If youve ever stayed at one of our South of France villas
before, theres a high chance youve tried cassoulet, one of the regions
classic dishes. A filling stew of duck, beans and vegetables, cassoulet is a
firm favourite not only in the south but all over France, with connoisseurs now
planning to promote it across the world.
Jean-Louis Male, the grand master of the guild based in the
cassoulets hometown, Castelnaudary, and Pierre Poli, head of the Universal
Cassoulet Academy have teamed up and will be working alongside Frances
diplomatic missions to promote the dish in countries such as the UK, Canada,
Belgium and Japan.
Male, however, labelled the drive for promotion ambitious
for two reasons; according to him, every country already has a dish based on
beans, and there are as many recipes as cooks. Depending on the town, the
dish can differ entirely Castelnaudary uses goose or duck, for instance,
while someone cooking it in Toulouse will normally use sausage or mutton. True
cassoulet purists will reject any combination which stems from the classic duck
and beans, though some very odd concoctions have been made in the past, from
pizza to crepes and ice cream.
The hearty stew has already had some success in the US,
especially in New York, where it is served in around 30 restaurants, and a
competition was organised to find the best cassoulet in New York.
Though the true origins of cassoulet are not exactly clear,
it is irrevocably linked to the Hundred Years War which took place between
France and England in the 14th and 15th centuries. Legend
has it that the people of Castelnaudary devised the dish to help overcome
famine while they were under siege by the English. Its name is said to derive
from the cassole, an earthenware dish the food was originally cooked in. Castelnaudary
is still recognised as the home of cassoulet today, and even hosts a five-day
festival in its honour, which attracts some 60,000 people.
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