This is comfort food at it’s best. There are so many variations on the traditional cassoulet and in France there is much debate as to it’s origins and many towns that claim it as their creation.
Carcassonne in the South of France is one that claims it as their own most fiercely and it is featured on almost every tourist restaurant in the old Castle town. The traditional versions of course require days of preparation and cooking.
My version speeds up the process using now widely available products that replace the need for making your own duck confit or cooking beans for hours. (yes, I use canned beans and lentils!!) I have also tried to cut down the calories by removing as much fat as possible by cooking the meats separately first, before combining into the finished dish.
I use brown lentils as well as beans which absorb the cooking liquids faster and help to “combine” all the ingredients and sauce together in the end result.
Preparation time: 1.5 hours Cooking time: 35 minutes, serves 4
- 2 pre-made Duck confit Marylands (leg and thigh cutlets) in Australia I use Luv A Duck brand available in good butchers.
- 1 carton of pre-made oven roasted Coles Pork belly bites – or similar pre-cooked pork belly squares
- 2 Toulouse or other garlic and herb pork sausages
- 1 can cannelini beans
- 1 can brown lentils
- 1 onion diced
- 1 carrot diced
- 8-10 cherry tomatoes halved
- 6 cloves of garlic finely diced
- 2-3 stalks of celery diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1.5 cups of chicken stock
- 1/2 cup or so of Panko or fresh breadcrumbs for topping
- 1/4 cup Pumpkin seeds for topping
- Black pepper
1. Pre-heat oven goes 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Take duck confit from package and place on baking paper lined oven tray, along with the 2 sausages. When oven is hot, roast for 35 minutes until duck is warmed and sausages are just cooked. Halfway through the cooking time, add the halved cherry tomatoes cut-side up into the roasting pan.
3. While duck and sausages are in oven, fry pork bites in a non-stick pan over medium to high heat for 15 minutes until golden brown on all sides. This will also render a lot of the fat from the pork belly. Place fried pork belly on paper towel to absorb as much fat as possible.
4. Prepare vegetables if you haven’t done so already. Dice garlic, onions, carrots and celery. Drain cannelini beans and lentils and keep in separate bowls.
5. Remove duck and sausages from oven, reserving the fat and cooking juices in the pan. Place duck on paper towel to rest. Reserve cherry tomatoes in seperate bowl. Slice sausages into pieces and keep aside.
6. Throw out all but 1 tablespoon of the pork fat in the frying pan, add the reserved duck fat and cooking juices from cooking the duck and sausages.
7. Heat pan juices in frying pan and add garlic, cook for a minute or so until starting to just turn colour, add bay leaves, onions, celery and carrots, salt and pepper… and cook until softened and starting to caramelise. (Don’t forget Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius again if you turned it off)
8. Add thyme, cannelini beans, sausage slices and half a cup of hot chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes, add lentils, pork belly, and another half a cup of stock and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
9. Put the base mixture into a snug casserole dish. Place cherry tomatoes throughout the mixture, and then the duck maryland right on top. Add 1/2 cup of stock to just come to the top of the mixture.
10. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and pumpkin seeds on top to from a crust, avoiding covering the duck.
11. Cook in oven for further 35-40 minutes until breadcrumbs and pumpkin seeds are golden and crispy. (Check a few times to see that consistency of base is to your satisfaction ie not too watery, not too dry. Add extra stock if necessary) Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then serve garnished with parsley and with zesty lemon and rocket salad and crunchy bread. Ps, I cut the Maryland’s into halves to make 4 serves.