Wednesday, 4 January 2012
Allez les Bleus!
Ever since I was a little kid, this was the time of year that all the talk turned to rugby. More specifically the Five Nations Tournament (As it was then. Italy joined in so it's Six Nations now).
And when I think back, there are a few things that still stick in my mind. Dusty Hare rescuing England with an improbable kick from the touch line, Gareth Edwards or JPR Williams setting the field on fire with their sublime running style of Welsh Rugby and most clearly, the annual display of Gallic fury that was the French pack in full rage. Trust me, back then, these blokes were monsters! They'd grind and growl their way inexorably down the pitch, frequently turning a ruck or maul into a frenzy of fists and boots. At times they seemed unstoppable, they really did.
Their secret? I once heard that the team meal was always Cassoulet. A legendary dish from the South of France, usually associated with Castelnaudary, near Toulouse. Try as you might, though, the actual derivation of the dish is as hard to pin down as a Welsh winger from the seventies. A real monster of a stew, this one and I can well believe that French forwards were weaned on the stuff.
What I do know is, it's a great big blockbuster of a meal. Containing (in it's most usual form) haricot beans, onions, carrots, celery, pork belly, Toulouse sausage and fatty confit duck. Cooked slowly in a shallow ceramic dish (called a cassoulet). It's the ultimate French peasant dish, with as many admirers, afficionados and arguments as Bouillabaisse.
When the weather's cold, you're tired and the darkness of winter is closing in, there is nothing like a big bowl of cassoulet to fire up the blood and chase those chills away.
My recipe dispenses with the beans (because I'm Paleo), but loses none of it's punch and believe me, when you've eaten this, fifteen men of any nation are not going to stop you fighting your way over the try line.
That's all for now, I'm off to finish my dinner.