1kg dried haricot beans
2 carrots, cut in half
8 bay leaves
4 good sprigs fresh thyme
8 garlic cloves
900g pork belly, skin removed
1/2 large or 1 small shoulder of lamb
2 large duck breasts, skin removed
8 Toulouse sausages
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 celery sticks, washed and chopped
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato purée
10 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and roughly chopped
300ml dry white wine
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
1. Two days before serving, put the beans into a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold water to soak. The next day, drain the beans and put in a large saucepan so that the beans come no more than halfway up the side.
2. Cut 2 of the onions in half, stud each half with 2 cloves and add to the pan. Add the carrot, 4 bay leaves, 2 thyme sprigs and 4 whole garlic cloves. Cut the pork belly into generous bite-size pieces and add to the pan. Cover everything with plenty of cold water and bring to the boil. Skim off any white scum, reduce the heat, cover and cook for 1 hour 20 minutes. Drain the cooking liquid, reserving 300ml. Cool, then cover and chill. Discard the studded onion, carrot, bay leaves, thyme and garlic. Put the cooked beans and pork into a bowl. Leave to cool, then cover and chill in the fridge overnight.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160ºC/fan140ºC/gas 3. Trim off any excess fat from the lamb and cut into generous bite-size pieces. Cut each duck breast into 4 pieces. Cut each sausage into 3 or 4 pieces. Finely chop the remaining onions and crush the remaining garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large roasting tin on the hob, add the lamb, duck and sausage and brown all over (cook in batches). Add the chopped onion, garlic and celery to the browned meat in the roasting tin and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. Add the tomato purée and stir well. Add the tomatoes, wine, remaining thyme and bay leaves. Season and bring to the boil. Cover with foil and braise in the oven for 11/2 hours until tender. Remove and leave to cool. Cover and chill overnight.
4. On the day of serving, remove all the ingredients from the fridge and preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan160ºC/ gas 4. Take a 7-litre ovenproof dish and put a layer of beans and pork in the bottom, then follow with a layer of the braised meat and tomato mixture. Repeat until both mixtures are used up. Pour the reserved bean water over, then cover with foil and cook for 11/2 hours in the oven. Top with the breadcrumbs, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for a further 45 minutes. Alternatively, take 8 x 15cm clean terracotta flower pots (if they have a hole in them, cover the base with foil). After cooking the cassoulet for 11/2 hours, spoon into the pots, top with breadcrumbs, drizzle with oil and bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve in the pots.
- A fairly young, rich red such as a southern French Syrah would add to the comforting qualities here.