It's Autumn. I know this because it is 6p.m. and it's dark. It's also raining. And Strictly is back on the telly. All signs point to the Vernal Equinox being in full effect. This can only be described as A Good Thing as far as I'm concerned. And why is this? Why should the time of year when the nights close in and the mercury and leaves start to drop be a time for celebration?
One word -
I am a dumpling addict. There, I said it. I would eat dumplings until my stomach exploded and would consider it a fine and proper demise, and the best way to eat dumplings is to drop them into a fine beef stew. And this recipe is the finest beef stew that I have ever made. Better than my Nana's stew, which was cooked for around 3 days in a huge vat and the consistency of wallpaper paste. Better than the Irish stew that the pub across from my old office used to make, and I ate for lunch every day, loving how the flavor increased the closer to the weekend we got - obviously another huge vat that was kept on the stove all week.
After making stew for pretty much all of my adult life, I have come to a few conclusions -
1. Shin Beef is better than Stewing Beef
2. Turnips beat Swede every day of the week
3. Dumplings should NEVER have a crust on them
4. Red wine makes better gravy than Stout
Please note, these are just my opinions, and you should feel free to disregard them if you wish to have inferior stew.
700g Shin Beef
2 Stalks Celery
500ml Beef stock
500ml Red Wine
2 Bay Leaves
4 Sprigs Thyme
2tsp Worcestershire Sause
For the dumplings
50g Beef Suet
1tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
Cut the beef into about inch cubes, removing any tendons and extra fatty bits, then coat them in seasoned flour.
In a large frying pan, brown the meat in hot dripping (or oil if you want), but only do it a few chunks at a time or they will boil rather than brown. Remove the beef and set aside for now
Next cut up the onions and fry them in the same pan as the beef, but dont let them colour too much. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. Now use some of the stock to de-glaze the pan, then pour the stock into your large stew pan, add the meat and onions, red wine, worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, add the carrots, celery and turnips and simmer for another hour.
To make the dumplings, mix the flour and suet, baking powder and salt, then add just enough water to bind it all together in a dough, then separate into 6 balls and add to the stew, cover and simmer for another 15 minutes until the dumplings are cooked. Then the stew is ready to serve. Enjoy!
Also, you could try putting other things in the dumplings to make them more interesting - these could include horseradish, rosemary, thyme or creme fraiche. Feel free to experiment, but a word of warning - don't eat too many, they are addictive!