I never knew I could love a cassoulet so much. Stews have never really been my thing – I can enjoy them, but I tend to gravitate towards creamy dishes, rather than rich gravy-based dishes. This vegetarian cassoulet, though… so, so good. I think I might now be a stew person.
If you didn’t already know, a cassoulet is a traditional French stew. It’s usually made with white beans, and all kinds of meat – chicken, sausage, ham, bacon… evidently not particularly veggie-friendly. So, as I am wont to do, I thought I’d vegify it and make my very own vegetarian cassoulet.
I kept the sausages, since they’re a pretty standard part of the dish, but obviously I used vegetarian sausages instead. I know not everybody enjoys ‘fake meat’, but I do like to use it on occasion, so in it went. This is a stew, remember – just throw in whatever you fancy. Since I was already completely bastardising the traditional recipe, I thought I’d mix it up even more and use puy lentils instead of the typical white beans. I absolutely adore puy lentils – they give the cassoulet a lovely depth and richness.
And, just in case my recipe still remotely resembled the traditional French dish, I decided to cook it on the hob instead of in the oven, like is usually done. Really, it’s barely a cassoulet any more, but if I’m happy to call it a vegetarian cassoulet, then so should you be.
In fact, cooking it on the hob makes it a pretty quick dinner, unlike most stews! Just fry off your sausages and a quick mirepoix (that’s a mixture of chopped carrot, onions and celery, for you uncultured folk), then add the lentils and some good-quality vegetable stock, and you’re most of the way there.
By the way, don’t be put off by the celery if you’re not a fan. I detest raw celery – its flavour is suuuuper strong and really just not very pleasant, but it works beautifully in this vegetarian cassoulet. The flavour mellows a lot as it’s cooked, and it ends up being really quite tasty. Along with the carrots, onions, garlic, thyme, bay… it’s a really, really tasty dish. And that’s before you’ve even cut into a sausage.
One last thing to note: it’s surprisingly hard to find dried puy lentils in the supermarkets here (the supermarkets I go to, at least), so I used a sachet of pre-cooked lentils. If you have the opposite problem and you can’t find the sachets, or you’d just prefer to use dried lentils, you can totally do that instead. Either pre-cook them yourself and then follow the recipe as written, or throw the dried lentils into the pan to simmer with all the other ingredients (though you’ll need a bit of extra liquid this way, and it will need to simmer for longer).
Have you ever made a vegetarian cassoulet? (…and do you hate me for calling this a vegetarian cassoulet when it bears nearly no resemblance to the original?)
Sausage and puy lentil vegetarian cassoulet
- 1 tbsp oil
- 6 vegetarian sausages
- 1 large carrot, cut into small dice
- 1 large stick celery, cut into small dice
- 1 red onion, cut into small dice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 250 ml good quality vegetable stock (~ 1 cup)
- 250 g cooked puy lentils (~ 1 1/3 cups)
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 leaves bay
- Black pepper
- Fresh parsley, chopped, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan, and add the sausages, diced carrot, diced celery, diced onion, and minced garlic. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are fairly soft and the sausages are lightly browned (alternatively, if you like your sausages to be very browned, fry them a little on their own before adding the vegetables).
- Add the vegetable stock, cooked puy lentils, dried thyme and bay leaves, and turn the heat down a little. Allow to simmer gently for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste, and remove the bay leaves before serving topped with fresh chopped parsley.
Note: nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose.