An unofficial New Year’s Resolution is to use our slow cooker at least once a week. The weather seems to lend itself to stews right now, plus in this new term I now need to have tea ready by 4.30pm on Monday and Tuesday.
As a practise run I made a slow cooker Cassoulet yesterday. Cassoulet is a casserole from the Languedoc region of France typically containing a combination of sausages or pork, goose, duck or mutton and haricot beans. The duck is usually ‘confit’ which is salt cured and cooked in it’s own fat. But Evans the Butcher’s in Alresford doesn’t stretch to that, and I’m not sure I would want such a rich ingredient so soon after Christmas, so I just used a pack of two duck legs.
This stew turned out a lot bigger than anticipated, and I estimate it costs little more than £1 a serving.
2 duck legs
6 pork sausages, herby if possible
100g smoky bacon or lardons
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 glass white wine
400ml passata (or liquidised can of tomatoes)
1 chicken stock cube
2 tbsp plain flour
250g haricot, cannelini, or pinto beans (soaked overnight)
1 tbsp olive oil
Large bay leaf
Sprig of rosemary
Soak the beans overnight or for 8 hours. Cassoulet is traditionally made with white beans but I haven’t been able to find any for months now in supermarkets so I used pinto beans. After soaking, drain and bring to the boil in fresh water. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes without the lid on, then simmer for 30 minutes with a lid on. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
Whilst the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the duck legs. When browned place in the warming slow cooker, then lightly brown the sausages, place them in the slow cooker, and finally brown the chopped bacon, onions and garlic and scrape this all into the slow cooker.
Place the frying pan back on the heat and de-glaze with the wine, scraping off all the meaty bits once it starts boiling. Crush the stock cube and dissolve this in the hot wine. Mix the flour thoroughly into the passata and then add to the frying pan together with 2 cans of the cooking water from the beans. Stir the heating tomato mixture and the flour will start to thicken the sauce. Once the sauce starts to bubble, pour over the meat in the slow cooker, add the beans and give a good stir to mix everything in and get all the meat under the sauce. Poke the bay and rosemary into the sauce.
Cook for 7 hours on high, checking every now and then that it is not sticking to the bottom, or overnight/throughout the day on Auto. If concerned it will stick to the slow cooker dish you could always leave out the flour with the passata and instead stir in a tablespoon of cornflour mixed with a little cold water to a double cream consistency 45-30 minutes before the end of cooking time with the slow cooker turned up to high. Have to say though that the cornflour is as yet untested in this household.
Flake the duck flesh off the bone and chop the sausages up to ensure everyone gets a bit of everything. Serve with mash, baked potatoes, garlic bread, whatever! Plus green vegetables or salad.