Sausage and Bean hot pot? Sacre bleue!!
My Collins French dictionary defines the French word Cassoulet as sausage and bean hot pot. Such a description is enough to restart the Hundred Years War that led to the creation of this iconic French dish.
There are many variants on the Cassoulet and each claim to be the authentic original. The three main contenders are Toulouse, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. These towns are all within easy reach of Chez Maison Bleue. I tend to support Castelnaudary, not only is it closest but is undoubtedly the most devoted. Each year they have a Fete du Cassoulet, a festival in honour of this great dish and organised by Grande Confrerie du Cassoulet (the Brotherhood of the Cassoulet), this years is 21-26 August. According to legend the original Cassoulet was developed to give strength to the soldiers defending the town against the besieging English. After eating this new creation they were so invigorated they charged out of the town and the English fled in panic never to return, except of course, centuries later, as tourists!
So what does it contain, as well as the white haricot beans and Toulouse sausage (everyone seems agreed on this being the sausage to use), there is duck and pork. The classic way of cooking takes 2 days, which is why most people buy it precooked and ready to reheat! The first evening is spent preparing the beans and stock. The main cooking is over several hours and what emerges is a truly gorgeous dish. There is a recipe on the Castelnaudary town website as well as details about the festival. I wonder what would happen if I suggested using Cumberland Sausage?