Rustic vegan cassoulet with herby dumplings
This vegan cassoulet is a super flavourful version of the classic French dish – perfect topped with herby dumplings! Such hearty comfort food.
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The best thing about this time of year is the fooood. Warm and comforting stews, bakes and casseroles are right up my street, and they’re easy to pack with fresh veg, whole grains, and all sorts of other good stuff. This rustic butter bean cassoulet is packed with fresh herbs, vegetables, lentils and beans, to make an incredibly tasty, hearty dinner. Don’t forget to add a few herby dumplings on top too!
What is cassoulet?
Cassoulet (pronounced cass-oo-lay) is a French casserole that’s absolutely full of flavour. As with lots of French dishes, cassoulet is usually made with multiple types of meat, and beans.
Obviously this vegan cassoulet skips the meat altogether, instead allowing the beans to be the star, along with mushrooms, lentils and pearl barley.
It may not be a traditional, meaty cassoulet… but wow. It’s seriously good.
And that’s not me blowing my own trumpet, by the way (for a change). This recipe actually came from the Hello Fresh recipe hub!
Hello Fresh recipe hub
You might already be familiar with Hello Fresh – it’s a food delivery service that sends you your choice of recipes each week (or however often you want them to), along with all the ingredients you’ll need to cook those recipes. It’s a service that I use myself once a month or so, when I want a week of good meals without needing to do much thinking or planning myself.
That said, you might not know that all of Hello Fresh’s recipes are available online, in their recipe hub! So if you don’t want to commit to receiving a box of ingredients every week, but just want to dabble in cooking one or two of the recipes, it’s a great place to browse!
Every time I look at the recipe hub, I actually can’t quite believe just how many recipes are there. There are dozens and dozens of vegetarian recipes alone, plus even more non-veggie ones (most of which could easily be adapted to avoid the meat), and each recipe has beautiful step-by-step photos. It’s like reading a cookbook!
Vegan butter bean cassoulet
It’s made with lentils, butter beans, and pearl barley, to make it ultra comforting, and plenty of fresh vegetables. I also loved how it used fresh rosemary and fresh thyme, neither of which I use very often. They add such an amazing, hearty, autumnal flavour to the stew. You could swap them for the dried versions if you prefer, but I think it’s worth using fresh if you can.
The recipe is really, really easy. Just fry off the veg, then simmer everything together for a while, until it’s transformed into a rich stew.
And then, the pièce de résistance – the herby dumplings!
Herby suet dumplings
I’ve made this type of suet dumpling for years – my mum always used them to top a stew when I was a kid, and they’re one of my favourites! They’re really, really easy to make – just mix some flour and vegetable suet with a splash of water, and they’re ready to dollop on top of your cassoulet. You can also add some herbs or spices too, if you like!
When they cook, they fluff up into perfect little dumplings. They’re dense and stodgy, but in the best way – I do love a bit of good stodge. Dumplings elevate any meal.
What can I use instead of suet?
When I’ve posted suet dumpling recipes before, I always get heaps of comments asking what to use if you can’t find vegetable suet. It’s very common in the UK, but evidently not elsewhere!
If you can’t find vegetarian suet, you could try using vegetable shortening instead. Nigella Lawson recommends freezing the shortening, then grating it, to mimic the texture of vegetable suet. I’ve also seen grated butter recommended as a substitute for suet.
I’ve not tried either of these options myself though, so please do report back if you try it, and let me know how it goes!
This vegan cassoulet is a full meal in itself, so you don’t need to worry about making any side dishes – just scoop a nice big spoonful into a bowl, add a couple of dumplings, and dig in!
Rustic vegan cassoulet with herby dumplings
- 100 g (~ 1/3 cup) pearl barley
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 large carrot, diced fairly small
- 1 onion, diced
- 300 g (~ 10 1/2 oz) chestnut mushrooms, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp tomato puree / paste
- 100 g (~ 1/3 cup) red lentils
- 400 g tin butter beans, drained (240g, or ~ 1 1/4 cups, when drained)
- 400 ml (~ 1 2/3 cups) vegetable stock
- 75 g (~ 1/2 cup) vegetable suet (I used light)
- 120 g (~ 3/4 cup) self-raising flour
- 2 tsp dried or semi-dried parsley (or a couple of sprigs fresh parsley, finely chopped)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ~ 6 tbsp water
- Boil the pearl barley in plenty of water, until cooked al dente (around 20 minutes). Drain, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat a dash of oil in a large, deep frying pan, and add the diced carrot and onion. Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 5 more minutes.
- Add the fresh rosemary and thyme to the vegetables, along with the bay leaf, tomato puree, red lentils, butter beans, and veggie stock. Mix to combine, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the lentils are fairly soft, around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the cassoulet simmers, prepare the dumplings. Add the vegetable suet, flour, dried parsley, salt and pepper to a bowl, and mix to combine. Add the water a little dash at a time, mixing with a spoon until you end up with a slightly sticky dough. I ended up using around 6tbsp water in total.
- When the lentils are nearly cooked, add the cooked pearl barley to the pan, and mix the cassoulet thoroughly. If the mixture seems a little dry, just add an extra splash of water (the dumplings need some steam to cook, so you need at least a small amount of liquid). Dollop the dumpling mixture on top – I ended up with 8 dumplings in total. Add a lid to the pan, and cook over a fairly low heat for another 10-15 minutes, until the dumplings are fairly firm, and piping hot inside. For a slightly crispier dumpling, you can also pop the pan under the grill (broiler) for a few minutes.
- Remove any large stalks of rosemary and thyme, and serve hot.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/3 of the recipe, including dumplings.