May 21 2007

Old Fashioned Beef Stew and Dumplings

Cut 500gms of braising beef eg. chuck steak or shin of beef, into large squares and dust with flour. Heat olive oil in a heavy frying pan and soften two large sliced onions, when just beginning to brown transfer to a casserole dish. Fry the meat quickly in batches giving the pan time to heat up between each batch. Place the meat in the casserole, add 500gms carrots cut into sticks, *a bouquet garni and salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle over a spoonful of flour

Deglaze the frying pan with 750ml of stock or 300ml water and 450ml stout. Bring to the boil and pour over the meat making sure it is covered. Cover and cook for 2 hours in the preheated oven 170C/gas3 or until the meat is tender.

* traditionally bouquet garni is made up of a bay leaf, and two or three sprigs of parsley and thyme.

To make the dumplings sift 100gms of self raising flour and mix with ½ teaspoon backing powder, ½ teaspoon salt, 50gms shredded suet and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Add enough water to make a sticky dough. On a floured board, roll the dough into small balls. When the meat is nearly cooked put the dumplings on top of the stew and cook a further ½ hour until they are double the size and cooked right through. It helps to baste them a couple of times during cooking. Serve the stew with a crisp green salad.

This is the basic principle for all stews and ragouts. Ring the changes with your choice of vegetables, herbs and liquid. Red wine, garlic, bacon, tomatoes and orange rind will take you to a French Daube. Kidney, mushrooms and oysters will bring you back to Britain with Steak and Kidney and Oyster Pie or Pudding. Juniper berries, peppercorns, Parma Ham and white wine will give you Italian Stracotto.

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