I really enjoy this time of year, when the weather gets cool enough for oven cooking, but beautiful summer veg is still abundant and affordable. This rosemary and white bean French-style cassoulet is a dish I’ve been making on repeat since February. Part stew, part baked beans, this cassoulet is so flavour packed and creamy, it really is a favourite of mine.
French cuisine has always been something I’ve shied away from in my kitchen, mainly due to my unfair preconceptions about it being meat and dairy heavy (but really, popular dishes from most cuisines are!). That said, I have been experimenting and nerdily reading up about the nuances of vegetables, and have discovered that a vegetarian cassoulet can be perfectly rich, flavourful and delicious, so long as you have plenty of fat and aromatics. My other trick here is to bake the cassoulet uncovered, which makes the white beans and vegetables melt-in-your-mouth tender, and intensifies the flavours. The baking makes the total recipe time a little daunting looking, but just remember that most of it is hands off and the results are worth it!
One of the fundamentals of French cooking is the mirepoix, which you’ll see in this recipe. Mirepoix is the vegetable trifecta of onion, celery and carrot, which is the base for many stocks and sauces. The ratio is two parts onion to one parts each of celery and carrot, which is finely diced and then cooked nice and slow over a gentle heat – with the intention of bringing out their sweetness, rather than browning.
Almost every cuisine has its own vegetable base like mirepoix: Cajun cooking has the Holy Trinity (onion, celery, green capsicum), Spain has Sofrito (onion, garlic, tomato), and Germany has Suppengrün (carrot, celeriac, leek). Whilst the vegetables practically dissolve into the sauce, their presence is so important to the flavour of the resulting dish. Learning about different cuisine’s vegetables bases brings you a step closer to getting authentic flavours in your cooking, even if you’re skipping the meat and dairy! See this great Serious Eats article for more on mirepoix.