Special cassoulet

Serves 6


½ tsp sunflower oil

6 good-quality herby sausages, at least 85% meat

4 celery sticks

3 medium carrots

2 medium onions, halved and sliced

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 450g)

2 fat garlic cloves, crushed

200g/7oz smoked lean gammon, trimmed and cut into 2cm cubes

2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

150ml/¼ pint red wine (or water)

300ml/½ pint cold water

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 bay leaf

4–5 bushy sprigs of fresh thyme

400g can cannellini beans in water, drained and rinsed

400g can butter beans in water, drained and rinsed

freshly ground black pepper

handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
finely grated zest of half a well-scrubbed large orange


Brush a large non-stick frying pan with the sunflower oil. Add sausages and cook over a medium heat for 10 mins, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides. Trim celery, peel carrots and cut into diagonal slices about 1.5cms thick. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Add onion and cook with the sausages for 6–8 mins, stirring regularly until softened and lightly browned.

Trim chicken thighs of any visible fat (a good pair of kitchen scissors does the job) then cut them in half. Add the garlic and chicken pieces to the pan with the sausages and onions and cook for 3–4 mins, turning chicken twice until coloured all over. Transfer everything to a large flameproof casserole. Stir in the gammon, celery, carrots, tomatoes, red wine and water and sprinkle with caster sugar and chilli flakes. Stir in the bay leaf and thyme and season with lots of ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer on the hob, then cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 45 mins.

Take the casserole out of the oven and stir in all the beans. Cover with the lid and put back in the oven for another 30 mins. Just before the cassoulet is ready, prepare the garnish. Chop the parsley roughly and toss with the orange zest in a serving dish. Serve large portions of the cassoulet in deep plates or wide bowls with a good sprinkling of the zesty parsley garnish on each one.

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