Greatest recipes ever: Paula Wolfet’s cassoulet

‘Any recipe that calls for much skimming, only to, at the last post, stir in fresh pork fat whizzed
with raw garlic has to be a good thing’

Fergus Henderson

André Daguin’s Broad Bean Cassoulet

Extract from Paula Wolfet’s The Cooking of South West France

Published by Grub Street in 1999

According to Robert Courtine, the French food authority, before white beans were cultivated in France, broad beans were used to make this dish, so Daguin’s version is the ‘original’ cassoulet.

To serve 8


4 drumstick-thigh portions Confit of Duck, split at the joint
4-4.5kg broad beans in their pods
875g-1kg white onions, peeled
750g lean fresh pork side or belly, cut into 4cm dice, or a piece of bacon, blanched
10 minutes in plenty of water, rinsed, drained and diced
Freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp sugar
175g fresh pork skin with 6mm layer of hard fat attached, or substitute skin from pork side, back fat, or pork belly
900ml unsalted chicken stock, thoroughly degreased
1 leek, trimmed, well washed and left whole
2 small stalks celery, chopped
6 small stalk celery, tied in a bundle
5 firm cloves of garlic, peeled


Four hours before cooking, set out crock of confit in a warm room or deep pan of warm water to soften fat. Shell beans and discard pods. Slip off and discard the heavy skin of 175g of the beans; set skinned beans apart. (Not skinning all the beans turns the cassoulet dark in colour.)

Scrape fat off duck confit and reserve meat and fat. Sauté onions in 225g of the reserved confit fat in a large flameproof casserole for 4-5 minutes, stirring. Add diced pork or bacon and a sprinkling of pepper; sauté over moderate heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the peeled beans and sugar. (The starchiness of the beans will act as a liaison for the cooking juices.) Cover pan tightly and cook beans slowly for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, simmer pork skin in water to cover until supple, for 10-20 minutes. Drain it, roll it up, and tie it with string.

To the casserole of meat and broad beans, add stock, remaining beans, rolled pork skin, leek, celery and garlic. Bring to the boil and skim carefully. Reduce heat, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper or foil pricked in 2-3 places with the tines of a fork, and simmer for 1½ hours. Place pieces of duck confit in a colander set over a pan of boiling water (or use a steamer or couscous cooker).

Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Remove duck, allow to cool, then remove skin and bones. Set aside, covered with foil to keep meat moist.

Preheat oven to 300˚F/150˚C/Gas Mark 2. Remove rolled pork skin from ragôut and cut into slices. Unroll slices and line a 3-3½-litre earthenware baking and serving dish with skin, fat side down. (The skin side sticks.) Place pieces of duck on top.

Discard leek and bundles of celery from ragôut. With a slotted spoon, transfer beans to baking dish, leaving cooking juices in pan. Skim off fat. Pour enough of the cooking juices over the duck and beans to cover. Reserve remaining juices. Loosely cover dish with foil and set in preheated oven.

After 20 minutes’ baking, spoon off all the fat that rises to the top; there will be about 250ml. Then, add enough reserved cooking juices to keep beans moist. After one hour’s baking, remove foil and allow a crust to form on the top, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

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