Sunday, 10 August 2008

Stew and lots of Big Fluffy Dumplings

Cheap, old fashioned, British, peasant skippers food. I genuinely believe this has medicinal qualities! Its very plain and homely, and warming and comforting ..

You really can make stew however you like but I like to use proper stewing beef, and lots of root vegetables. This stew is meant to be plain and just taste of the meat and the veg - you could of course make this with garlic, and herbs, and wine, but that would be a different kind of dish altogether. So just go with me on this one!

Over quite a strong flame, heat some oil and fry onion and/or leek, then add the meat and brown it. Add a big spoonful of flour, and stir that in. Let it go brown and start to stick to the pan. Then add a bit of stock, stir well to dislodge all the brown crusty bits. Add chunks of carrots, swede, parsnips and turnip. If you like, a handful of pearl barley. Then pour in some good beef stock, bring up to a simmer and stick it in a gentle oven for four hours.

At the end, taste it to see if you want to add salt or a few gravy granules, which will also thicken it a bit more, and make it nice and brown. Add a handful of peas and then make your dumplings. I used perhaps 2 cups of flour and would normally add about a cup of suet to that - although (shh) funnily enough, today I forgot to put the suet in and they were still great! Add a heaped teaspoon of baking powder, even if you used self raising flour. This is how you get them fluffy and light. Season with salt and pepper, and perhaps some dry mustard powder too. Add water until a soft dough is formed. Drop balls of the dough into the bubbling stew and let it all simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes. They will puff up like clouds, floating on top.

Serve in big bowls, perhaps with some mash and a little blob of horseradish, and eat with a spoon. Mmmm.

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