Patience is required not only when making a cassoulet, but also when appreciating and savouring it. The preparation time for a real cassoulet toulousain is at least 4 to 6 hours. The main ingredient is the Haricot Tarbais or Coco du Lauragais bean. These little white haricot beans are combined in a smooth mixture of goose confit, knuckle of pork, saucisse de Toulouse, herbs, garlic and nutmeg. The cassoulet is then simmered on the stove at length before being oven-baked several times.
Cassoulet is served piping hot in a cassoul, a terracotta dish, with a generous gratin on top. You have to be patient a little longer, passing the time by inhaling its delicious smell, gently blowing the boiling contents to cool them down and breaking through the gratin crust before finally tucking in and picking out the various flavours, which are both earthy and sweet.
Cassoulet was once the staple diet of Midi country folk who lived around Toulouse. It originated in the Lauragais hills south of Toulouse, where magnificent farms with brick arcades are scattered across the rolling hillsides of rapeseed and sunflower fields. The farmers’ wives of this area are thought to have brought the recipe for cassoulet to Place du Capitole in Toulouse when they went to work as servants for the city’s great merchants in the 16th century.
This wholesome and easily digestible dish, which contains no unhealthy fats, was known for building up the strength of farm labourers. It could feed a whole family all week long, during which time it gently simmered in the fireplace.