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Traditional French Cassoulet Recipe by Ken Heffernan of Fota Island Resort with wine pairing

This recipe is currently on the menu at the Fota Island Resort. It’s a long recipe but totally worth it as the taste is incredible! It is a French classic with a modern twist!

Duck confit

4 duck legs
100g Maldon sea salt, plus extra for serving
freshly ground black pepper
1 head garlic, separated into cloves
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 dried bay leaves, crumbled
4 tbsp brandy
700g duck or goose fat

1. Rub the duck legs with the coarse sea salt, black pepper, one crushed garlic clove, four sprigs of thyme and the bay leaves.
2. Pack tightly into a ceramic dish, skin side down, then drizzle over the brandy.
3. Cover the dish with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and scrape the marinade off the duck pieces.
5. Heat the duck or goose fat in a heavy ovenproof casserole dish then add the duck, the remaining garlic cloves and the remaining thyme. Make sure that the duck is completely submerged in the melted fat.
6. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 3½-4 hours, or until the meat is very tender when pierced with a skewer and the fat in the skin is completely rendered.
7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool uncovered.
8. Strain half of the fat and bring to the boil in another pan, then pour into a clean ceramic dish large enough to hold the duck without it touching the sides. Leave to set in the fridge.
9. Once the duck is cool, place into the prepared ceramic dish and strain over the remainder of the melted fat and place into the fridge for 1-2 hours to set. (This can be stored in the fridge for up to one month.)

Cider-Braised Pork Neck

2 tablespoons olive oil
1kg boneless pork neck
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
500ml (2 cups) apple cider
1 litre veal stock (doesn’t need to be veal, can substitute another stock)
200g Toulouse sausages
150g smoked bacon lardons
1 sprig of rosemary and thyme finely chopped

1. Cut the pork down the centre length ways and season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat oil in a large pan over high heat and, turning often, cook for 8 minutes or until browned on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. In the same pan brown off your sausages and bacon lardons, then set them aside.
4. In a large pot place your pork neck, fennel seeds, rosemary and thyme.
5. Pour over the cider and bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid.
6. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours.
7. Turn the pork over in the casserole and cook, uncovered, for a further 30 minutes.
8. Carefully remove the pork from the braising liquid and wrap tightly with tinfoil and clingfilm to make a tube or sausage shape. Set aside in the fridge to cool overnight. Remember to keep the braising liquid as this forms the base of the cassoulet.

Three-hour Pork Belly

2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 small bunch thyme, leaves only
3 garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
1½-2kg piece boneless pork belly, skin scored
2 lemons

1. Toast the fennel seeds and peppercorns in a dry frying pan for a couple of mins.
2. Pound them together in a pestle and mortar with some flaked sea salt, thyme and garlic to make a paste.
3. Mix with 2 tbsp olive oil and rub all over the flesh of the pork. Cover and chill, leaving to marinate for a few hours or overnight.
4. When ready to cook, rub the skin of the joint with plenty of salt and 1 tbsp more olive oil.
5. Sit on a wire rack in a roasting tin and roast at 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for 30 mins.
6. After this amount of time squeeze the lemons over the skin and turn the heat down to 180C/ 160C fan/gas 4. Roast for a further 2 hrs.
7. Finally, turn the heat back up to 220C/ 200C fan/gas 7 and give it a final blast for another 30 mins or so, to finish the crackling.
8. Press between two weighted chopping boards in the fridge overnight.

Flageolet Beans

For a cold (long) soak: Put the beans in a large metal bowl with enough cool water to cover by about 3 inches. Soak at room temperature for six to eight hours, adding more water if the level gets low. Drain and rinse before cooking.

Cook gently, and season at the right time: Cook soaked beans in fresh water to reduce gas-causing oligosaccharides, hard-to digest complex sugar molecules found in legumes. Never let beans boil, except at the very beginning. Gentle simmering keeps the beans intact and creamy, not mealy.

Wait to add salt until the beans have begun to soften, usually about halfway through cooking. That way, the salt can pass through the beans’ softened skin and bring out their flavor. When cooked remove them from liquid and set aside.


1. Cut the sausage into discs 1/3 of an inch thick.
2. In a pot combine the cooking liquid from the pork neck, the flageolet beans, lardons and sausage. I like to add a few ladles of red wine jus… for flavour and colour.
3. If you want you can shred the confit duck legs and add it to the mix, or serve them whole… I like to shred them so as not to crowd the plate.
4. Cut the pressed pork belly into 2inch squared pieces, unwrap the pork neck and cut into discs roughly the same size as the pork belly.
5. Place the pieces on a baking tray and cover with red wine jus and a little stock.
6. Place in the oven at 180 degrees til reduced, glazed and slightly caramelised.
7. Blanch some de-stalked kale in lightly salted water.
8. Chop roughly and add to the bean stew.
9. Ladle onto the plate and top with the neck and belly.
10. Garnish with a little parsnip and vanilla puree and some kale crisps (optional)


Our recommended Wine Pairing for this Recipe
Cusumano Benuara €18.99

Nero d’Avola, Syrah 2014

Another super offering from this winery. This wine has a deep and beautiful nose with aromas of blackberries, cherries, and spice with a light undertone of damp earth. It has an intriguing nose that almost transports you to Sicliy.
The palate really offers a lot, a soft velvety body with a light grip from the tannin. This wine really opens up beautifully and delivers more than you would expect from decanting it. There are flavours of red bramble fruits, cherry, spice and wild blackberries add some earthy tones and you have one big but not weighty elegant wine
This wine will pair so well with this amazing dish as the earthy tone will work well with the meat and the soft fruit tones will mingle with the flavours of the dish to make it even more of a warm & comforting.

Available from O’Brien’s Wines Nationwide or Online.


Ken HeffernanKen is the head chef of the five star Fota Island Resort and the head chef and culinary director of Dare to-Live!, a start-up in the health & wellness industry, providing luxury retreat escapes and adventure travel options.

Ken Heffernan has over 15 years’ experience in the industry and has worked in many of the finest restaurants in Co Cork. Working with top quality ingredients – supporting local as a priority – he strives to intoxicate the senses with his dishes and takes pride in a thoughtful and immaculate presentation on every plate.

Food is my passion. Personal and professional development is of great importance to me as a gourmet chef and I am driven by exciting environments that allow me to bring my best to the table.”

Fota Island Resort Fota Island Resort