This is a celebratory lunch for hearty eaters. To make a traditional French cassoulet takes at least two days, and there are quite a few processes, but properly-made it is one of the glories of French regional cuisine. A warning – it needs to be followed by a brisk walk or a snooze in a comfy chair! First and final courses need to be light.
Radis au beurre or Crudités with anchois
Crisp radishes with a smear of unsalted butter and a tiny flake of salt are surprisingly addictive. If this seems a bit too Spartan, extend the platter with other raw vegetables such as inner sticks of celery, fennel, spears of witlof, even tiny florets of cauliflower. Add a few anchovy fillets and some extra virgin olive oil for dipping.
Bring it to the table in its earthenware or cast-iron pot for maximum drama. It should have a golden crust with juices just bubbling at the edges.
It is traditional in the south-west of France to faire chabrol – meaning to tip a small glass of wine into the last morsels in one’s plate.
Pear and walnut salad with slivers of Roquefort
After this rich main dish a salad of mixed green leaves will be very welcome. Include some wintry tastes such as mâcheor watercress sprigs or some torn friséeor radicchio. The sliced pears will add a touch of sweetness, the walnuts a bit of crunch.
Others may want to finish their long lunch with a tiny glass of armagnac or eau-de-vie and for the ultimate indulgence, nibble on one or two eugénies – candied strips of orange peel dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in cocoa.