Each July when we celebrate our French heritage, we revisit some traditional recipes. While French chefs have lead the way when it comes to classic techniques and recipes, there is much more to French cuisine than the picture perfect pâtisserie, soufflé and confit - in fact, the best known French recipes are for rustic and hearty dishes such as Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon and Cassoulet.
Cassoulet is a hearthy, country stew from the Lanquedoc region in Southern France. While it can be considered a humble dish, it is complex in flavour and has many regional interpretations. Its name is from the word cassole that refers to the earthenware container in which it is traditionally made.
The story goes that during the siege of the French town Castelnaudary by Edward, the Black Prince of Wales (1355) during the Hundred Year War, the town's people came together to cook a stew to feed and motivate their soldiers. Combining all the ingredients they had available, the meal was so rich and delicious that it energised the soldiers who managed to drive away the English.
This is the romantic history of Cassoulet, but as with other traditional dishes, the recipe developed with the history of the country and area. Because of trade relations between France and the Arabian countries, Arabian stews had an influence on the food of France. The travels of Columbus also introduced white haricot beans from America to France. Then French queen, Catherine de Medici encouraged the importation and eventual cultivation of these beans in south-west France.
Cassoulet's recipe depends on the available ingredients and therefore the dish differs from area to area, town to town. Different types of meat or beans are used, different quantities of fat are required and some recipes use bread crumbs and others not. The three best known versions of the Cassoulet comes from the towns Castelnaudary (using duck or goose, pork shoulder and sausage as well as a bread crumb layer on top), Carcassone (using duck or goose that can be replace with partridge, pork and sausage and often also mutton) and Toulouse (using duck, pork and Toulouse sausages as well as lamb shoulder).
The French can be quite passionate about what the typical Cassoulet is - there is even an Order of Cassoulet with special gatherings and uniforms! One of the reasons why Cassoulet is so special, is that it is the perfect dish to share. Regardless of the recipe or preferences, this dish is the perfect plat à partager or plate to share. (Read more)
It is this spirit of sharing that Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche experienced when, as a young and hungry winemaker in France, a Frenchman shared a plate of Cassoulet with him. Since that experience he has been trying his own hand at making Cassoulet using local ingredients - he has even used guinea fowl in stead of duck! (Click here for his recipe)
With a more traditional focus, Chef Eric Bulpitt has also included a Cassoulet on Pierneef à La Motte Restaurant's French-inspired menu. His recipe is based on the Castelnaudary style with a crunchy bread crumb topping. (Click here for his recipe)
Cassoulet is such a rich and flavoursome meal that it requires wine with backbone! Edmund loves the versatility and body of 2017 La Motte Syrah to accompany the complex flavours of the dish. For Eric, a classic Bordeaux style wine with an intricate tannin structure is exactly what his dish need and he pours generous glasses of 2018 La Motte Millennium when his dish is served.
Celebrate French tradition with your family and friends, plus stand a chance to win by sharing our cassoulet post when you follow us on social media! You could win enough fine La Motte wine for a table of eight, as well as a French-inspired virtual wine tasting – ideal for kicking off your dinner party.
- Join us at La Motte from 16 July for a French-inspired lunch-time menu. The La Motte Farm Shop will have a decadent array of pâtisserie and breads such as Baguettes and Pain de campagne.
- Enjoy a French lifestyle at home with a 10% discount on our Bordeaux-inspired 2018 La Motte Millennium and 2017 La Motte Méthode Cap Classique. Valid for the month of July on online orders that will be delivered as soon as Covid-regulations allow.