It is always frustrating to be tempted by a hearty French cassoulet in the middle of the Midi summer, which is when most of us get to visit the southern half of France. It must surely be appreciated best on days such as these mid-winter grey cold days, And, just in case you harbour the illusion that the Midi is always sunny and mild, beware it can get pretty cold and miserable over there too – Toulouse airport and numerous main autoroutes were closed last week due to heavy snow!

But back to Cassoulet – it is essentially a bean and meat casserole, the contents of which vary from town to town. Traditionally regarded as originating from the town of CASTELNAUDRY (11 Aude, Languedoc) between Toulouse and Carcassonne, it usually features goose or duck meat, sometines the confit of goose or duck. The constant ingredient is the white haricot bean together with onion, tomato, garlic etc – the variability is in the meat content – in Castelnaudry it tends to be predominantly pork; in Toulouse lamb and Toulouse sausage are often added; and in Carcassonne they even add partridge (perdrix)! it is a meal in itself, and one which can be very filling and very tasty.

We’ve just come across a new supplier of quality Cassoulet and other goodies in the UK from JULIEN DE PROVENCEwho imports from both Provence and the Lot – so Cassoulet, Confit, Foie Gras and Terrines from the South West; Tapenade, Anchoiade, Rouille and “Vegetable Caviars” from Provence – delights you will seldom find down the local supermarket.

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