Cass-Olé !!

Do you know what this is? It's the sky today, from my house. It's grey and dull and dark. It was even worse yesterday because it rained - sort of. That horrid light drizzle that you can barely feel, but that soaks through. It's quite often like this from November through to February with only one or two days of blue sky and weak sunshine. It's soooooo depressing. I wouldn't mind if we had those wonderful cold, crisp sunny days that I remember from my childhood. But no, it's dank, dark and miserable. No wonder lots of people in this country suffer from S.A.D.

Well, the only thing I know that helps to cheer me up on a day like this is a one-pot wonder. The traditional French Cassoulet came from Castelnaudary close to where we stayed on holiday this summer. I bought a traditional cassoulet dish and the recipe of how to make it from scratch on a postcard.

Alas... I could not find the postcard with the recipe on it. So I made it up. Well apparently every household has it's own take on the classic dish, so this was mine.

I browned a duck crown in a pot (I believe it's supposed to be duck legs or 'confit de canard') and added a couple of slices of belly pork and some onions, garlic and carrot. I added a bay leaf and a small bunch of fresh thyme from the garden. Do you see my clever little twisty thing for holding the herbs - it's so much easier than the traditional muslin bag. They are big enough to be used for holding meat together for example when making a pork roll. And they are dishwasher safe too. I use mine mostly for herbs like this.

I poured off the excess fat (ducks can be very fatty) and added some chicken stock and some pre-cooked haricot beans (I reserved some of the haricot beans for later),

......a little salt and pepper and then covered the pot and popped it into the oven where it stayed on a low heat for about 2 and a half hours.

Then I removed the duck meat and skin (it was so tender it just flaked away from the bones)

......and mashed the beans a little (they help to thicken up the stock and I love the flavour too). At this point the gravy was still a little thinner than I would like so I added a little gravy thickener and tasted it so that I could adjust the seasoning - a little more salt was required.. I transferred the whole lot to the traditional cassoulet pot. Then I cooked some Toulouse sausage (a slightly spicy sausage) and cut them into smaller pieces and added them.

Next I covered the pot with the reserved haricot beans. The traditional cassoulet is not cooked with a lid, the beans provide a top that sort of acts like a lid and as it finishes cooking they go a little crispy on top - which is delicious. I didn't actually reserve enough of the beans but you get the idea. It spent another hour in the oven and it was ready.

We ate it with some home made crusty bread, it was delicious and it was just what I needed! And there is a little left over for lunch today. Hoorah!


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