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Preheat your oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas 6. Put your porcini mushrooms into a dish, cover with 565ml/1 pint of boiling water and allow to soak until soft. Heat a large roasting tray on the hob. Slice the bacon across into strips – called ‘lardons’. Fry in 4 tablespoons of olive oil until crisp and golden. Tie your herbs together with some string and add to the bacon in the pan with your onions, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, add them to the pan and fry nice and slowly for about 5 minutes. Add the red wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, breaking them up with a spoon, then add your strained porcini soaking liquor and the beans. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Lightly season then lay your sausages on top – all higgledy piggledy, so they can get nice and brown as they cook. Break up your bread into coarse, chunky breadcrumbs, toss with the thyme, a little salt and olive oil and sprinkle around the sausages. Place in the oven for around 40 minutes until the sausages and breadcrumbs are golden and crisp. Remove the bunch of herbs and serve with something like mashed potato or polenta.
Try this: Any combination of beans and lentils works well in this cassoulet, so feel free to use what you fancy.
And this: Sometimes if I want to make this a bit more healthy and get some greens involved I will stir in a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach right at the end when serving up. The heat from the dish will make the spinach wilt.