Clear out cassoulet

I cook from recipes, which I get from cook books, tear out of newspapers and magazines, or copy off friends. Each recipe has its own selection of different ingredients, at times particular to that recipe alone and incompatible with any other. The result? Every now and then, I find myself with a selection of ingredients that, because they were not fully used in their particular recipe, are never used again. What a waste.

On this occasion, I found myself with a surplus of, among other things, broad beans, thyme and tomatoes. Having no idea what to do with them, I glanced through my flavour thesaurus to see if there was a dish that could use them.

In the thyme section, I chanced by a recipe contained in an amusing anecdote about the author's stay in France during a rain-sodden holiday. She wrote of putting oil into a cast-iron pot, adding sausages, roughly sliced onions and "a jar of sinister looking beans", with a sprig of thyme, some garlic, salt, pepper and a slug of wine. She placed the pot in a hot oven until she took it out and dined happily on a dish that she described loosely as a cassoulet.

No measures or cooking times were given in this story, but it was inspiring enough for me to raid the larder and fridge for a number of ingredients, with one or two additions bought from local shops:

a large glass of red wine
two large tomatoes
a pack of eight sausages (bought)
a head of garlic
a bunch of thyme
two large onions (bought)
a head of broccoli
half a bag of frozen broad beans

I adapted the author's instructions where necessary, frying the chopped garlic and onions for about five minutes in hot oil until soft, adding the chopped sausages for another five minutes of frying and adding the chopped broccoli and chopped tomatoes after for another two minutes.

Pouring in the glass of red wine, I then dropped in the thyme and the frozen beans before I brought the whole lot to the boil. All this time, I had been heating the oven to 180ÂșC. I took the pot off the heat and placed it into the oven for about 30 minutes. I had no idea if I was doing the right thing, so I took my mind off the venture with some ironing.

Half an hour later, I braved the pot to take a look:

Well... it looked cooked, if a little unattractive, but smelt lovely. I added it to some newly cooked sticky basmati rice and it was delicious.


In fact, I liked it so much that I made it again the following week, with slightly different ingredients including some herbs from my garden:

a large glass of red wine

the rest of the frozen broad beans
one large onion (bought)
four cloves of garlic
ten sage leaves (garden)
a sprig of thyme (garden)
a pack of eight sausages (bought)

My method was similar to before, with the onions, garlic and sausages being fried before adding the wine and the rest of the ingredients, bringing them to the boil and placing them in a hot oven. Again, I was unsure that this was the precise method, but the result went exceptionally well with a plate of rice.

Yum, part two.

On researching cassoulets, I found that the dish is a rich, slow-cooked casserole. I found further details of deglazed pots, white beans and aromatic vegetables. I may return to this dish to cook it properly, maybe eschewing frying to rely entirely on a slow oven, or simmering the whole lot on the hob. But for now, this remains a great way to free up much valuable larder and fridge space.