Sud de France Festival
Cassoulet salade d’été avec confit de canard
(Summer Cassoulet Salad with Preserved Duck)
The Sud de France Festival is on in London right now – it runs from the 11th to the 29th June 2012; the festival celebrates the Mediterranean flavours of Languedoc-Roussillon, one of my favourite parts of France as it happens, and I was recently asked to create a recipe to celebrate this wonderful area of gastronomy, as part of the Sud de France Bloggers Recipe Competition – which is a chore I know, but someone has to do it! I was asked to design a recipe inspired by the flavours and ingredients of the Sud de France region, to promote and highlight some of the special recipes and ingredients that originate from that part of South France. The area is rich with many famous products and recipes, including Cassoulet, which is made from dry white beans and meat (pork, duck and/or goose). Cassoulet was originally made with broad beans, instead of haricot beans that are used to make it nowadays. Legend says that this dish was invented during siege of the city of Castelnaudary; the starving villagers of the beleaguered city would have gathered all the available food to cook a gigantic stew to invigorate the soldiers who were protecting them and their towm. Cassoulet is one of my very favourite dishes, but I usually only cook and eat it during the colder months, as it is traditional comfort food. However, it contains some fabulous ingredients, and so I decided to “deconstruct” the recipe and then “reconstruct” it into a fabulous summer dish…….so I am proud to present my recipe, which I’ve called Cassoulet salade d’été avec confit de canard (Summer Cassoulet Salad with Preserved Duck).
It’s quite a “cheffy” recipe, well, insofar that I have assembled the bean salad in a cooking ring, which looks great on the plate actually…….and, ever better news, my “salad stack” did not collapse either! I took all the principal elements of a classic Cassoulet and reinvented the dish for summer. A classic Cassoulet contains haricot blancs (white haricot beans), tomatoes, onions, preserved duck, garlic sausage, wine, thyme and bread crumbs….obviously there are variations on this recipe, and different parts of South West France all have their own regional recipe with the “correct authentic” recipe being hotly debated. I was delighted with this recipe, the flavours worked so well together and the contrast of textures was also very clever, and worked perfectly, as did the hot duck with the cold bean salad and mesclun salad leaves. The flavours were definitely VERY Sud de France, and we both enjoyed this last Sunday, as an alternative Sunday Lunch, with a glass of rose wine on the terrace, whilst the sun was out……. briefly! My ingredients list contained nearly all of the key elements needed for the hot and comforting version of this dish, with a few black olives thrown in for good measure.
The ingredients and recipes that make up the Sud de France are, and this is by no means a definitive list, are as follows:
Tapenade: The name comes from the Occitan “tapeno” which means capers. Its basic ingredients are capers mixed with mashed green or black olives from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, anchovies can also be added to it. French people in the South of France enjoy tapenade as an appetizer, spread over hot toast. It also goes perfectly with raw vegetables, as a starter.
AOC Sweet Onion from the Cevennes
Rousquilles: The name of those small Catalan biscuits comes from their shape (rosca, “ring-shape” in Catalan). There are simply irresistible with their shortbread soft and melting texture. Covered by a thin glaze of anise-flavoured or vanilla-flavoured icing sugar.
Petits Pâtés de Pézenas: These pies are stuffed with roast mutton and candied lemon zest. Originally from India, these little sweet and sour pies were introduced in the area duting the 18th century, when Lord Clive (governor of the East Indies) travelled to the pretty town of Pézenas.
AOC Pelardon Cheese: This sharp and peppered small AOC cheese is made from goats’ milk. It is recognized by its strong character and its light nutty flavour. The Pelardon can be found fresh, half dry or dry, and is perfect at the end of a meal or in a salad. It can be served hot as well as cold. The drier it is, the stronger it tastes.
Peaches and Nectarines from the Roussillon and the Costières areas
Collioure Anchovies: The Collioure anchovy is a culinary speciality of the small town of the same name in the Pyrénées-Orientales. It can be found in many different forms: packed in salt, in oil, mashed into an anchovy cream, in a tapenade (olive spread) or an “anchoïade” (dressing made from tapenade, anchovies cream and olive oil), stuffed into olives, fried or in soup. Catalan cuisine also uses it in salads and as an appetizer on a grilled slice of bread, with crushed tomatoes.
Cod Brandade of Nîmes: “Brandade de Morue” is born from the exchange between cod fished by the Breton’s Terre-Neuvas and the sea salt of the salt workers from the Camargue region. Cod brandade first entered into “nîmoise” gastronomy during the 18th century when cooks transformed the cod into a mash, with milk, olive oil and wild local herbs. It can be served, au gratin or spread on toast.
Charcuterie from Lozère
Camargue Sea Salt
AOC Camargue Rice
AOC Camargue Beef/Bull: Originally, those small black bulls were reared for Camargue racing. But, their surprising musky meat became very popular. The AOC Camargue Bull is eaten throughout the whole region, grilled as well as stewed in a stew called a “gardianne” with a red wine sauce.
AOC Bleu des Causses Cheese
Apricots (from Roussillon and the Costières)
I used traditional Cassoulet components of haricot beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic sausage, olive oil, thyme, preserved duck and bread crumbs. I also added some French olives, red wine vinegar with shallots, mesclun salad leaves and the ubiquitous glass of rose wine…….of course! I think my recipe epitomises the region perfectly and I was certainly inspired by the flavours and ingredients from the Sud de France region, and I loved developing this recipe for the competition. If you cannot source confit de canard, preserved duck, you can use magret de canard, duck breasts, instead……just fry them in some duck fat, in the same way as the duck legs, but maybe reduce the cooking time for a pink (medium) finish. For a fancy flurry of a finish, try to source thyme flowers too….they are often used in South West French cooking, in tians and salads and finish the dish of beautifully.
I hope you may try this recipe this summer, it makes a fabulous and extremely tasty luncheon dish, as well as an elegant al fresco supper, sat on the terrace maybe, with candles and the scent of garden flowers…..if summer finally arrives that is! That’s it for today, this is my alternative offering for Sunday Lunch, Sud de France style! See you tomorrow, Karen.