Later in the day I went out to buy things for cassoulet. This is because tonight Steve’s colleagues are gathering for a potluck French-themed dinner and it has fallen to me to take a dish representing our household. I’m not into cooking. I’m not a “foodie”. I just like to quaff food. I’m about quantity, not quality. But I’m going to spend the whole day doing this slow food thing. Anyway, I went off to Coles and bought lard for the first time in my life, along with “boneless lamb” (just bought some stir-fry strips), Italian style pork sausages (for the “garlic sausages”), ordinary common or garden bacon (it was supposed to be some sort of lump of bacon, not possible in Coles) and Campbell’s beef stock. But what to do about “pickled pork” or “duck conserve”. What the hell? Nothing approximating these things in Coles. Nor did there seem to be any ordinary old common or garden dried haricot bean, or any kind of dried bean or lentil. Maybe they were there somewhere but I decided to get those from Country Fruit, the expensive gourmet deli and veg shop in George Street. In Coles I go into a sort of slump or dissociated state but at Country Fruit I came to life. Coles was all about mass produced low level stuff that could have been any stuff; it all just blends together, gardening stuff, toiletries, pork sausages, breakfast cereal… all packaged similarly. Commodities. I piled it all up on the checkout and the sheer quantity and variety of meat, topped off by lard, was a little sickening. Like an anti-vegetarian statement of some sort.
Then off to Country Fruit. Unlike Coles, this shop was about the food. The actual food. That was the feeling, although of course these too are all commodities. (You pay for this feeling.) I found some white beans labeled simply “white beans”. But no sign of anything like pickled pork or duck conserve. What am I looking for? A tin? Something out of the fridge? A box of something? I asked the Lebanese Australian owner, who was standing there in a black apron with a notebook. He said he’d never heard of either of these things. I was on my own. But I went back to something I’d seen when I’d first approached the open fridge. “Confit duck legs.” Maybe this would be getting close. The tender and succulent dug leg confit is made in the spacious Australian Wimmera Wheatlands, packed in a vacuum sealed pack. I read the back of it. I have it beside my keyboard right now, so I can tell you exactly what I read: “Confit is a centuries-old French method of cooking and preserving duck.” How about that! Preserved duck! That would have to be pretty close to “duck conserve”!
So, all in the one giant cast iron pot (it’s supposed to be an earthenware “cassoule”), I’m going to put pig, lamb and duck. This is going to be ridiculously rich. In the car on the way home I was thinking about the French and their eating habits. I read the book about why French women don’t get fat and maybe it has something to do with this sheer richness. It would be hard to pig out on cassoulet, surely. Just looking at it all is still making me feel slightly queasy but I’m quite interested in how it’s going to turn out. Hence this blog. Stay tuned for updates through the day.
Oh yes, I need to acknowledge my sources. I’m working with a hybrid of the recipe at
plus the Cassoulet recipe on page 107 of the The Kitchen Edition of the Australia The Beautiful Cookbook by Joy Hayes and Julie Gorrick produced by Kevin Weldon, printed at Griffin Press in Adelaide (where my sister Deb once worked).
It is May 15, 2009 and the cassoulet is now history. But the experience got me onto a wave of slow cooking (oh, and people said they liked it). I’m cooking cheap lamb necks in my orange 70s crock pot right now, and the smell is wafting through the house.