Mark Greenaway recipe: French Cassoulet

And here's how it should look. Pic: Malcolm McCurrach
And here's how it should look. Pic: Malcolm McCurrach
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This week’s recipe is the French cassoulet – but it wouldn’t be a Mark Greenaway recipe without a Scottish twist!

The classic dish of cassoulet originated in Languedoc in the south-west of France, and was created by mistake. In 1355, the besieged townspeople gathered together all of their remaining foods to cook a large stew and the outcome was better than they had expected. The invention was then named cassoulet, after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole.

All cassoulets are traditionally made with white beans, duck or goose confit, sausages and additional meat which can differ depending on which region the recipe is from.

It has been said that the French almost have an obsession with this dish, they even have an academy dedicated to it. The Academie Universelle du cassoulet, based in Languedoc, brings together more than 100 chefs who share their ideas and tips on the dish – maybe we should have something similar for haggis?

Today, you can buy cassoulet in cans from any supermarket, although it is often lacking in ingredients, and taste. This recipe will show you how to make your own meaty, hearty cassoulet at home, and I promise it really isn’t that difficult. Also, if you are looking for a lovely free range chicken for the cassoulet I can highly recommend Hugh Grierson, based just five miles outside of Perth.

Ingredients

Makes 4

4 free-range chicken breasts (skin on)

200g white cassoulet beans

2 carrots washed and peeled and cut into large dice

1 onion (peeled and cut into 8 wedges)

2 sticks celery chopped into one-inch lengths

100g smoked bacon joint

1 spoonful of roughly chopped parsley

200ml chicken stock

1/2 bottle of your favourite white wine

25g butter

METHOD

Wash the beans and drain all the water from them.

Sweat off the vegetables in the butter gently until they become a little soft but with no colour.

Deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the beans then bacon piece.

Add chicken stock and simmer for one hour or until the beans become soft but not mushy – you may need a little more chicken stock if the beans become a little dry.

Take out the bacon joint and chop roughly then add it back into the beans.

Add parsley.

In a non-stick pan roast the chicken breasts skin side down until the skin becomes golden brown.

Cook the chicken in a moderate oven (180C) for about 15 minutes until cooked through.

Serve the cassoulet on the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves. Or alternatively spoon the cassoulet into bowls with the chicken on top and a wee sprinkling of parsley just to finish the dish.