It seems strange to be writing a recipe for stew and dumplings in July, but with the weather at the moment it doesn’t feel entirely wrong. I must say, the smell of stew wafting through the house is particularly evocative of autumn and winter for me, and therefore I now feel thoroughly confused as to which season we are actually in.
The recipe is really simple and is one I could do in my sleep now. We eat this pretty much every week in winter (with or without dumplings), and I find it works as a great substitute for a roast on a Sunday. My method makes the gravy thick and richly flavoured with no effort at all. It’s the perfect recipe for shoving in the oven on low, and getting on with other things. You just need to give it a stir every now and again.
One thing I will say is that I don’t put potatoes in my stew. I really dislike the grainy texture of potatoes when they’re cooked in this way. I’d much rather have a dollop of creamy mash with it instead. What follows is the quantity I use for two people, although you’ll more than likely have some left over for lunch the next day (GREAT with crusty bread). You can very easily multiply up the quantities for more people.
Beef stew & dumplings
250g stewing steak
4 or 5 shallots or two small onions
Salt & pepper
A large knob butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 beef oxo cubes
3/4 pint boiling water
For the dumplings
100g self raising flour
Pinch of salt
A few sprigs thyme, leaves plucked
Cold water to mix
Put a casserole dish on the hob on a medium heat. Melt a large knob of butter with a drizzle of oil. Once hot, add the beef, cut into chunks if you’ve bought it in steaks. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and seasoning (I use LOADS of black pepper, the meat can really take it) and stir everything together. Fry the meat until browned. It will all stick to the bottom and go all gloopy around the edges with the flour and butter mixture but this is GOOD. The burnt bits on the bottom of the pan are what gives the stew such an amazing flavour later on.
Whilst the meat is browning, skin the onions or shallots and either halve of quarter them, depending on their size. Peel the carrots and cut them into sizeable chunks.
Once the meat is browned, add he vegetables and fry for a few minutes. Meanwhile, boil the kettle and dissolve two oxo cubes in 3/4 pint of boiling water. Pour the stock over the meat and vegetables and cover with a lid until simmering.
Put the stew into a 180C oven for 30 minutes. After that time, take the stew out and give it a good stir, scraping the bottom well. It won’t be too yielding just yet, but will soften up gradually. Return to the oven at 150C for another 1 1/2 hours, and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom each time.
Meanwhile, in the last half an hour peel the potatoes and make the dumplings. To make the dumplings, simply weigh out the flour and suet and put into a bowl. Add the salt and the thyme and stir. Add in around 4 or 5 tablespoons of cold water and stir, adding small amounts more until the mixture comes together into a soft dough. Split the dough into four balls.
Once the potatoes are boiling, add the dumplings to the top of the stew and put the lid back on. They will take about 20 minutes to steam; around the same time as the potatoes. Cook your green vegetables and mash the potatoes with milk, butter and black pepper. Serve!