish.
- Stir in the gammon, celery, carrots, leeks tomatoes, red wine and water, then sprinkle over the caster sugar and chilli flakes. Stir in the bay leaf and thyme and season with lots of ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer on the hob, then cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 45 minutes.
- Take the casserole out of the oven and stir in all the beans. Cover with the lid again and put the dish back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
- Just before the cassoulet is ready, prepare the garnish. Chop the parsley roughly and toss with the orange zest in a dish. Sprinkle over the cassoulet prior to serving.
- Et voila! Bon appétit!