Cassoulet is a bean based stew with meat that is said to have originated in the South of France. Some sources claim that it is an Arab dish, others that it was created in Castelnaudary during the Hundred Years' war (14-15th Century). The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides.
The legend of the apparition of cassoulet says that it appeared in Castelnaudary during the Hundred Years' war. The town was under siege and the inhabitants put together all the products they had (dried haricots and meats) to prepare a big stew in order to feed the defenders. However, this legend is not entirely accurate because haricots have been introduced to Europe much later. Probably the dish was made with beans or cowpeas (moujette or mounjette in Occitan) which were used in stews at the time.
There are many varieties of cassoulet, but the best known are the ones from Castelnaudary, Carcassonne and Toulouse. All three varieties are made with white beans and duck or goose confit, meat and sausages. The meat used for the cassoulet of Toulouse is pork and mutton. The cassoulet of Carcassonne is similar to the Toulouse one, it only doubles the portion of mutton and sometimes replaces the duck with partridge. The variety from Castelnaudary uses duck confit instead of mutton.
Nowadays cassoulet is sold in France in cans that can be found in any supermarket or grocery store.
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