Thursday, 17 January 2013

Winter Warmer

Well, as the weather has turned colder, and due to the fact that I have been ill for a few days and have hardly set foot outside so have not been able to shop this week, tonight's meal, which is one of my favourites, is not quite what it would be normally, but will still hopefully be tasty and warming in this cold spell.

I've loved good old Beef Stew and Dumplings since I was a child when it was a regular meal all year round.  I'm not the best cook, but I always enjoy making this and it is so simple, anyone could do it.

Normally, I would make this stew with the following ingredients:

1 onion
2 chopped carrots
2 or 3 chopped potatoes
diced beef
2 beef stock cubes crumbled in
10-12 button mushrooms
a splash of Worcestershire sauce
some green beans cut into smallish pieces or frozen peas
enough  hot water to cover all the ingredients in the casserole dish.

Initially, I tend to sear the diced beef in a little oil with the onions first and then add the rest of the ingredients before putting it all into the oven at 200 degrees for approx. 2.5 to 3 hours until the beef is lovely and tender.  I'm sure you could do this in a slow cooker too but I haven't had as good results when I've tried it.  Check on it and stir every half hour or so to make sure it is evenly cooked.

Half an hour before it is due to come out, add some dumplings.  I make my dumplings with:

4 oz self-raising flour
2oz vegetable suet (less calories than beef - I bought 1kg from Approved Foods for £1 I think)
A pinch of salt. 

Mix in enough water to make a nice dough, not too stiff but not too sloppy. (Sorry this is not very specific, I tend to take the bowl over to the cold tap and add in a little at a time until I get the right consistency).

I divide this mixture into 4 pieces and place each into the top of the stew but you could make as few or as many as you like.  I then return the stew to the oven for the last half hour.  You can turn them over after 15 minutes to get them slightly crusty on both sides if you like.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

Then serve.  This will serve 2-4 people depending on the portion size.  I will either serve with vegetables or we just eat as is or perhaps with some bread.

Not a sophisticated meal, but very enjoyable. 

Due to the lack of vegetables in my fridge and cupboards today, I have made it with two large new potatoes, one large onion, a splash of worcestershire sauce and mushroom ketchup and some frozen peas. A bit short on vegetables but I'm hoping it will still taste as good. In addition the only flour I had in my cupboard was wholemeal self-raising, so the dumplings probably have a little more colour than normal.

So, here's the finished result, and it was very tasty.

I realise that 3 hours in the oven means you have to start this meal early to avoid eating late and that such a long time in the oven can be expensive.  To make it more economical you could always use the time in the oven to bake other things at the same time.  This meal all fits in one casserole dish, which might leave enough space to cook or bake other things that could perhaps be frozen or used the following evening.

You can of course vary this recipe using any root vegetables.  I use whatever I have from turnip, parsnip, kohl rhabi, etc.  It is a good way to use up all those vegetables languishing at the bottom of the fridge.

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