Friday, 8 April 2016

Hearty Root Vegetable and Mushroom Casserole with Herby Cheese and Mustard Dumplings

This really is a cracking dish when you're craving comfort food, and makes a smashing Sunday dinner for vegetarians!

I wanted to make something for my meat-loving family (incuding me!) which wouldn't leave us feeling like something was 'missing' for a Sunday dinner, and I didn't want to do a nut roast! In the end, I decided upon some kind of 'stew and dumplings', and it was that tasty and filling it didn't even need anything on the side - although you could of course serve it with some steamed green vegetables, and maybe even a couple of roasted potatoes on the side, and you'd probably be able to feed a couple more people with it!

If you want a healthier option for a weekday meal (or fast day), you could skip the dumplings, and just serve with plenty of green vegetables, and a few new potatoes or some cauliflower mash on the side. I can't tell you how happy I am with the gravy, it's so tasty and rich, it's the best vegetarian gravy I've ever made - it's amazing, the power of umami (no offence to vegetarians, but I never thought a vegetarian/vegan gravy could actually taste this good)!

Turnips would also work well in this, if you wanted to substitute one of the root vegetables. Without the dumplings, this is a low calorie, vegan, gluten free and dairy free dish. To make the dumplings vegan, use vegan cheese (or omit), and leave out the egg and just bring together the dough with water.

Serves four, 167 calories per portion just for the vegetable casserole, plus 194 calories per dumpling (388 calories for a serving of two dumplings), so 555 calories for a quarter portion of casserole with two dumplings.

[Calories in square brackets]

For the vegetable casserole
  • 300g carrots [78]
  • 300g swede [87]
  • 300g celeriac [63]
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms [40]
  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms [73]
  • 1 medium onion [41]
  • 2 cloves garlic [12]
  • 1/2 x 15ml tbsp oil [62]
  • 1 vegetable stock cube [23]
  • 180ml red wine (or you could use ale or stout, or extra stock) [76*]
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce [4]
  • 2 x 15ml tbsp mushroom ketchup [4]
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (double concentrate) [30]
  • Bouquet garni made with 1/2 celery stick, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs rosemary, 3 sprigs thyme and a few sprigs parsley all tied together with cooking string (OK, you can just use what herbs you've got, and if you're feeling really lazy, you could probably use a tsp or so of dried mixed herbs, but I will make my sad face at you!)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper [1]
  • Cornflour (approximately 1 to 2 tbsp) [72]
  • Handful of chopped, flat leaf parsley to garnish [2]

For the dumplings
  • 150g self-raising flour [528]
  • 75g suet (vegetable) [616]
  • 70g extra mature cheddar, coarsely grated [287]
  • 1 x 15ml tbsp English mustard powder [31]
  • Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped [2]
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves [1]
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper [1]
  • 1 medium egg [88]
  • Few tbsp cold water

1. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 600ml hot water for 15 minutes (or more), while you prepare the vegetables.

2. Cut the peeled swede and celeriac into 1.5cm cubes, and the carrot into 1cm slices. Halve the mushrooms (or quarter if they're really big). Dice the onions, crush the garlic, and tie the bouquet garni together. Gently squeeze excess moisture from the porcini mushrooms (reserving the soaking liquid), and chop quite finely. Carefully pour off 500ml of the porcini mushroom soaking liquid into a jug without tipping in any of the sediment, and discard the rest.

3. In a large pan (preferably a cast iron or steel casserole pot that you can transfer to the oven, or similar), fry the onion in the oil, until starting to soften, then add the root vegetables, chestnut and porcini mushrooms and continue to cook for several minutes to get a little colour on some of the vegetables.

4. Add the mushroom liquid, stock cube, red wine, garlic, bouquet garni, soy sauce, mushroom ketchup, tomato puree and a good grinding of black pepper and give everything a stir. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender (particularly the swede!) and the liquid has reduced a little. Remove the bouquet garni.

5. Meanwhile, make the dumplings (if you're making them!). Mix together the flour, suet, cheese, herbs, mustard powder and seasoning (I use about 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper). Beat the egg with 50ml cold water and add to the dry ingredients. Bring together into a soft dough, adding an extra tbsp water or two if required (the dough will be quite wet and sticky, but this ensures a fluffier dumpling). Shape into 8 even-sized balls with wet hands (I find it easiest to wrap a plate in cling film to put them on, so they don't stick to it). Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5 / 190C (and if you're using a separate casserole dish to your pan, pop into the oven to warm up).

6. Mix the cornflour with a little cold water into a thin paste, and add enough to the casserole to thicken the gravy to your liking, allowing it to cook out for a couple of minutes (you might need a little more depending on how much your liquid has reduced). Once you're happy with the consistency, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

7. Space the dumplings out on top of the casserole in the oven-proof dish, and transfer to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the dumplings have increased in size and are cooked through. Serve garnished with a little chopped fresh parsley and enjoy!

*35% calories from alcohol remaining after cooking: ((155-34) x 0.35) + 34 = 76

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