Stephen Harris: my supermarket cassoulet isn't authentic - but who cares?

Toulouse sausages ready for the cassoulet Credit: Andrew Twort

There is something about the landscape of the Languedoc that takes your breath away. Driving from the Carmargue to Bordeaux, I am always struck not just by the spectacular rocks and valleys that nature has eroded over thousands of years, but also by the contribution of mankind.

The steep, rocky hillsides topped with villages, in turn often topped by a church, usually with a spire reaching even further to the sky. The villages and churches look so natural that they appear to grow out of the top of the hill. 

I was drawn back to this landscape when I was thinking about today's recipe for cassoulet. Languedoc, in south-west France, is neither a butter nor an olive oil area. It uses as its main cooking fat either duck or goose fat, and is best known for the method known as confit.

Confit (from the verb confire, to preserve) is a way of slow-cooking in fat and then leaving the fat to cover the...

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