Cassoulet from Castelnaudary

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!

Castelnaudary on the Canal du Midi
Castelnaudary on the Canal du Midi

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.

Cassoulet from Maison Escudier
Cassoulet from Maison Escudier

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!

The Mairie in Castelnaudary
The Mairie in Castelnaudary

Maison Escudier

Maison Escudier in Castelnaudary
Maison Escudier in Castelnaudary

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 Cassole – this is the traditional earthenware pot for cooking a Cassoulet in.  The Cassoles were originally made in Issel by an Italian potter in 1377, a small village only 8km from Castelnaudary.  So last week as it seems a more appropriate time of year to be eating a hearty French bean stew now, I ordered a fresh Cassoulet for 6 people to be delivered vacuum packed.  It is possible to order the fresh Cassoulet with the Cassole pot.

My purchases at Maison Escudier
My purchases at Maison Escudier

Cassoulet

My Cassoulet arrived, and I carefully tipped it into the Cassole and cooked it for 1 ½ hours I the oven. This dish was absolutely delicious.  I ordered the classic Cassoulet with duck leg confit, Toulouse sausage, shoulder of pork and haricot lingot (the white kidney bean) from Lauragais all cooked in a very flavourful sauce/gravy.  The fresh Cassoulet has a shelf life of 21 days stored in the fridge and it can be frozen for up to 6 months.

Cassoulet arrived vacuum packed
Cassoulet arrived vacuum packed

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.

Serving the Cassoulet and finding all the slow cooked pieces of meat inside
Serving the Cassoulet and finding all the slow cooked pieces of meat inside!

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 to  the annual Cassoulet festival in Castelnaudary the last weekend of August and try this dish for yourself!

In The Grand Bassin at Castelnaudary about to go under the bridge
In The Grand Bassin at Castelnaudary about to go under the bridge

Castelnaudary

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. 

The Grand Bassin in Castelnaudary after coming through the 4 locks of St. Roch
The Grand Bassin in Castelnaudary after coming through the 4 locks of St. Roch

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.

In the lock of St. Roch
In the lock of St. Roch

Recipe for Cassoulet

Taken fromThe Castelnaudary Tourisme website

For 4 people

INGREDIENTS

  • 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.

METHOD

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.

Cooking :

  • 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.

VERY IMPORTANT!
The cassoulet should be served piping hot in its Cassole. Serve carefully without stirring it, as it will taste even better

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,
11400 Castelnaudary
Téléphone : 04 68 94 15 95


MaisonESCUDIER
11 ruede Dunkerque – 11400 CASTELNAUDARY
Tél. /Fax. 04 68 23 12 79

Opening Hours
Monday – Friday: 8h00 – 12h30 – 14h00 – 19h30
Saturday: 8h00 – 12h30 – 15h00 – 19h30
Sunday: 8h30 – 13h00

Why not pin this for your next visit to Castelnaudary!

Cassoulet from Castelnaudary - Taste of Savoie
Cassoulet from Castelnaudary – Taste of Savoie

Follow me on my culinary and pictorial adventure on Twitter @tasteofsavoie and Instagram
Please keep up to date and like my facebook pages:
 Taste of Savoie and Caro Blackwell-Sights of Savoie
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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!

5 thoughts on “Cassoulet from Castelnaudary

  • November 26, 2018 at 8:49 am
    Permalink

    Fascinating to learn the possible history of cassoulet and also more about beautiful Castelnaudary. Looks like the one you ordered was great but the home made one appeals the most!

    Reply
    • November 26, 2018 at 10:45 am
      Permalink

      And now I’ve tasted the authentic Cassoulet from Castelnaudary I want to try and make my own – hope it will be as good!

      Reply
  • November 26, 2018 at 9:11 am
    Permalink

    What a fantastic post! I loved reading the history (or histories) behind the dish! I am always so intrigued to learn about dishes that have been there for centuries. I love thinking that I can taste the same kind of stuff that people used to eat in the middle ages.

    Reply
    • November 26, 2018 at 10:47 am
      Permalink

      Thank you – I love exploring France and all the different regional cuisines here

      Reply
  • November 27, 2018 at 7:01 am
    Permalink

    Thank you for this detailed, very enlightening post! It was lovely knowing about the history of cassoulet, a dish I have only ever read about in books. 🙂

    Reply

I love receiving your comments and feedback thank you!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: