This soft, creamy cassoulet is a can of beans at its finest; simmered until gently collapsing, bolstered by rich, slow-cooked flavour. In a nod to the traditional French version, I have added a smattering of paprika in place of the traditional bacon pieces for a similar smoky flavour. Leftovers can be frozen, and it makes a tremendous pie filling.
Serves 4-6 from 35p each
1 whole head of garlic, 15p (30p/2 bulbs, Sainsburys Basics)
2 large onions, 18p (90p/1.5kg, Sainsburys Basics)
4 large carrots, 18p (45p/1kg, Sainsburys Basics)
1 tbsp oil, 1p (£3/3l vegetable or sunflower oil)
a generous pinch of dried thyme, <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)
400g tin of cannelini or haricot or borlotti beans (baked beans with the sauce thoroughly rinsed off work just as well), 55p
400g tin of butter beans, 55p
200ml cider, 22p (Sainsburys Basics, £2.25/2l)
1.2l vegetable stock, 4p (35p/10 cubes, Sainsburys Basics)
a few pinches black pepper, <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)
1/2 tsp paprika, <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)
1 tbsp light coloured vinegar or lemon juice, 3p (55p/250ml)
1 large tomato (optional), 13p (79p/6, Sainsburys Basics)
1 tsp English mustard, 1p (45p/180g, Sainsburys Basics)
First locate a large, wide pan – usually known as a sauté pan, but any pan will do. Peel and finely chop your garlic, and peel and slice your onion, and toss them into the pan. Add the oil and bring to a low heat, just to knock the raw, acerbic edge from your alliums. Cook for a couple of minutes, then slice your carrots and add those too, along with the thyme. Give it all a stir and leave it on the heat.
Drain and rinse both cans of beans, and tip them into the pan, followed shortly by the cider, pepper and paprika. If you prefer and you have it kicking about the house, you can use white wine. Bring the heat up to medium-high, and add a third of the stock. Allow it to come to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes, adding more stock as necessary to prevent it from drying out as the beans will thicken the sauce.
After 40 minutes, finely chop the tomato and add to the pan along with the mustard and vinegar. Cook on a simmer for another 40 minutes, adding stock as required. Aware that this is a budget cooking blog, so I am at pains to point out that cooking on the hob is generally the least expensive way to cook (apart from a slow cooker, in which this recipe would work just fine with half the stock) – so you are more likely to be able to take liberties with long cooking times on the hob than you would in the oven.
Remove from the heat completely for a further 40 minutes and cover with a lid or tin foil, or a large plate. It will continue to gently cook in its own retained heat and save you some money in the process.
Heat through and stir well to serve – preferably with some bread and a pile of greens.
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