Last weekend I finally made a dish that I have cooked and eaten in my mind a thousand times.
Cassoulet is a traditional French dish made with pork, sausages, chicken (or probably, traditionally speaking, any scraps of meat you can lay your hands on) and beans.
I’ve only eaten cassoulet once before about five years ago at a fantastic French bistro in Sydney called Tabou. I went there with Kathryn when we were both single girls on a date drought, and we lamented that we never got to eat at any decent restaurants because no guys were asking us out. Anyway, I’d always wanted to taste cassoulet and that meal at Tabou left an indelible mark on my tastebuds. I’m amazed it took me five years to make it for myself.
Start by taking about half a kilo of dried white beans, like cannelini beans. Soak them in cold water overnight.
In a heavy pot (one with a lid), sauté onions and garlic and a few thick chunks of kaiser fleisch, throw in the beans and cover with water. Then mix in any herbs you like (fresh thyme is nice) and season.
I just chucked all this in the slow cooker for about 8 hours, but if you don’t have one of them just put the lid on your heavy pot and let it go on a low low heat until the beans are cooked but not mushy (probably 3-4 hours).
In an oiled lidded casserole dish, place a layer of beans about one knuckle deep. Then place a layer of pork chunks, fat slices of kaiser fleisch, chicken pieces and pork sausages (Not a layer of each, just one layer mixed). I use an amazing bratwurst from Andrew’s Choice in Yarraville, who make, without a doubt, the best sausages I have ever tasted in Australia.
Place another layer of beans, another layer of meat and top with a layer of beans.
In a cup of boiling water or stock, mix tomato paste, a blob of vegemite (not very French, but if gives such a nice depth to meaty dishes!) salt etc. Pour over the top of the beans. Then sprinkle a generous handful of breadcrumbs over the top, and a bit of cheese (I don’t think the cheese is very traditional though).
Bake with the lid on for another hour or two. If it looks a bit dry pour a bit more water or stock in. Take the lid off for the last half hour of cooking so the breadcrumbs brown.