Arfi asked for it, so I will give her meat. Cassoulet has more meat than you should probably eat in one sitting. But when it is for a good cause, what can you do?
Arfi is raising awareness for iron deficiency in women by encouraging the consumption of meat to help alleviate anemia. I am lucky in this respect, and perhaps rather unusual, I have iron levels that are at the top, and sometimes slightly over, the normal range. This is unusual for a woman of my age. I do think it is in part due to my enjoyment of meat, but we must also consider other ways to get iron from our diets.
There are two types of iron, haem and non-haem. Haem iron is only found in animal tissues, non-haem iron is found in grains, fruits, vegetable, legumes, nuts and eggs. Haem iron is most readily absorbed by the body and also increases the uptake of non-haem iron. Yet another argument for a balanced and varied diet.
I think my secret weapon is cooking in cast iron pans, which apparently and debatably, contributes iron to the foods cooked. But I choose to believe it!
This is my simplified version of cassoulet, no claims to authenticity, but fairly easy and a great winter's meal. A couple of notes - I found I did not have enough beans when I came to prepare the cassoulet, so it turned out a bit more like cassoulet soup, which with some crusty bread was rather good! I made the Confit of goose, which I will write up in a later post. Confit of duck could be substituted.
to serve 4
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight
250g pork belly, with skin removed but reserved
1 bay leaf
4 sausages, plain or spicy, cut into generous pieces
Confit goose breast, skin removed, cut into generous pieces
fresh thyme leaves
1 cup Chicken stock
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Drain the beans and put in a pot with the pork belly and bay leaf. Cover generously with water and simmer until the beans are tender. Drain, reserving the liquid and cut the pork belly into generous pieces, discard the bay leaf. Brown the sausages in a little fat.
In a suitably sized oven proof dish, lay the pork skin on the bottom then layer with 1/3 of the beans, 1/2 of the meats, a seasoning of pepper and thyme and repeat ending with a layer of beans. Pour in the chicken stock and enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the top layer of beans.
Cook in a 180°c oven for and hour then reduce the heat to 140°c and cook for another hour. Cool and chill until the next day.
Cook again at 180°c oven for and hour then reduce the heat to 140°c for another hour adding more of the bean cooking liquid as you think necessary. Turn the oven back to 180°c, top with the cheese and breadcrumbs and cook until a nice crust has formed. Serve immediately with a hearty red wine and no other plans for the evening.