Starry, starry shiraz

Why not try Ian Parmenter’s gutsy meat stew?

Starry, starry shiraz

Was it the starry, starry night? Could it have been the gentle breeze wafting through the trees? Perhaps it was the aromas of newly mown grass and the ocean? Or even the comedy/drama which I was enjoying at Cape Mentelle winery in Margaret River as part of its open air summer movie season? The French film, Intouchables? Perhaps all those things played a role. However, most likely it was the Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2011 that I was sipping which brought to mind the classic Gascony dish: cassoulet.

A gutsy stew of meats, vegetables and herbs from the southwest of France, it is perfect partnered with that particular shiraz which – with its spicy, peppery nose, its firm structure, and its savouriness – is thoroughly suited.

The name cassoulet comes from the word cassole, referring to the conical clay pot in which it was cooked in France. While the traditional dish can be time-consuming to make, involving making duck confit, this version is simpler without losing anything in the translation. Although I choose to prepare it with duck, it may also be prepared with chicken. I also include Mexican spicy sausages, or North African merguez

Mentelle Notes Cassoulet

Ingredients (Serves 4 to 6)

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 duck or chicken Marylands (thigh and drumstick)
  • 250 g spicy sausages cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 150 g pancetta or bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup carrot, peeled and cut into ½ cm pieces
  • 2 cups leek, spilt, washed, trimmed and cut into ½ cm pieces
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 250 ml red wine
  • 1 cup tomato pieces (fresh or canned)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 2 or 3 springs thyme
  • 2 or 3 leaves of sage
  • (or 1 tsp mixed herbs)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can beans (borlotti, kidney) drained.

In a large frying pan or cast iron pot, put olive oil and brown chicken or duck. Remove.

Brown the pancetta or bacon. Remove.

Brown sausage pieces. Remove.

In the same pan, sauté onions, carrots, leek and garlic for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add chicken stock and wine, bring to a boil and reduce by a third (to a syrupy consistency).

Add duck (or chicken), pancetta (or bacon), sausage pieces, and herbs.

If using cast iron pot, put on lid, and reduce heat to simmer.

If using frying pan, transfer all to casserole dish, cover and cook in 160C oven.

Allow to cook until duck or chicken is tender (about 40 minutes on stove top, 1 hour in oven)).

Season to taste. Stir in beans and allow to warm through.

Serve with green vegetables (such as broccoli or French beans).

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