Christopher Trotter’s Cheat’s Cassoulet

You may have noticed the low and slow theme recently. As well as oxtail and  beef short ribs, my haul from Balgove Farm included a good chunk of pork belly. That's currently in the freezer, but with an offspring scheduled to visit soon, the mind is turning over what to do with it. A few years ago I published a recipe for pork char siu, sticky and unctuously wonderful, even if I couldn't find red bean curd. That's a possibility; however, if you seek inspiration on any matter porcine, I counsel you to turn to The Whole Hog, a terrific cook book by my good friend Christopher Trotter and co-writer Carol Wilson.

The idea of cassoulet was flashing in the brain. While I once made a (very tasty) hotch potch of a dish which I pretentiously named Scottish cassoulet, I've never had a go at the real thing. Christopher's recipe for a traditional cassoulet is mind boggling, but he very obligingly includes a recipe entitled Cheat's Cassoulet. Definitely on the radar. Be aware that you need to start this at least the day before to allow the beans to soak. Even better, start two days before and reheat.

Ingredients (the authors say it serves 4 - they'd have to be good trencherfolk)

200g dried white beans; 4 duck legs; 400g pork belly; 2 tbsp lard; 1 large onion, chopped; 2 carrots, diced; 1 large leek, washed, trimmed and diced; 3 cloves of garlic, crushed; 1 bay leaf; 2 x 400g tins of tomatoes; 1 tsp tomato purée; 200g cured garlic sausage (left whole); s & p ; chopped parsley to garnish.

(The authors suggest possible variations in ingredients. Pheasant legs in place of duck. (Not for me, thanks). Diced shoulder of pork instead of belly; salami or local sausage in place of garlic sausage.)


Rinse the beans in cold water, checking for any impurities. Soak overnight in cold water. The following day, preheat your oven to 230˚C/Mark 8. Drain the beans and put in a pan with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile season the duck legs and pork belly with a little s & p. Put in a roasting tin with the lard and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, basting twice. Transfer to a casserole. Drain the beans and put them on top of the meat. Brown the onions, carrot and leeks in the fat from the roasting tin. It's probably easiest to transfer the fat to a frying pan and brown on the stove, but you could put the veg in the roasting tin and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes. I think I'd prefer to keep and eye on them..

Once browned, transfer them to your casserole along with the garlic, bay leaf, tomatoes, tomato purée and garlic sausage. Reduce the oven temperature to 190˚C/Mark 5. Add just enough water to cover your ingredients. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Transfer your casserole to the oven and cook for three hours. Turn the ingredients occasionally and make sure it doesn't dry out, adding a little hot stock or water if necessary.

When everything is cooked, remove the pork belly and sausage and cut into chunks. Return

Christopher Trotter

them to the pan and reheat on a simmer to get the desired consistency - a sort of coating sauce. To serve, sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley.

Thanks to Christopher Trotter for permission to reproduce his recipes. Christopher is Fife’s Food

Ambassador. He has produced an invaluable series of vegetable books in addition to The Whole Hog and The Whole Cow. To buy his books or learn more, go to his website.

Dave Myers 1957 - 2024: An appreciation

As I'm sure everyone will be aware, Dave Myers, one half of The Hairy Bikers, died on Wednesday. He was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, but recovered sufficiently to make one last series, The Hairy Bikers Go West, which is currently being shown on the BBC. I never met the man - I did once say hello to Si King in Heathrow Airport - but what comes across in all the many tributes is that he just was a genuinely nice bloke, devoid of airs and graces. While the two of them described themselves as cooks, not chefs, their many cook books are crammed with recipes which are both authentic and achievable for the amateur. The Hairy Bikers are my favourites of the current TV cooks, and their programmes will be shown for many years to come. Condolences to Dave's family and to Si.


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