Heaven on a Plate

Thursday 30/6/2005

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Diary and Notes

Firstly today's rant. I got a note from a friend in Germany (who I shant mention for fear of getting him into trouble) who said that he'd just been to lunch with his work colleagues and one of them spent about 45 minutes eating a plate of pasta and cheese sauce. Apparently he chewed every single piece of pasta at least ten times, slowly and methodically, driving my friend to absolute fuming anger. He was quite livid and I think this ruined his entire day. It's bad enough having to go to lunch with your work colleagues, but sitting and watching one of them masticating over and over again can't be fun.

I replied saying that as far as I could tell, people who eat slowly are invariably really boring. I believe this to be almost universally true. I also suggested that next time my friend start stealing bits of food off the other man's plate to hurry him along a bit.

I too find people eating too slowly really irritating. It is surely a sign of some deep seated anality and is the sort of behaviour reserved for deputy headmasters and people who think there's no more fun that can be had on a Sunday than to do some knitting whilst listening to radio 4.

I am not saying everyone should wolf down their food like the Simpsons, but at least you know they are enjoying what they're eating. Chew chew chew chew, if you sit opposite me doing that I'll punch you in the face. Then you'll have an excuse for eating so slowly, a broken jaw.

Anyway. It wasn't my rant originally so I shall stop there.

Today's dinner was one of my favourite things in the whole wide and beautiful world. It's not cheap, one of the ingredients can't be bought in normal shops (I had to go to Harvey Nichols, even Selfridges didn't have any confit de canard) and it takes a while to cook. It is however really fool proof simple and absolutely delicious. Cassoulet, or to be more precise, Cassoulet de Castelnaudary - the only true cassoulet.

I love cassoulet. It must be one of the greatest inventions of all mankind. I used to cook it quite often (before my Nosh-Blog) and would make various types, sometimes tomato flavoured, changing the meat or sausages, trying different herbs and spices but it always comes out great. I have noticed that the real traditional type of cassoulet is a bit much for the British who find it a bit overwhelming. Most people think it's delicious but can't eat more than about half a portion before becoming overpowered by the richness of the thing. In order to overcome this, drink loads of red wine (we had a chateauneuf du pape and a cotes du rhone) and you'll be in heaven.

The cassoulet below is pretty traditional except I used canned beans. I couldn't get any Toulouse sausage so had to go for some saucisson sec - it was still mighty fine beans, mighty fine beans indeed.

Cake Blog

Tarte au Citron: You can't get much better than a tart au citron after a plate of beans.


  • Paté de Fois Gras

  • Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
  • Potatoes Roasted in Duck Fat
  • French Bread (Boule)

  • Tarte au Citron


    Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
    2 Onions
    1 Carrot
    2 Slices Pork Belly
    2 Cloves Garlic
    1 Can Haricot Beans
    1 Bunch Fresh Thyme
    2 Bay Leaves
    2 Cloves
    2 Rashers Bacon
    2 Pieces Confit de Canard
    Black Pepper
    50g Breadcrumbs
    50g Saucisson Sec
    200ml Chicken Stock
    1 Tbsp Duck Fat


  • Prepare the beans: Prick one of the onions with the cloves. Place this onion in the stock along with the pork belly (cut into halves), the bay leaves, the thyme and the beans (drained), cut the saucisson into thick 1cm slices and add to the beans. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  • In a separate pan, heat a spoonfull of duck fat. Slice the onion and carrot (quite thinly) and dice the bacon. Fry these in the duck fat for a minute or so then add the minced garlic. Fry gently until soft. Lay the confit de canard (drained of the duck fat which you can use to roast some potatoes) in a casserole dish and pour over first the contents of the frying pan then the beans pan. Cover with foil (or a lid) and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the lid, sprinkle over the breadrumbs and bake for a further 15 minutes to brown the breadcrumbs.


    *All quantities are very approximate and for two people