Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Warming Winter Stew with Dumplings

Stew is a winter must have, now its turning into fur coat weather, with frost on the ground and breathing heavy clouds. Nothing is nicer than putting on the slow cooker and coming home hours later to a warm house that smells of ready made food. Then that sweet anticipation as you wait for the dumplings to be ready. Delicious. Its so simple to do as well, chop and fry a few things, whack in some flavory things and leave it alone for a while. Brilliant.

Serves 3-4
You will need:
-Stewing Steak
-Olive Oil
-Tinned Tomatoes
-Tomato Paste
- Pepper Corns
-2 Onions

-250g flour
-150g suet
-1/4 cup water

Firstly you peel and roughly chop your onions, toss them into a medium heated pan with a good glug of olive oil. Stir them consistently, until transparent, then turn the hear way down and dice the meat. Roughly chop it into bite sized pieces, leave out the toughest fat. Then add that to the pan to brown.

Once the meat has coloured and started to brown, open your tin of tomatoes and roughly chop them, then add them to the pan, half fill the can with water, swill any left over and pour that in as well. Mix them in well, if there are large lumps of tomato break them up slightly with your spoon. 

Next I added two tablespoons of the homemade chunky I made earlier in the year, you can use store bought of any generic pickle. It helps add to the background flavour and give a hit of sweetness to the mix without having to faff about with spices and flavours. I would also add a bay leaf in at this point, I didn't because I don't have a bay tree down here yet. 

Then I added half a teaspoon of capers, during the cooking processes they pretty much disintegrate and add a background flavour that is just lovely. 

Next you want to boost the tomato flavour so add a good squeeze of tomato paste, about a tablespoon full, but you don't need to measure just use your eyes and what the sauce looks like. 

The stew should start smelling amazing around about now, but don't be tempted to eat it right away, stew is always best left for at least twenty four hours. Like good wine you need to let it mellow into its self and grow in flavour.  Next add two heaped teaspoons of paprika and stir everything together really well. 

Lastly add four pepper corns, remember to warn who ever is going to be eating your stew that there are four to find. 

Then add all the mixture to your hot pot and set it to high for two hours with the lid on. Keep an eye on it to make sure the sauce doesn't drop below the leave of the meat or you will have disaster, top up with water or red wine if you have it. After two hour turn down to low and leave it for as long as you like, make sure to turn it off over night and keep checking the liquid levels every now and then while it is on. 

The next day when you plan on eating the stew, turn it on low when you get up, keep topping it up with wine or water if you are using water add extra tomato paste as well.  You can also add a cinnamon stick and a star anise at this point if you desire, I love those flavours as they are so traditional but my house mate doesn't so I did use them on the occasion.  Half an hour before you plan to serve turn the heat up high and start to make the dumplings

I made this recipe up on the spot so it is not a perfect mind blowing recipe but it was tasty and made dumplings. First add two cups of self rising flour to your mixing bowl. You could sift it if you wanted to but I'd rather not dirty a utensil. 

Then add a cup of suet, you usually get suet dried an in flakes at the store, you can substitute it for frozen butter that can be grated into the mix.  Suet is a type of fat, and I know some people think that is a byword for unhealthy but it isn't, you need fat in your diet to function and in winter it is vital to keep you healthy. The type of fat you eat also has an effect, this is natural fats that add flavour. 

Then add a tiny drop of cold water and work the suet into the flour with your finger tips, like you are making bread crumbs.  Your looking for a rough texture, don't worry if its not sticking together just yet. 

Then add some ground pepper and some dried Italian herbs, use your own knowledge with this one. I used about four pepper corns and maybe two tea spoons of herbs but that is my preference yours might be different. 

Next slowly add a few drops of water at a time to the mixture and slowly work it with your hands until it forms a solid crumbly dough mix. Flour your hands and break it golf ball sized pieces off the main dough ball. Roll them and set them aside, allow two dumplings per person at least. You might have left over dough you can turn it into rough pastry later.

Now all you need to do is add the dumplings to your pot, leave space for them to expand, they will sink at first but don't worry they will reappear during cooking. Put the lid back on your pot and cook for twenty to twenty five minutes until the dumplings look glossy on the outside but firm. Now all is left is to serve your meal. 

House mates loved it and there where left overs for the morning.  Defiantly a winter staple. 

Belinda Stepford

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