A Cassoulet for the Tour de France Stage 14
REVEL TO AX 3 DOMAINES
As the cyclists bravely soldier through the later stages of the famous bike race, so the intrepid food bloggers cook, eat and write their way through the same stages of the race in the Winos and Foodies food blog Tour de France! For links to all of the posts on the previous stages of the race, please look here.
My allotted leg of the race takes me through the towns of Revel, Castelnaudry and Mirepoix to the Ax les Thermes resort of Ax 3 Domaines in the Pyrenees, almost on the Spanish border.
No stranger to the Tour de France, having been a stage town 8 times previously, Revel is a small to moderate sized town, 54 kms East of Toulouse, with a population of around 8,500. Located in the Midi Pyrenees Department it is one of the leading organic regions in France today and is noted for it’s cabinet makers, but more famously for it’s weekly market which is held every Saturday under a 14th century roof.
From there we travel on to the pretty market town of Castelnaudry, 50 kms South East of Toulouse, and on an ancient route from Toulouse to the Mediterranean. Castelnaudry is also the self-proclaimed “Capital of Cassoulet” (but more on that later) and the main port on the Canal du Midi.
Moving through the small town of Mirepoix – destroyed by fire in 1289, but rebuilt in 1290 – the riders will find themselves climbing through the Pyrenees to reach their final point for the day, Ax les Thermes. Ax les Thermes is a spa town whose waters were used by the Romans to treat rheumatism and skin diseases. The springs were then developed in the Middle Ages in order to treat soldiers who were returning from the Crusades with leprosy. Hence the unfortunately named “Lepers Pond” where, annually, the locals daube themselves with ashes and bathe! This popular tourist destination boasts a casino, is close enough to Spain for cross-border shopping and is home to the resort which marks the end of the day for the bike racers.
It probably won’t come as any surprise that the dish I have prepared is a cassoulet – a slow cooked dish containing meat and white beans and dating from the 14th century. It is the speciality of this region with, as I mentioned before, Castelnaudry claiming ownership. There are said to be as many cassoulets as there are cooks and the name comes from the name of the pot in which it was cooked. There are quite distinct regional variations in the meat used, but it always contains white beans and always has more beans that meat. The Toulouse dish will generally contain pork and mutton, the Carcassonne variation generally has partridge in it and the Castenaudry dish uses duck confit. In keeping with tradition, I have modified the recipe from several that I looked at and took the liberty of using canned beans because I’m lazy for the sake of convenience. I also used gourmet Italian pork sausages as I was unable to obtain the Toulouse sausage generally used. It cooked all afternoon in my slow-combustion oven, making the kitchen warm, cosy and deliciously fragrant!
For the next stage of the race, please check out http://peasepudding.wordpress.com/
- 2 rashers bacon, chopped
- 30 mls olive oil
- 5 Italian pork sausages
- 4 legs of duck confit
- 600 gms tinned white beans
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, sliced
- 400gms tinned tomatoes
- 500 ml chicken stock
- 1 cup red wine
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 bouquet garni
- 1 1/2 cups toasted breadcrumbs
- Heat oil in heavy based, oven-proof pan, brown sausages, remove. Add chopped onion and carrot and saute until onion is soft, add bacon and fry. Cut sausages up into 3-4 pieces and return to pan with onions etc.
- Add stock, wine, tomatoes, bouquet garni and beans. Stir.
- Push duck legs into bean mix, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cook, covered in slow oven – 150C – for 3 hours.
- Check that the top is crusty and brown before serving!
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