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This recipe comes from Chef Jim Fisher who now runs cooking holidays in the Dordogne.

If you would like to know more about Jim and how he gained his love of cooking why not have a look at his biography page <click here>

To find out more about the cooking holidays in France at Jim's cooking school in the Dordogne you will need to visit his web site <click here>

In the south of France, just to the left of Carcassonne and nestling in a wide fertile valley in the Arriege lies the unprepossessing country town of Castelnaudary.

It is pretty, but not a great tourist haunt. It is rather small, and very definitely an 'agricultural' town, yet, it is famous. Why? Well, it happens to be the world capital of . . . cassoulet.

The gastronauts of Castelnaudary - like the majority of proud French bons viveurs - are decidedly protective of their ancient and honourable dish. Here is a cutting from a - sadly lost - French recipe book, faithfully reproduced here:

"First of all, principal ingredients: Beans: one will retain the "lingot" type.

Meats: duck or goose conserves like pure and sausage pig bulge or shoulder with a large natural bowel. To that the pork rind is added essential to the consistence of the bouillon.

To these basic ingredients are added the complements described in the recepy and each cook has his own specialities (in particular the composition of the bouillon). If the beans are dry, one will make them soak one night with cold water; to be disposed of afterwards.

Put the beans in a cold water pan; carry it to the boiling point to bleach the beans during five minutes. This water is to be thrown afterwards too. During this time, prepare a bouillon with the pork rinds cut in broad plates, with the poultry carcass (if you have it) and/or some pig bones and according to your taste a little vegetables such as : onion, carrot, leek. Salt, pepper.

Finally you will add a prepared mince of a little garlic and old salted bacon.

NB: to use a non calcareous water."

Pig bulge? Natural bowel? Who knows? Who would want to, but there's no denying what a wonderful meal cassoulet is. Here's my version . . .


250g dried haricots blanc, soaked in cold water overnight, then boiled for 30 minutes in unsalted water. Drain and reserve.
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly sliced
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
handful of un-stoned black olives
500g ripe plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 dst spoon concentrated tomato puree
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
the juice and pared zest of an orange
a glass of dry white wine
1 smoked duck breast
2 boudin blanc (white sausage, or 'Hog's Pudding')
3 confit duck legs (see recipe Confit d'Canard) separated into drumsticks and thighs
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • In a large saucepan, sweat the onion and garlic until translucent using a little olive oil.
  • Add the paprika, cinnamon, olives, tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs, juice and roughly chopped zest of the orange, the wine, smoked duck breast and boudin blanc.
  • Simmer gently for half an hour, then stir in the haricots blanc and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Add the confit duck legs and warm through.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to rest for half an hour or so.
  • Pile onto serving plates and top each portion with some croutons.

Serves 6

Chef Jim Fisher