February…… It’s cold, our purse strings may still be a little tight after the festive period and most of us have given up on the ‘New Year, new me’ crazy diets (I never bought into that one personally). What February needs is sausages!
I was recently very fortunate to receive a wonderful delivery of speciality sausages from my friend John Gower of Quiet Waters Farm, and I wanted to make the most of them all, so expect a few more sausage recipes in the near future :)
Whether you call it a cassoulet or a casserole, this so called ‘peasant dish’ is just the soul warming, hearty comfort food solution to a cold, grey February day. Even if this time of year does carry with it the promise of longer, lighter days, it just so happened it was pouring with rain when I made this!
The Quiet Waters Toulouse sausages are their take on the famous Haute-Garonne recipe, with white wine, garlic and fresh white pepper. I urge you to check out their wonderful website and online shop, it’s a foodie’s treasure trove!
Now I should stress here that this is my cheats version of a cassoulet, with some additions and ommisions that may be frowned upon by connoisseurs. I’m cooking a dish that is very much a French obsession and taking a few short cuts that would have eyes rolling no doubt. Tomatoes for instance, would never appear in a classic cassoulet, but I like them for colour and flavour. Also pork rind and confit duck are commonly used, which I have omitted. My version is nevertheless, a tasty and comforting dish that we as a family enjoy. And that for me is what cooking is about…. making food to please your specific audience. So as always I urge you to tweak!!
Serves 4 hearty appetites.
1 tbsp light olive oil
6 slices of dry cured smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A small bunch each of thyme and rosemary, tied with cooking string
A couple of bay leaves
Toulouse sausages, I had 5 huge ones to use for this recipe
400g tinned tomatoes
1 heaped tbsp sun dried tomatoe purée
500ml vegetable stock
2 x 400g tins of cannelini beans
A small bunch of fresh, flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
You’ll need a heavy, flameproof casserole dish with a lid for this recipe and get your oven preheated to around 120˚c/250˚f.
Heat the oil in the casserole dish and fry off the bacon until nicely browned and the fat rendered. Remove the bacon and set aside, leaving the fat behind. Add the sausages to the remaining oil and rendered bacon fat and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside with the bacon.
Remove all but a tablespoon of fat from the casserole dish and fry off the vegetables until browned. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the herbs, bacon, beans, tomatoes, tomato purée, stock and a good pinch of cracked black pepper (no salt at this stage) and stir everything to combine. Pop the sausages on top and place the casserole dish in the oven, uncovered to begin with, for an hour.
After an hour, check the cassoulet and give it a gentle stir. Flip the sausages over and place back in the oven for a further hour until the beans are tender and the sauce reduced.
Slice the sausages to make them go further and serve in deep bowls with lots of crusty bread.