Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Autumn - Beef Stew With Dumplings

Autumn is most definitely here.  Every time I step outside and get that sudden shock of chill after the ambiance of central heating I know its here. There’s no point fighting the dropping temperature and darker evenings.  Being angry that Britain isn’t Barbados is pointless.  Instead embrace the extra layers, the pure coziness of the extra duvet and the opportunity to eat the very best in comfort food.

Britain does brilliant comfort food.   I know I love the US and hells bells I love a good pasta dish, but when it comes to matching the food to the weather, sometimes its good to stay traditional.  Beef, root veg, suet and ale.

I’ve made lots of stews but I reckon this is the best to date.  The gnarly looking shin melts into spoon tender meat during the long braise, giving the gravy a rich meaty flavour.  Chunks of carrot provide colour and sweetness. Yes it takes ages (5 hours to be exact) but the savory, yeasty aroma that fills the house builds anticipation and you can go do other stuff while it bubbles in the oven. 

Despite the dumplings I ate this with mashed potato, but to be honest that was overkill.  I was left groaning, clutching my belly and vowing never to over-eat again, even after leaving most of the mash in the bowl pictured. 

Beef Stew With Chives and Mustard Dumplings  - adapted from Delia Online

1 kg of beef shin chopped into 5 cm chunks
3 big carrots peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 parsnips peeled and chopped into large chunks
about 8 baby onions peeled and left whole
1 oxo beef cube
330 ml bottle of pale ale (I used Duvel, yeah I know its not British)
bout 100g of plain flour, seasoned well with salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
leaves picked from 2 sprigs thyme


1 heaped teaspoon mustard powder
heaped tablespoon finely chopped chives
175 g self raising flour
75g shredded beef suet
2 level teaspoon wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper to season

1)   preheat oven to 130 degrees celcius.  Put the seasoned flour in large bowl and coat the beef pieces, carrots, onions and parsnips evenly.  Tuck the beef and veg pieces into a large casserole dish, crumble over the beef stock cube, the bay leaves and thyme then pour over the ale. 
2)   Bring to simmer then add two layers of foil over the top, then the lid.  This tight seal means the liquid won’t escape during the long cooking process.
3)   Cook at 130 degrees celcius for 4.5 hours, then remove from the oven, and turn the temperature up to 200.
4)   While the oven is heating get on with the dumplings.  Mix the wholegrain mustard in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of water.  In a separate bowl mix the dry dumpling ingredients. 
5)   Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing with a metal spoon or knife.  If needed add more water until it becomes a cohesive ball of soft dough. 
6)   Divide the dough into 8, then wet hands and roll lightly into little balls. 
7)   By now the oven will have heated.  Take the lid of off the stew and place the dumpling balls evenly in the stew.  Put back in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the dumplings are golden crusted. 
8)   Eat and eat and eat and eat. 

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