I WAS in Devon for a pre-Christmas visit, telling friends about the special offers that I mentioned to you last week. They were particularly interested in the cassoulet story, its origins and the passion that it evokes.
But the enthusiasm diminished somewhat, when I explained that preparation and cooking time was about five hours (not including soaking the beans overnight).
Quite a few people lose interest when they realise that sometimes, in the pursuit of a fine meal, a certain amount of time needs to
be devoted. Nonetheless, there is always another way, and this reignited the desire to find out more.
I explained that I had created a vegetarian version which appears on our menu, using seasonal ingredients, although it would be possible to gain a very acceptable result, using the cheat's method.
This was becoming even more appealing, especially as there was to be a vegetarian guest at the Devonian Christmas table.
The finishing touch adds the required festive twist. Here is the simplified recipe that I gave them:
Chestnut and Mushroom Cassoulet
* 120g roasted chestnuts (these can be bought ready prepared)
**150g Paris or button mushrooms
**2 cans of cannelini beans, drained
**2 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and diced
**8 small shallots, peeled **100ml vegetable stock
**2 tbsp breadcrumbs **1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
**2 cloves crushed garlic
**Salt and freshly-milled black pepper
**A few small sage leaves
**A few fresh redcurrants, on their stalks
1) Heat some olive oil in a pan, add the shallots, and cook them gently, browning lightly.
2) Add the mushrooms, garlic and chestnuts and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
3) Cover with stock and bring to the boil.
4) Add the beans and tomatoes, and simmer for 7-8 minutes.
5) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6) Pour into an oven-proof dish, mix together the parsley and breadcrumbs, then sprinkle over the top.
7) Place into a moderately hot oven, 200ºC/gas mark 5 and bake for about 25 minutes.
8) When cooked, decorate the top with the sage leaves and redcurrants, for a real Christmassy feel.