Karam’s French Cassoulet, Indo-African Style

[singlepic id=1299 w=120 h=40 float=right]The French are known to say their Cassoulet is a famous French dish, and that it has to be served with extreme caution, as eating it may cause a facial flush due to extreme ecstasy. They also claim that guests are known to fall in love with the cook, which may lead to amorous liaisons. The village of Castelnaudary is known to be the official Cassoulet capital of the world. If you are traveling between Toulouse and Carcassonne, you can stop at this beautiful village and have a delicious, filling Cassoulet lunch or dinner. The Toulouse region has it’s own recipe for Cassoulet.

[singlepic id=1290 w=220 h=140 float=left]Food culinary historians argue that Cassoulet appeared after the discovery of the new world by Christopher Columbus – he discovered the beans that make up the dish. Whatever the history, it’s a kind of bean stew with sausages, bacon and pork meat chunks. Others say that during the 100 years war (1337 – 1453), when Castelnaudary was under siege, the Mayor of the city ordered the preparation of a dish made up of all the foods available, so the besieged could keep a full stomach. Finally some think that the Cassoulet was brought by the Arabs during the 12th century. They brought with them the white broad bean, which they prepared with sheep meat, the  broad bean being later replaced with the beans Christopher Columbus brought back from the Americas.

I first encountered this dish when I was working for a French Company in Nigeria, West Africa. My French colleague invited me for dinner saying that his wife makes the best Cassoulet, South of France. Initially, I thought it might be a casserole dish and was pleasantly surprised to savour this simple but effective dish. Yes, it did give me hot flushes of ecstasy… short of falling in love with her. I cooked my Indian version for the couple a little later, when I invited them to my house. I think his wife fell in love with me!

On our weekend hunting escapades, French Cassoulet was the easiest dish to prepare in the bush with a frying pan over a make shift fire of twigs. After the dish had been emptied into our respective metal plates, my friend would pour a glass of red wine to deglaze the pan and soak up all remnants of the dish. The resulting mixture was actually quite delicious when soaked up with French bread.

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A few days ago, I purchased a South African ring sausage called Boerewors. According to Wikipedia, Boerewors is a sausage, popular in South African cuisine. The name comes from the Afrikaans words boer (farmer) and wors (sausage). I normally barbeque this sausage, but too tired today to fire up the charcoal, I decided to turn this African delicacy into an African-Indian French Cassoulet. I also had English style roast pork belly in the fridge. In the absence of French Haricot beans, I made the dish using baked beans. These had to be appropriately Indianised.

Ed: Bit of an English touch too with the baked beans and English style roast pork belly?

Ingredients

  • 1 tin Heinz Baked beans
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon Ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil.
  • 1 Boerewors Sausage ring
  • ¼ teaspoon Cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon Coriander (dhania) powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon roasted cumin seed powder
  • English Mustard when serving
  • ¼ Kilo chopped roast belly pork cut into cubes

Method

  1. First get your priorities right. I opened a bottle of Italian Red. Uncorked and left it on the side board to breathe life into it.
  2. Preparing Beans
    1. In a separate pan heat olive oil and season it with cumin seeds.
    2. Add ¼ tea spoons of turmeric, red chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder.
    3. Fry garlic and ginger
    4. Add baked beans and remove from fire.
  3. Preparing Boerewors
    1. Shallow fry it in a large pan. I like it well done
    2. Cut into pieces and return to the pan
    3. Add chopped cooked pork and onions.
    4. Add prepared beans to the meats and simmer it on a low flame.
  4. Either serve it with a dollop of English mustard on the plate or mix the mustard with the Cassoulet

Serve it with thickly sliced granary seeded bread with a liberal layer of butter. Bread is also needed for wiping the plate clean of all beans and meat juices. Guaranteed hot flushes of ecstasy. As I often say, each mouthful should be an orgasm in itself.

Ed: Oops! He used the ‘O’ word. :”)

Sources:
See French style recipe on this site – http://www.frenchfriends.info/french/food/recipe/cassoulet/1

Karam Bharij

a lecturer, freelance photo-journalist afflicted with the travel bug, sampler of fine wines and an avid cook of Kenyan, Indian, Chinese, Greek and French cuisines particularly fusion recipes. He has travelled extensively in Tunisia, the Far East, Europe, Turkey and the Greek Islands in the Aegean and Iona sea. All his travels are off the tourist beats to savour different cultures and foods. He's even crossed the desert with a Bedouin caravan a few years ago living on a rustic diet of Harrissa (ground red chillies with garlic), tomatoes and flat breads.