Friday, 14 January 2011


Old recipes can and should be adapted to suit today’s lifestyle. Here is a new and healthier version: Thirty-Minute Cassoulet, adapted from Jacques Pépin's Fast Food My Way

I draw the line when it comes to making a traditional cassoulet, no matter how "gourmet" the endeavour. For one thing, the traditional version takes something like three days to prepare, and for another, a cassoulet includes a liberal amount of duck fat plus the rind of almost a whole pig ... Whoops no, not for me! 

Duck fat and pork rind were used in kitchens of centuries past. Caloric intake during those times was high, but people burned calories faster than we do because they were highly mobile and engaged in arduous labour. The country folk who prepared cassoulet were careful to use all parts of the animal they slaughtered (a necessary and laudable practice). 

Today’s lifestyle is much different ... much more sedentary, and we are all of us aware of the health risks associated when eating foods high in fat content. There's just no need to cook like that anymore. 

Jaques Pépin, gentleman chef extraordinaire, offers us a recipe for a cassoulet that can be cooked in less than one hour. Convenient, tasty and healthier. Thank you, Chef Pépin.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound rolled shoulder ham (also called a daisy ham or Boston Butt), tough outer skin removed, cut into four pieces
3/4 pound Italian sausages, cut into 3-inch pieces
4 skinless chicken thighs
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup diced onion
1 (14.5 ounces/400 grams) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
2 (15½ ounces/450 grams each) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 
black pepper
coarsely chopped fresh parsley


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit /180 degrees Celsius.   
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the ham, chicken and Italian sausage.
  • Cover and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Add the mushrooms, carrots, onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Mix well and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Add the beans, tomatoes and pepper 
  • Bring back to the boil, cover, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • At serving time, discard the bay leaf, cut the ham into slices and the sausage pieces in half, and arrange the meat on a platter with the beans.
  • Sprinkle the parsley on top.