It is said that you can buy anything online these days…well, it would seem so. Last week I ordered a fresh authentic Cassoulet from Castelnaudary! On the opposite side of France to the Haute Savoie. Castelnaudary is THE home of Cassoulet in France and during the summer whilst cruising on the canal du midi we made an overnight stop in this delightful town. Walking around the streets we came across a wonderful traditional looking shop called Maison Escudier and being one that can never resist a good-looking food shop I had to go inside!
The History of Cassoulet
The origins of Cassoulet date from Medieval times or maybe before. It was called a stew back then being a dish of meat in sauce simmered over a fire. A major work on cookery was published in the 14th century: “Le Viandier”, written by Taillevant. He devotes great attention to paté and stews, including mutton and pork stew with broad beans. Cookery historians believe that Taillevant may have been inspired by a work written in Arabic by al-Baghdadi in 1226, describing highly refined cuisine which includes a recipe for mutton stew with white broad beans. The work indicates how to use spices, herbs, pulses and mutton. Some historians think that cassoulet has Arabian origins. And that it may have been the Arabs who introduced the white beans to the south of France in the 7th Century.
Another source in history attributes this stew originating from the Hundred Years War. During this war, the siege of the town by the English threatened starvation so the locals pooled all of their food sources to feed the soldiers. Bacon fat, pork, broad beans, sausages and meat were all stewed together in a large pan. Reinvigorated by this meal, the soldiers drove the English out of the Lauragais region and all the way to the English Channel!
Maison Escudier was established in 1920 and is still a family run business today. All of the products they sell are made from the finest quality ingredients sourced in the South West of France. They make their renowned Cassoulet, available in jars and tins and also sold freshly made with either confit of duck or goose. They make and sell Foie Gras, pâté, confit, magret, gésiers de Canard and charcuterie and they have a small selection of local wines.
When I visited Maison Escudier in the summer, I bought a
My Cassoulet arrived, and I carefully tipped it into the
As Cassoulet is an entire meal in one pot, it doesn’t need much accompaniment. It is great served with a green salad and crusty French bread. The wine to serve with this hearty dish would be a powerful and fruity wine from the region of Castelnaudary, maybe a Fitou, Corbières or Minervois.
I thought I’d like to try making my own Cassoulet sometime but now I’ve discovered this one that can be delivered right to my door and it’s an authentic delicious one from the town that calls itself the world capital for Cassoulet – that works for me! I have included a recipe for Cassoulet at the end of this post for those who would like to try. Why not go
Castelnaudary itself is on the Canal du Midi and is the capital of the Lauragais region. In Roman Times Castelnaudary was a staging post. It is around 50 kilometres from Toulouse and 40 kilometres from Carcassonne. It is the main port of the Canal du Midi and has a huge Grand Bassin of nearly 7 hectares which is the largest open water area of the canal. The Canal du Midi was officially opened at Castelnaudary on 19 May 1681.
On the canal at Castelnaudary is one of the only 2 exceptional multiple canal locks. The 4 locks of St. Roch or as it is better known Les 4 écluses St. Roch is the only lock with 4 chambers. These were an incredible sight to see and even more exciting to pass through them all. This is a staircase lock and if entering the lock travelling direction east to west on leaving the 4thchamber you arrive in the Grand Bassin. Then you go through a bridge and tie up alongside right in the town.
Recipe for Cassoulet
For 4 people
- 350 to 400 g of white kidney beans (preferably from the Lauragais region).
- 2 confit ducks or goose legs, cut in two.
- 4 pieces (80g) of pure pork Toulouse sausage.
- 4 pieces (50g) of pork from the knuckle, shoulder or breast.
- 250 g of pork rind, half to be used after cooking for serving the cassoulet.
- A little salted pork fat.
- 1 chicken carcass or a few bones of pork, plus onions and carrots.
The day before: Soak the beans overnight in cold water.
The next day:Pour away the water, place the beans in a large saucepan with three litres of water and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, pour away the water and set aside the beans.
While the beans are cooking, prepare the meat:
- In a large frying pan, brown the confit over a low heat and set aside.
- In the remaining fat, fry the Toulouse sausages and set aside.
- Fry the pieces of pork, which should be nice and golden, and set them aside with the rest of the meat.
- Drain the beans and keep the stock warm. Add a few cloves of garlic and twice their weight in salted lard, all mashed together, to the beans.
Assembling the Cassoulet: Use a deep earthenware dish formerly known as a “cassolo” (and today, a “Cassole”), which gave its name to cassoulet, or failing that, a fairly deep earthenware dish that can be used in the oven.
- Spread the bottom of the dish with the pork rind
- add about a third of the beans
- place the meat on top and then add the rest of the beans
- Add the sausages, pushing them into the beans, but with the top of the sausages still visible
- Finally, pour the hot stock into the Cassole, just enough to cover the beans
- Add pepper to the surface and a tablespoon of duck fat used to fry the meat.
- Put in the oven at 150°/160° (Thermostat 5 or 6) and cook for two to three hours.
- During the cooking a golden-brown crust forms at the top of the Cassole, which needs to be pushed down several times (seven times, the old folk say).
- When the top of the beans starts to dry out, add a few spoonfuls of stock.
If you make the cassoulet the day before, it will need to be reheated at 150° for an hour and a half before serving. Don’t forget to add a little stock or, if there is none left, a few spoonfuls of water.
The cassoulet should be served piping hot in its
Have you made Cassoulet? what did you think of this dish? – let me know in the comments below
Dining in Castelnaudary
On a previous visit to Castelnaudary having checked with Trip Advisor for the best Cassoulet to try in a restaurant we booked a table at Le Tirou Restaurant and enjoyed their menu de Mon Pays – a great value 3-course menu at €35,00 where we enjoyed a selection of local dishes from the region including the Cassoulet. They have a boutique called Le Coustelous where you can buy their own locally made produce.
Le Tirou Restaurant
90 Avenue Mgr de Langle,
Téléphone : 04 68 94 15 95
11 ruede Dunkerque – 11400 CASTELNAUDARY
Tél. /Fax. 04 68 23 12 79
Monday – Friday: 8h00 – 12h30 – 14h00 – 19h30
Saturday: 8h00 – 12h30 – 15h00 – 19h30
Sunday: 8h30 – 13h00
Why not pin this for your next visit to Castelnaudary!
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I love the regional dishes I encounter on my journey through France and the history behind them – have you discovered any favourite foods in France? do let me know in the comments below – I’m always looking for new foods to try!