Tuesday, 2 October 2012


So, I had already bought a variety of cheeses for my fondue from Waitrose - Gruyere, Emmenthal and Comte - to be told in a late afternoon phone call by friend Kumar, that 'sorry dude, I'm on a diet - can we please not have a meal based entirely on cheese?'

Grrr, when will I ever get to use my brand new cast iron fondue set? Dejected, I put the set back in its pristine box and looked around the kitchen for inspiration. I certainly could not be bothered to trek out on another shopping trip, so it looked like fish finger sandwiches (no hardship, I must admit) all round, until I started checking my selection of tinned goods at the back of the larder. I happened upon a large tin of duck confit brought back from Carrefour in Calais on our last weekend jaunt to France and a few tins of cannellini beans. The freezer proffered a pack of Toulouse sausages (from same jaunt) and a small pork belly joint, to be saved for a rainy day. It was a rainy day.

I defrosted the sausages and pork, liberated the duck confit from its fatty coffin and set out to the roof terrace to pick a bunch of parsley from my tiny herb garden. An hour later and the fondue-alternative was almost ready.

Er, one thing: How on earth is cassoulet a healthy alternative to fondue? I gingerly offered it to Kumar, who didn't seem to consider that in a calorie fight, the fondue was probably likely to come out on top. Never mind, the dinner was absolutely amazing and made with close to zero effort. A win.

Budget-wise, the dish came in at a surprisingly reasonable £3 per serving. The mixture of meats in this rustic stew tastes positively luxurious, but for four of us, the shopping bill came to twelve quid. Win win.

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large Toulouse (or other high quality pork) sausages
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
3 x 400g tins of cannellini beans/haricots blanc, drained
1 tablespoon of herbes de Provence, or dried mixed herbs
Pinches of salt and pepper
300g pork belly
1 litre water
4 legs of duck confit (I used tinned, but you could make yours fresh - here is the recipe: Duck Confit)
Fresh parsley, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180c. In an oven-proof casserole, fry the sausages in the oil until lightly browned, and remove from the pan. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and soften. Add the beans, herbs, seasoning, pork belly and water and cover the pan. Cook in the preheated oven for an hour. Remove the pan from the oven, cut the pork belly up into large chunks and return it to the pan with the sausages (cut into two pieces each) and the duck confit, making sure that you bury the meat deeply under the beans. Turn the oven up to 220c and cook the cassoulet, uncovered, for a further hour, until the top forms a golden crust. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

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