When I was a kid, stew and dumplings held the unusual dual status of being both a staple and a favourite dish. It's one I never tired of, and always looked forward to. Something about the crisp, fatty dumplings giving way to the hot, life-giving broth beneath- it still gets me to this day.
While my mum's stews were meat-based, this one makes the most of autumnal root vegetables. Potato, carrot, parsnip, and butter beans cook down into a thick, savoury stew, that is (dare I say!) every bit as good as my mum's. With plump, golden, herb-stuffed suet dumplings (vegetable suet, of course), there really is nothing better on a cold, grey day. Or any day, you might say.
Butter Bean and Root Vegetable Stew with Herby Dumplings
Preparation time: 2 hours (active time c. 1 hour)
4 tablespoons vegan butter
1 brown onion, diced
1 leek, sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, diced (no need to peel)
2 parsnips, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tin butter beans, drained (c. 200g)
25g fresh sage, finely chopped
25g fresh parsley, finely chopped
25g fresh thyme, leaves removed
10g rosemary, leaves removed, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 tsp strong mustard
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
330ml vegan beer
1.5l good-quality vegetable stock
100g vegetable suet
200g self-raising flour
250ml cold water
Ground sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
1./ Melt the butter in a large cooking pot over a medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, onion, and leek, along with the bay leaves, and fry until softened.
2./ Add in the celery and carrot and fry these for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring as you do. Then do the same again with the potato and parsnip.
3./ Add in the butter beans, then pour in the beer and stock. Add the mustard, nutritional yeast, a little salt and black pepper, and around a half of the chopped herbs.
4./ Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for at least an hour, or till reduced and thickened. Keep an eye on the heat and stir occasionally.
5./ Season again to taste- I like plenty of black pepper- and remove the bay leaves.
6./ Mix up the dumplings. Combine the flour, suet, a pinch of salt, and the remaining herbs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in some cold water, a tablespoon at a time, bringing together the dough gently with your hands. You will probably need less water than stated above. Just try and judge the feel of the dough as you mix; you want a firm but pliable texture.
7./ Form the dough into around 12 roughly even balls and drop gently onto the top of the simmering stew. Cover the pan and simmer for a further 20 minutes. To brown the dumpling tops, remove the lid and finish in a hot oven, or put briefly under a hot grill.
8./ Serve topped with a sprinkling of herbs or some extra black pepper.