French,  Savoury

Cassoulet and mouthfuls of sand

My annual flirtation with vegetarianism will have lasted almost a month. Hugo, our labrador, is having a whale of a time ‘playing’ with pheasants at the moment. He waits until I’m in the saddle, then goes out in front to lift a pheasant as close to the horse’s nose as possible. This makes my horse spook flamboyantly (Iberian horses are total show-offs and exceedingly supple to boot) and I end up, more often than not, with my nose in the sand. Which brings me back to why I’ve surmised that hunting isn’t all bad; I’m anxious for them to hurry up and butcher a few of the pheasants near us, to give myself a fighting chance at staying in the saddle 😉
This cassoulet is, perhaps for some people, slightly unorthodox in that it has no breadcrumbs on top. In any case, it’s well worthy of a break from half-hearted vegetarianism and is the epitome of ‘real’ food.
Ingredients (serves 8)
1 large onion, sliced
1 red pepper
4 chilli peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 mushrooms
4 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
8 Toulouse sausages
300g salted pork breast
4 pieces of duck confit
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 glasses of dry white wine
5 medium tomatoes, blanched and skinned
500g white haricot beans (these should be soaked overnight if dry)
Seasoning to taste (seasalt, black pepper, Espelette pepper or paprika)
1 teaspoon juniper berries
Start by de-fatting the duck confit in a pan, heating and removing the fat gradually. Put the onions, garlic and olive oil into a large casserole dish and gently brown. Add the mushrooms, carrots, red pepper, chilli peppers and tomatoes and continue to brown on a low heat. Add the sausages, duck and pork and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the white wine, juniper berries and rosemary and bring back to a simmer. Lastly, add the white beans and season well. You will need to add some water – probably about 500ml – enough to come about half the way up the casserole dish. Cook on a lowish heat (140°C) for about two and a half hours, checking from time-to-time that there is sufficient liquid.
This is a very rich dish and should just be served with a crisp green salad.

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