This glorious celebration of rustic French cooking comes from Languedoc in the south of France. A mix of haricot beans, different cuts of pork, sausages and duck confit baked with a crispy bread topping, cassoulet is traditionally made in a tall earthenware pot that is narrow at the base and wide at the top to give the maximum amount of crust.
- 90 g dried haricot or cannellini beans
- 1.5 litres veal stock
- 400 g pork neck, sliced into 4 steaks
- 1 small fresh pork hock
- handful thyme sprigs
- 1 head garlic
- 1 piece pork skin (around 20 cm square), scored (optional)
- 200 g piece pork belly
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 3 toulouse sausages (or other quality pork sausages)
- 1 small carrot, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small tomato, finely chopped
- 1 loaf of brioche
- 2 duck marylands
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 thyme sprig, leaves picked
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 garlic clove, bruised
- 400 ml rendered duck fat
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Curing time overnight
Soaking time overnight
Resting time 20 minutes
The day before serving, prepare the duck confit by putting the marylands in a bowl and rubbing them with the salt, thyme, bay leaf and garlic. Refrigerate to cure overnight.
Soak the haricot beans in a bowl covered with plenty of cold water and leave overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 150°C. Rinse the marylands, pat them dry, and place in a small, deep roasting pan. Bring the duck fat to the boil in a saucepan, then pour over the marylands to cover. (Alternatively, if you have an ovenproof saucepan, you could simply submerge the marylands in the saucepan of hot fat.) Bake the duck in the oven for 1½–2 hours or until soft. Remove from oven and leave to cool in the fat.
Bring the stock to a simmer in an ovenproof pot. While it is heating, place a frying pan over medium–high heat and add a generous scoop of fat from the duck. Put the pork-neck steaks into the pan and fry until golden brown on each side. Remove to a plate and brown the pork hock all over and set aside. (Set aside the frying pan to use again later.)
Add the steaks and hock to the simmering stock along with the thyme and whole head of garlic. Lay the pork skin over the top of the meat like a lid to keep the pork moist and ensure the stock doesn’t reduce too quickly (alternatively, you can use a piece of baking paper). Simmer the pork for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, drain the beans and place in a saucepan with fresh water. Bring to the boil, then drain immediately and refresh under cold water.
Add the blanched beans to the pot of pork and stock and simmer for a further hour. (As an alternative to cooking the pork and beans on the stovetop, they can be braised in the oven).
Reheat the oven to 200°C. Rub the pork belly with the salt and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Place the pork on a tray skin-side up. Roast for 25–35 minutes or until the skin is crispy, then remove from the oven and leave to rest.
Reheat the frying pan used to fry the pork (there should still be some fat in the pan) and add the sausages, frying until golden. Add the carrot, onion and tomato and sauté for 5 minutes. Add a splash of stock from the pot of pork and beans and cook until the carrots are soft. Set aside.
Heat a separate frying pan over high heat. Remove the duck from its fat and cut each maryland in half. Place in the pan skin-side down and sear until crisp on each side.
Remove the pork skin from the pot of pork and beans and discard. Take out the pork neck, hock and head of garlic from the pot, and remove the sausages from the frying pan. Take the meat off the hock bone and chop into generous pieces. Slice the pork neck and sausages into chunks. Slice the roasted pork belly into 4 pieces. Return all the sliced meat and the fried duck confit to the pot of beans.
Place the garlic on the chopping board and separate into cloves. Use the side of a knife to squeeze the pulp from each clove, then finely chop the pulp.
Add the garlic puree and vegetables from the frying pan to the pot of meat and beans and stir gently to combine.
Reheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the crusts from the loaf of brioche and discard. Slice the remaining brioche and toast the slices in the oven until golden. Stack the slices on top of each other and dice. Crumble into smaller pieces over the surface of the cassoulet. Bake the cassoulet in the oven for 10 minutes, or until hot through and the crumbs are golden.