Drain the beans and place in a large saucepan. Add the bacon/pork belly and plenty of cold water. Heat until boiling and then put it on a slow boil for 30 minutes. Discard the water.
Chop the celery, onion and carrot into bite-sized chunks. Remove the skin of the garlic and crush slightly with the heel of a knife. Using a good flame-proof casserole dish, add the duck fat and the vegetables and cook over a low heat until they start to colour. Add the sausages.
If you’ve done this right and the sausages are now fragrant, neighbours will probably start knocking on the door inviting themselves over to dinner. Preheat the oven to 120˚C (250˚F).
When the sausages are browned, deglaze the dish with a little white wine. Add the tomatoes and the bouquet garni.
Add the beans and pork to the vegetables and sausages and add 1 litre (2 pints) of water. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Transfer the cassoulet to the middle shelf of the oven.
Cook for 2 hours, checking occasionally to see if it needs more water.
You can stop the cooking process here if you’re making this for another night. Some would say this makes it taste even better — some argue that two days is better.
If you’re serving the dish the same night, remove the cassoulet from the oven and place on a bench. Check the beans. That means eat some. Are they to your liking in terms of firmness? If they are, then you only need to cook the duck (the next step) for about 30 minutes. If not, when you add the duck, check the beans after an hour. If they’re too soft already, you’re probably using beans from a tin. You cheat, you lose!
Place the duck confit pieces in the cassoulet dish, making sure to cover the pieces of duck with the bean mixture. This will stop the duck from drying out, confirming people’s suspicions that duck confit is dry — and we don’t want that! Return it to the oven.
The duck confit usually take around 15 minutes to reheat when serving it on its own. But we want the flavours of the duck to go through the dish, so leave it in the oven for at least 30 minutes. If you want, add the breadcrumbs now.
At this stage check the beans again. If they’re still too firm, may I remind you that I suggested making this at the start of the day. It can take another two hours!
At this stage, the other thing to look for is whether the dish is becoming too dry. A perfect cassoulet has slow, thick bubbles at the edge of the dish, indicating the sauce is moist and thick. If it appears dry, add a little water.
When the beans are to your liking and you have the slow, thick bubbles at the edge of the dish, it’s ready.
Pour yourself a big glass of red. You’ve done well!
Serve a piece of duck for each guest and a fair share of all the other goodies. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top to make it pretty.