Monday, 6 December 2010

Recipe: Beef and Ale Stew with Mustard and Rosemary Dumplings

(Serves 4)

Many people use something called 'Braising Steak' for stews, which usually comes from the skirt, flank or shoulder. My favourite slow cooked beef comes from the shin. The flavour is rich and despite a shin sounding like an area with little meat, you are able to buy shin as boneless 'steaks'. This means that nice chunks are easily achieved. It's absolutely freezing here at the moment so warm yourself up with one of the ultimate comfort foods.

For the Stew...

800g Thick Diced, Boneless Shin of Beef
2 Medium Onions
2 Sticks Celery
2 Carrots
2 Cloves of minced Garlic
1 Tbsp Tomato Puree
1 Tbsp Plain Flour
500ml Real Ale, Bitter or Porter (if you want it darker tasting)
250ml Beef Stock
2 Bay Leaves
A large sprig of Thyme
A small handful of Prunes, finely chopped up (only if you’re using a dark ale or stout)
A couple of splashes of Worcestershire Sauce

For the Rosemary and Mustard Dumplings...

175g self raising flour (sifted)
75g Shredded Suet
1 Tsp Mustard Powder or 1 Tbsp Coleman’s Mustard
1 Tbsp Very finely chopped rosemary, preferably fresh, dried is ok
¾ tsp salt
Pepper to taste

For the Stew...

Pour a large glug of vegetable oil (or other) into a medium to large sized casserole pot. Heat high on the hob and put in half of the diced shin. (Not all of it as we want to fry and colour at this stage, not stew.) Avoid the temptation to move the beef round the pan (it will stick straight away). Just let it come away with a little push of a wooden spoon. We want to colour the meat a rich dark brown. Some cooks, not familiar with this will think the meat is burning. It is simply caramelising, which is one of the keys to cramming as much flavour into the stew as possible. Once it is browned all over, add a little more oil if needed and do the same for the second batch. Set the meat aside.

You should now have a brown ‘resin’ round the casserole pot. Roughly chop the mirepoix of veg and add to the pan. Fry, whilst scraping away all the meat juices from the pan for about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and fry for a further 3 minutes. Once the vegetables are have 'deglazed' the resin for themselves, add the tomato puree and stir in for one minute. Then add the flour and stir in for one minute.

Once you can see no more grains of flour, add the ale/porter followed by the stock. Season with some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and add the diced shin back in. Reduce heat, cover tightly and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring infrequently.

Enjoy several beers (optional)...

After 2 hours, add the chopped prunes if using(these won’t stay whole, they will melt. They just help to counter the bitterness of the darker beer and give it a richness). These will be especially handy if you use stout or porter. If you use lighter ale, it isn’t so necessary. At the same time, add in the bay leaves and thyme. Taste the stew and check if it needs more salt. Put in the splashes of Worcestershire sauce. Simmer (covered) for a further 20-30 minutes whilst you prepare the dumplings.

For the Rosemary and Mustard Dumplings...

In a bowl add all your dumpling ingredients. Then add enough water gradually whilst stirring until you have a dough that comes away cleanly from the sides but isn’t sticky. You will need roughly 80ml water to do this. They key here is not to over-work the dough. Just bring it together into a ball or they will be stodgy. Next, tear off ping pong sized chunks and mould roughly into balls. You should have enough in this mix for about 12 dumplings (3 each. Don’t worry, they double in size). Once the beef has been simmering for about 2 and a half hours and a piece of shin can be broken with the thumb and forefinger, you can add your dumplings. Place them round the casserole pot like marking out a clock, put the final balls into the centre. Cover again with the lid and simmer for about 20 minutes. Check the bottom of your casserole before and during the cooking of the dumplings because your stew is reducing here, it may over-thicken and stick to the bottom. Just stir well and add a splash or water or stock as necessary.

Once the dumplings have puffed up and are cooked through, plate up into warmed bowls and serve with lots of buttered crusty bread on the side.

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