I first stumbled upon Cassoulet many moons ago while watching Rick Stein using his cooking show as an excuse to take a barge trip through France, the lucky git. His Cassoulet included duck confit, belly of pork, pork rind, garlicky toulouse sausages and a humungous fresh bouquet garni.
I was fascinated by this rustic-looking meat and beans casserole dish, it all looked very tasty. Since then I have been meaning to make my own. However, I rarely think to throw some duck confit into my trolley so my Cassoulet was never to be.
I wanted to find a way to make a delicious hearty Cassoulet that was cheap and easy. This meant forgoing the expensive duck and substituting the pork bits for cheaper yet tasty alternatives.
This Cheat’s Cassoulet still requires a little bit of prep time to fry up the first few ingredients but this is essential to get the flavours going, and you can always pop ona podcast to keep you company.
After that you just bung the whole lot into a slow cooker or a low temperature oven and leave for a few hours to cook. The result is a dense meaty sauce bursting with a rich herb-y flavour. You will probably want to make extra to have seconds for lunch the next day.
Cassoulet is quite a filling dish but if, like me, you want to eat your carbs with more carbs (double-carbing anyone?) serve this with a big hunk of super fresh bread.
Or take the more sensible route and throw a crispy green salad together to accompany it.
I can see this Cassoulet served al fresco with friends and copious amounts of red wine. This is a friendly dinner. You need to share it. And this recipe will easily double up if necessary.
Cheat’s Cassoulet takes all the elements of the rustic French dish but substitutes for cheaper and easier to find ingredients. The result is still a very more-ish casserole of sausage, pancetta, beans, herbs and sauce. I highly recommend you give this one a go!
Cheat’s Cassolulet (serves 4)
12 Good Quality Sausages (the meatier the better or for authenticity use Toulouse Sausages)
1 can (approx 240g) Cannellini Beans (or Haricot Beans – whatever’s in your cupboard)
1 can (approx 240g) Chickpeas
1tbsp Olive Oil
2 packs (approx 250g) Pancetta Cubes
3 Garlic Cloves
1tbsp Garlic Puree
5 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme (3 just the leaves, 2 left on the stalk) (if you have Sage handy throw a couple of leaves in too)
2 Bay Leaves
2tbsp Tomato Puree
800ml Boiling Water
1tbsp Lemon Juice
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottom frying pan on a high heat and fry up the sausages until all sides are brown. Remove the sausages from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan fry up the pancetta until crispy and then remove with a slotted spoon onto the plate of sausages.
Reduce the heat and add the onions to the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring regularly until they are soft. For the last minute of cooking chuck in the garlic and garlic puree and stir through.
Spread a third of the cannellini beans and chickpeas on the bottom of your casserole dish or slow cooker pot. Follow with a layer of onions and a third of the thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Place half the sausages and pancetta on top. Repeat the layers again. Finish with final layer of beans and chickpeas and good amount of seasoning. Poke the thyme sprigs and bay leaves into the mixture.
Dissolve the tomato puree in the boiling water and gently pour over the mixture.
Cover with an ovenproof lid (or foil) and place in the middle of the oven at 140C for 2 hours, or on the medium setting of your slow cooker for 3 hours.
Remove the lid (or foil) sprinkle over the lemon juice followed by the breadcrumbs and return to the oven for a further 45 minutes uncovered. Turn the oven up to 200C for the final 10 minutes.
Serve the cassoulet with a large hunk of fresh bread or a springy fresh green salad and a full-bodied red wine.