There are many many things I love about The Hungry One.

Like the fact he will wordlessly follow me around the kitchen shutting the drawers that I leave gaping open. He will lug ridiculously heavy things, like cast iron wood fired barbeque cauldrons up flights of stairs; just because he thinks I’ll like the smokey flavour they bring. And that he’s pretty good at keeping me on my toes.

This is one of those instances.

A couple of weeks ago we were planning a French themed lunch for some June birthdays at our place. There’s every chance the email included the phrase ‘so frenchy, so chic’.

It was another chapter in a running string of events designed to eat out our cupboard and drink down the cellar before we head to the other side of the world.

All great. Except that was a pretty jam packed weekend. On the menu were multiple farewells, his training schedule, a trip to the theatre and my nephew’s first birthday party.

With that in mind the week before I mooted some rustic options that we could chuck together that morning and leave to bubble away as we went to celebrate the birthday. ‘how ’bout a beef bourgingon?’ I offer. ‘How ’bout a bouillbaisse?’

He then did the thing he does when he’s just not excited. Where he thinks what I’m saying is generally a little… lame.

He wrinkled his nose slightly and cocked his head to the side. ‘I think we should do cassoulet’.

Here we go.

A couple of years ago on our honeymoon we popped through Toulouse. We we keen on tracking down some cracking cassoulet. Like Carcossonne, Tolouse rates itself on its cassoulets; great big hearty dishes that can gild you against the cold and swaddle your thighs in a cocktail of meats, fat, carbs and beans.

It’s taken me two and a bit years to be able to face it again.

His logic did hold. That week was a bitter one in Sydney. There were dried white beans in the cupboard that need to be used up and some ballsy reds that were gagging to be drunk.

The next week then saw the kitchen streaked with duckish shmears as we spend a Sunday night breaking down a duck and leaving it to simmer softly in a litre and a half of its own fat. After an hour and a half of murmuring away it gets put in the fridge for the the week. Every morning in the week that followed when I fix my muesli it seemed to be mocking me.

On the Friday morning the process of rinsing, straining and soaking the kilo of white beans means I miss my bus, in the pissing rain.

On the Saturday we have to skip a leisurely breakfast at home to dash up to Hudson’s meat to grab a barnyard’s bounty of animals. There’s a shoulder of lamb. A belly of pork. A chunk of speck. And a fat fist of Tolouse sausage; porky with a touch of nutmeg and coriander.

The slow cooker then gets hauled out of the bottom of the cupboard. The meats get seasoned and browned. And a hefty collection of carrot, celery and onion get quickly softened.

Then the vegetables, the soaked beans, the browned meat, a tin of tomatoes and a litre and a half of brown chicken and duck stock that I made the week before all go into the slow cooker. The lid goes on.

We go out. To lunch where there’s a good chance I drank a little too much pink wine. To the theatre. We don’t make it to the second chapter of the farewell because I fall asleep in the second act of Measure for Measure. I could pretend that I didn’t, but friends who were sitting on the other side of the audience know better.

When we come home there’s such a profoundly meaty smell eeking through the entire apartment that I have dreams about chasing down naughty animals that I need to dress for an Easter hat parade.

On the Sunday morning after we’ve cooed over some fat baby kankles and watched one year olds wrestle with mountains of Duplo we come home. Then it’s just warming it all up.

And:

extracting the duck from the softened fat

crisping the fat soaked flesh

slicing the breasts gently and playing hide and seek with its legs amongst the mounds of other meats

frying the sausages

placing it all together in the big blue LeCreuset

toasting sourdough

making breadcrumbs

laying them on top

dotting it with butter

and putting it in the oven and letting it crisp up.

We serve it with an enormous green salad and more bread.

There are six of us at lunch. One of them is The Hungry One. Yet we don’t even make a dent in the side of what we’ve made.

This is food that’s designed to feed an entire clan on the farm.

(In addition to this there was another six litres in the slow cooker)

Luckily, there are plenty of other eager mouths about.

The leftover cassoulet goes onto fuel two other families; both with little people to tend for and hectic lives.

One of them is my sister. The morning after I get this message.

Cassoulet was a massive winner for the whole family. The littlest one had his mashed up. Second in line had hers with noodles mixed in. I had mine with mountains of green leaves. And the hubby had his mountain with a few leaves, and two bread rolls after footy training.

Otto (the dog) licked the bowl.

That’s the other great thing about The Hungry One. He might keep me on my toes, but in the end, everyone wins.