I came back from visiting my family in France with, among other goodies, a new, huge, heavy cast-iron pan. I had been coveting one such pan for a very long time, but the price tag meant that I couldn’t afford one; not unless I defaulted on my mortgage payments, that is. My amazing parents, however, decided to buy one for me as an early Christmas present (have I mentioned they are amazing?), and it is fair to say that I have rarely been as excited as I was when I opened the box.
I know some of you might think that I am pretty pathetic, getting all excited over a pan like this, but I don’t care what you think, because I’VE GOT A NEW PAN!!!!
Well, that’s the gloating neatly out of the way now, so let’s talk a bit about the recipe…
This dish is delicious, a mixture of meltingly tender beef, tasty veg and gravy, and light, fluffy dumplings… It is the ultimate antidote to cold, dark evenings. I like to make a big batch of this on a Sunday, and keep some back for the Monday night; I find it incredibly comforting when it starts getting dark on a Monday afternoon, and with the whole working week still ahead of me, to know that there is a lovely warming meal waiting for me at home that just needs re-heating…
This stew will freeze beautifully (without the dumplings), and any leftover sauce works really well with pasta, especially if you cook the pasta in it. Oh, and it is also very cheap to make!
The dumplings recipe is Jane Grigson’s, from “English Food” (one of the first cookbooks I bought after moving to England, I was very intrigued by the notion of a whole book about English food…).
You will need:
For the stew:
1 kg beef shin, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 celery sticks
4 cloves garlic
250g chestnut mushrooms
10g dried wild mushrooms (I used chanterelles)
1 handful plain flour
1 tsp dried oregano
25cl red wine
1 tbsp tomato puree
500 ml beef stock
200 ml hot water
For the dumplings:
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
60g shredded suet (vegetable suet is fine)
1 tbsp chopped herbs of your choice (I used thyme)
Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot, freshly boiled water.
Chop the onions, carrots, celery and leek. Quarter the mushrooms. Crush and peel the garlic.
Season the flour generously with salt, pepper and the oregano. Toss the meat in the flour until evenly covered.
Heat up the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-based lidded pan. Shake any excess flour off the meat, and add to the pan; turn regularly until brown all over.
Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and leek, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the tomato puree and cook it out, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure all the tasty bits are incorporated in the gravy. Bring to the boil, then add the stock, the rehydrated mushrooms with their water, and top up with hot water if needed (the liquid needs to cover the meat almost completely.
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to the minimum setting, put the lid on, and leave to simmer gently for about 4 hrs, stirring every so often.
30 min before you are ready to serve, make the dumplings. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and suet in a bowl. Mix with enough water to form a slightly sticky dough. Flour your hands and form into dumplings; I usually make 6 large ones but you could make up to 12 smaller ones.
Check the seasoning of the beef gravy, and add your dumplings to the pan, making sure there is plently of liquid there as they need to be poached. Put the lid back on and cook for another 10 to 20 min, depending on the size of the dumplings. Serve with hot, buttery mash.