Is it un-Australian to eat vegan?

It was Australia Day on Saturday.  I won’t get into the politics, other than to say I broadly support the much-discussed idea of moving that celebration to a less controversial date. I didn’t actually realise it was Jan 26 until late in the day, but my plans for dinner were already underway by then.

And my Australia Day dinner was a vegan cassoulet with mushrooms and white beans. Definitely not the traditional meat festivus that most households plan for our national day. And certainly now how the French would enjoy this most traditional dish either. But, my commitment to eating meat-free is firm, so I held strong and cracked on with my vegan plans.

I followed a recipe from the Smith & Daughters book I was given for my birthday. I can’t find it online, so I’ve replicated it below. This was yet another winning recipe from the Smiths. Next time, I’ll use less celery – personal preference as I can’t stand the stuff.

The book said this recipe would serve 4-6 people. Well, I’ve just had it for dinner for the third night in a row, and there’s another three serves in the freezer and two more in the fridge. So, unless if you’re catering for a large number of people or have an enormous freezer, I’d recommend halving the recipe.

On that note, I think it’ll be a little while until I do a big cook again. My freezer is chockers. Literally overflowing with leftovers of the meals I’ve made in the past weeks. So, on the upside, my grocery bill this week will be super cheap and I’ll have loads of time back because most of my cooking will be to reheat meals – just as long as I remember to take them out of the freezer.

The recipe calls for vegan sausages. I found Tofurkey sausages in the meat section at the supermarket, which was a little surprising. They are made mainly from tofu and gluten, both of which I try to limit how much I consume. But, in an attempt to be faithful to the French recipe, I threw them in. Hontestly, I reckon you could go without, or use meat sausages, as there’s loads of protein in the dish with the white beans. In fact, next time I’ll probably double the beans and not use the fake sausage. Or maybe puree a can of chickpeas and stir that through.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp vegetable shortening (I actually used ghee ‘cos I had some in the fridge)
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, cubed
  • ½ fennel bulb, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • ½ celeriac, in large cubes
  • 250g Swiss brown mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 vegetarian sausages
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence
  • 240g tinned or cooked, dried white beans
  • 35g plain flour
  • 4 springs thyme
  • 1 tbsp sage leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 125g passata (pureed tomatoes)
  • 500-750ml vegetable stock
  • Handful of flat leave parsley
  • 150g fresh breadcrumbs

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160deg

Melt the butter and shortening/ghee in a large casserole dish

Fry the leek, onion, carrot, fennel and celery with a big pinch of salt until beginning to soften. Add the celeriac, mushrooms, garlic, paprika and sausage and season with more salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients, except breadcrumbs and parsley, and pour in enough stock to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Cover with a lid, transfer to the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove the lid, give the dish a stir and adjust the seasoning if needed, then stir in the parsley. The sauce should be thick, not watery. If you need to reduce the liquid, return to the stove and simmer over a medium heat until the sauce is the consistency of gravy (not broth). Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Scatter surface with breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil.

Return to the oven without a lid and continue baking for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

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