The winter season is a good period for hearty bean dishes and European culture counts a number of such traditional recipes. I often go to the south-west of France and have come to know quite a bit about the local ‘cassoulet’ with several towns still fighting over the “real” recipe.
Cassoulet, like sauerkraut, was a poor peasant’s dish that has been elevated to nobility. After all, the dried beans were available in the winter period, there was duck and goose fat, some secondary cuts like the neck and other parts of the birds left over after the foie gras was taken out and that was not sold as “magret”. A pig’s trotter or knee or ears was also not very expensive and this all combined to a very filling meal for hard working people in a cold period.
The dish cooked slowly during the day and could also be reheated several times for various meals. In fact, the so-called traditional recipes call for a “crust” on top of the dish that needs to be cut and reheated three times.
Beans have a lot of proteins and as such are a better source for proteins in a balanced diet than meat. However, over the years the cassoulet has become a dish that is full of beans, fats and meat. On top of that, many tourists eat it in the summer when your body least needs such big meals. Nevertheless, there are some vary tasty cassoulet dishes to be eaten in Castelnaudary, Toulouse, Pamiers, Foix or elsewhere in that region. Preferably when it is cold, and for lunch unless you want to be awake digesting all night.
I wanted to make a modern version of the dish. The result was interesting but not yet my last word on the matter.
- 300 grammes of dried white beans
- One onion
- A quarter celery root
- Two turnips
- Four potatoes
- Four cloves of garlic
- One tin of tomatoes
- Pepper and salt
- Soak the beans in water overnight, the following day clean the water and soak for a few more hours.
- Put a large quantity of water to the boil, add the white beans and after 20 minutes drain them. This should remove a whitish foam.
- Put new water in a large pan, add beans, laurel and some salt and cook for two hours.
- Peel, slice and cut the other vegetables. When the beans are cooked – that is when they are tender when you bite one – add the other vegetables, as well as the garlic, and cook for another 30 minutes.
- Cook, or reheat, the sausages.
- At the end, drain the beans and vegetables, take out the laurel, and mix in a large bowl with the cut-up tomatoes from the tin.
- Add pepper and salt to taste.
- Put in a serving dish and lay the sausages on top.