Sunday, 25 November 2012

Unctuous Beefy Stew - With Dumplings Of Course!

God bless those food photographers who make every dish mouthwateringly delicious even if it is a naturally brown and gloopy concoction.  Maybe I could do with a few tips from them and reckon that this article that I've just found might have made my latest creation look a little more appetising.  Never mind! You'll have to trust me that this was absolutely scrummy and just right for these cold waterlogged days that seem to have set in at the moment.

'So what's the recipe?' you may be asking.  Well, there isn't really a precise one.  This stew and previous variations are just thrown together and shoved in the slow cooker to cook on high for the day.  But I'll give you an idea of how it's conjured up.

1.  Take 500g of stewing steak.  Mine was a pack of the Aberdeen Angus meat that I got from the reduced section at the Coop and had been lurking in my freezer for a couple of months.  Brown it in a little oil with a couple of sliced onions.  You can vary the number of these according to taste. Pop in the pot with those pan juices.
2.  Whilst the meat is browning you might as well make the dumplings.  Put 8oz of self raising flour, 4oz of beef suet and salt in the food processor.  Add water until the mixture starts to bind together.  Roll into balls and set aside.  Do not, and I repeat do not, ever use vegetable suet.  It's pants and causes the dumplings to become hard little bullets rather than fluffy clouds of lushness.
3.  Now add  veggies chopped to gob size.  Mushrooms, root veg,  pepper, aubergine and potato all work.  Anything that isn't green really is the rule.  This was made on a day that the fridge was a bit sparse so there's carrot and one of those lovely  squash that I impulsed purchased a while back.  On occasions I've also added leftover baked beans.
 4.  Now the important bit.  You're going to be adding liquid in a minute so to avoid runny insipidness, something needs to soak up that moisture effectively.  Lentils, rice and other pulses will all do the trick but I add a couple of handfuls of that old fashioned favourite, pearl barley that really has become rather trendy these days.
5.  Add a tin of squished plum tomatoes (cheaper than the chopped ones), a couple of beef stock cubes, a good squirt of tomato puree, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and whatever robust dried herb takes your fancy.  Thyme, rosemary or sage are all good on their own or in combination.  Cover everything with hot water from the kettle and pop the dumplings on top.
6.  Cook for at least 8 hours.
And there you have it.  A meal for four greedy people or two with leftovers for the next day.  I can pretty much guarantee though that there'll be no dumplings left by the time second helpings come along!

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