Vegetarian sausage, white bean and leek stew with parsley dumplings

by Christine Knight

Vegetarian sausages suffer from two main failings: huge amounts of salt, and a texture reminiscent of one of those high-bounce balls from my 1980s childhood. If only they came in fluorescent pink, you’d know what you were getting. I’ve recently discovered Taifun-brand “tofu grill sausages” and I can’t recommend them highly enough. They cost the same per kilo as salmon fillet, which is ridiculous given that their main ingredients are tofu and oatmeal, but then they are imported from Germany. If you’re willing to take a deep breath and avert your eyes from the food miles and checkout tally, they are very, very good. The texture approaches that of a meat-based sausage – soft and ever-so-slightly chewy, but no hint of bounce. The only thing missing is a nice ooze of meat fat as you stick your fork in, but for many vegetarians that’s probably a good thing (not me, alas – I miss the ooze). The flavour is close to that of chicken, which is fine by me. They’ll never be the duck and veal sausages from Barossa Fine Foods, but then no ducks or calves were harmed in their production.

This stew is a vegetarian version of a traditional hearty, wintry dumpling stew. It’s still a work-in-progress; tweaks are forthcoming and will be posted here (likely to involve fresh herbs in the stew itself, but possibly more exotic additions). I prefer to make my dumplings with butter, but if you want a vegan stew, use vegetarian suet, and leave out the butter in the stew itself.

Serves 4

500g (2 packs) Taifun tofu grill sausages
500g leeks (trimmed weight – about 4 large ones), white part only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
250ml dry white wine
1.25L vegetable stock (I use Marigold stock powder)
2 x 400g tins cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 heaped teaspoons cornflour

For the dumplings
250g self-raising flour
125g chilled butter, cut into cubes
25g parsley, leaves picked, finely chopped

olive oil
sea salt and black pepper

You will also need either a stove-to-oven casserole dish (such as Le Creuset), or a large, deep frying pan and an oven-proof dish (as described below).

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a deep, non-stick frying pan over medium heat, and fry the sausages until golden brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and slice into bite-sized pieces. (They tend to break up slightly, so you may want to use a serrated knife.)

Reduce the heat, and wipe out the pan with paper towel if necessary. Melt a large knob of butter with some olive oil over medium-low heat, and saute the leeks until soft but not browned (about 10 minutes). Add the carrots, stir and saute briefly. Pour in the wine, turn up the heat, and allow most of the liquid to boil away. Add the sausage pieces, bay leaf, stock and cannellini beans. (There will be quite a lot of liquid at this stage, as it’s needed for the dumplings soak up later.) Mix everything gently together and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Place the flour and butter in a mixing bowl and rub in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Season well with salt and pepper, and mix in the chopped parsley. Add cold water a little at a time until the mixture comes together to form a soft dough.

To thicken the stew, place the cornflour in a small bowl. Ladle a small amount of liquid from the stew into the bowl, and whisk until smooth. Return to the simmering stew, stirring as you drizzle it in. Allow to simmer until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and transfer to an oven-proof dish with room for the dumplings on top.

Divide the dumpling dough into 12 portions and roll into balls. Place on top of the stew in the dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until the dumplings are golden brown and crusty on top.