Drain and thoroughly rinse the beans, then put into a large saucepan with the bay leaves and parsley stalks. If using, tie the thyme and rosemary in a small bundle for easy removal, and add to the pan. Pour in 1 litre cold water and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Skim off any scum that has risen to the surface.
Skin one of the onions and stud with cloves. Add to the beans, cover and simmer gently for 50 minutes or until the beans are almost tender. Drain, reserving the stock, but discarding the herbs and onion.
Meanwhile, gently fry the bacon in a large, flameproof casserole for 5 minutes or until the fat starts to run. Remove with a draining spoon and set aside, then add the sausages to the casserole. Turn up the heat to moderate and cook for 10 minutes, turning frequently, until lightly browned all over. Remove from the casserole and set aside.
Drain all but 1 tbsp of fat from the casserole or add 1 tbsp oil if necessary. Finely chop the remaining onion and gently cook for 7–8 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the leek and garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Thickly slice the sausages and return to the casserole with the bacon. Add the carrots, canned tomatoes with their juice, paprika, haricot beans and 400ml of the reserved stock. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (gas 3). Bring the cassoulet to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the breadcrumbs, parsley and garlic. Sprinkle over the cassoulet and dot with the butter. Cook uncovered in the oven for 45–50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the crust is nicely browned and crisp.
If you're pushed for time, use two 300g cans of haricot beans, drained and rinsed, and omit steps 1 and 2. Add pork or chicken stock in step 4, making up the quantity with 150ml dry white wine, if liked.
delicious!! I didn't change a thing, other than adding a bit more hungarian paprika for taste. I can't wait to make this for friends. Oh, I didn't make the herb crust, either. Baked in the oven, it didn't need it ( in my opinion) - 11 Jan 2011
A great recipe and very simple and extremely yummy. Used tinned Haricot beans which made it that little quicker. This meant that I did not have to follow stage 1 of the recipe. I used a chicken stock cube and used approximately 400ml of water to the mix. If you have Le Creuset you do not need an oven you can just use the hob and let it simmer gently for approximately and hour and a half. I did not bother with the crust. With the french sausages that we got from France this is a great dish especially on these cold summer days - 09 May 2013