Recipe Review: The house smelled great! This would have been perfect if I'd just remembered to put the baking powder into the dumplings! As you can see they were a bit sad and small looking. Oopsy! They tasted fine, but the texture was displeasing. Simon described the taste of the meat as "like a beef and burgundy pie without the pie"!
Cooking time: 3 to 3 ¾ hours Serves: 6
Preheat oven: 160°c
- 150 g plain flour, plus 3 tbsp
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 kg stewing steak, trimmed of excess fat and cut into match box sized pieces (a butcher should be happy to do this for you)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions
- 2 stalks celery
- 5 medium carrots, or about 600g
- several sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 300 ml full-bodied red wine
- 400 ml good beef stock
- 50 g strong cheddar cheese
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 5 tbsp milk
- salt and pepper
1. Mix the 3 tablespoons flour, the salt and some pepper in a food bag, then add the beef. Shake the bag, to coat the beef in the flour.
Packaged stewing steak tends to be cut too small (and can be too lean) for proper long, slow cooking, so it's better to choose a large piece and cut it yourself, or ask the butcher to do it for you. Anything labelled feather, chuck, leg, shin, skirt or just plain old braising steak will do.
2. Put a large ovenproof casserole pot over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Put half of the beef into the pan, tapping away the excess flour from each piece before it goes in. Fry for 10 minutes, turning a couple of times, until dark golden brown and crusted. Transfer to a bowl, and then add a splash of water to the pan scrape up any meaty bits. Pour this liquid into the bowl. Wipe out the pan with kitchen paper, and then repeat with the second batch of beef.
The little crusty bits that form on the bottom of the pan are full of flavour. Adding liquid to the pan and scraping up the tasty bits is known as deglazing, and it's a great technique for making tasty sauces.
3. Meanwhile, roughly chop the onions and celery and cut the carrots into chunky pieces.
4. Transfer the second batch of beef to the bowl, deglaze the pan as above, and then wipe out the pan. Add 1 tablespoon butter and the final tablespoon of oil, and then cook the onion, carrot, celery, a few sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf for 10 minutes, until starting to turn golden.
5. Return the meat and any juices to the pan, then stir in the tomato puree and pour in the wine and stock. The top pieces of meat should be just poking clear of the liquid. This will depend on the size of your pan, so add a splash more wine, stock, or water if you need to. Bring the pan to a simmer over a low heat, then cover with a lid and put the pan in the oven for 2 hours.
6. Start preparing the dumplings. Grate the cheese. Cut the remaining butter into cubes and put it in the bowl with the rest of the flour and the baking powder. Rub the ingredients together, using both hands to lift the butter and flour from the bowl, then gently rubbing/passing them between your fingers. It should look like rough breadcrumbs.
7. Before finishing off the dumplings, check the stew. They meat should be tender enough to cut easily with a spoon. If you're happy that it's ready, or very nearly so, spoon off any excess fat from the top and season with salt and pepper.* If not, give it another 30 minutes and test it again. When the stew is ready, finish off the dumplings. Stir the milk, remaining thyme leaves, cheese and some seasoning into the flour mixture, until you have firm dough you can roll into balls. Pinch off 12 small pieces and shape into balls.
8. Sit the dumplings on top of the stew. Return the pan to the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
9. The dumplings will swell and turn golden and the stew will be rich and brown. Serve with vegetables, such as Buttered Green Vegetables, and potatoes.
Don't forget the baking powder!
* I didn't get a layer of excess fat but some health bloggers out there say that you shouldn’t as a lot of the goodness from the meat is in that layer. Do you own google search on this though.
I also personally like my carrot pieces in stew to be smaller bite size pieces, but that's just me. I'd then have to play around with the cooking time so that the carrot doesn't become soggy when cooked in smaller pieces.
We didn't have this with potato but I think mashed potato, mashed sweet potato or crusty good-quality bread would be nice with it to soak up all the lovely sauce.