This is really a casserole with lamb, though the original cassoulet probably contained fresh broad beans, not the imported dried bean from the Americas. Curing the lamb bellies and softening the beans require advance preparation, but the result is worth it; a sensational, wintery stew. You will need to start this recipe a day ahead.
- 2 lamb bellies, bones attached
- 50 g salt
- 500 g dried broad beans
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 20 g butter
- 1 kg diced lamb shoulder
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp oregano leaves or dried Greek oregano (rigani) (see Note)
- crusty bread, to serve
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 and soaking time overnight
Place lamb bellies in a non-reactive dish, sprinkle evenly with salt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to cure.
Place dried broad beans in a bowl of cold water and leave to soak overnight.
Preheat oven to 150°C. Rinse salt from lamb bellies under cold water, place in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 2 hours or until very tender.
Halfway through lamb cooking, heat half the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Working in batches, cook lamb shoulder, turning occasionally, for 2 minutes or until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
In the same pan, add remaining 1 tbsp oil and 10 g butter, and cook onions, carrots and celery, stirring, for 5 minutes or until starting to colour. This may be a bit tricky depending on how much meat goop is stuck to the pan. Add bay leaf and garlic, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Return lamb shoulder to pan with enough water to just cover and use a wooden spoon to scrape anything stuck to the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to medium–high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium–low and add oregano and 1 tsp salt. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, drain and peel broad beans (if skins are still a bit stuck, blanch in boiling water for a few minutes).
When the baked lamb is ready and cool enough to handle, pull meat from the bones, discarding fat, any sinew and bones. Stir in the roughly torn lamb meat and the broad beans, and cook cassoulet for a further hour or until broad beans and lamb shoulder are tender and the liquid has reduced, but not so the cassoulet is dry. Serve with crusty bread.
• Dried Greek oregano (rigani) is available from delis and select supermarkets.
Photography Alan Benson