Hearty beef stew with cheese and parsley dumplings
I cooked this beef stew for my husband’s grandmother and she loved it. It is always a privilege to cook for women who have been cooking for other people for their whole lives – they deserve to have someone else do the hard work in the kitchen while they put their feet up. I definitely served this beef stew with glasses of wine all round. I recommend a smooth Chilean merlot or a Côté du Rhones. For this stew, there are no hard and fast rules for the vegetables or the meat – don’t panic if you don’t have everything on the list. Stews are a great way to use vegetables before they turn to compost in the bottom of the fridge.
And it’s never just a beef stew. Variations are, as ever, possible. The last time I made this bad boy, I used diced pork steaks. It also works with diced chicken, but you might need to reduce the cooking time slightly so the meat doesn’t turn to leathery chunks. For those who are meat-free, either meat substitutes or loading it up with extra vegetables works well for a beefless beef stew. Diced sweet potato in particular takes this to the next level, with or without meat. And I’ve been known to add diced bacon fried in butter to the dumplings, along with some grated parmesan – don’t be afraid to experiment.
For the dumplings
- 125g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 60g suet or 45g butter
- Water for the dough
- 100g grated cheddar cheese
- 30g chopped fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons of dried parsley
For the stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 750g lean beef cut into cubes
- ¼ cup of plain flour
- 400ml stock (I like to use beef or vegetable stock but any will do)
- 1 large red onion, sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- Red and green pepper cut into small pieces
- 1 large potato cut into cubes
- One tin of chopped tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- One glass of good red wine (if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it)
- A good dash of Worcestershire sauce
- A heaped tablespoon of redcurrant jelly
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 30g each of fresh thyme and parsley
- First make the dumplings. Sift flour, baking powder and salt and rub in the butter or suet until it starts to look like breadcrumbs.
- Add water little by little until you have a thick dough. Be careful not to go overboard with the water otherwise it will be too sticky and hard to work with. You want the water to be absorbed into the dry ingredients without it taking on the consistency of thick glue.
- Once you have a nice dough, cut the grated cheese and parsley through it with a table knife and squish through with your fingers. I like to wear gloves for this to reduce the risk of dough sticking to my hands and getting under my nails.
- Roll the dough into balls about the size of golf balls and set aside.
- For the stew, heat the olive oil in a big, lidded ovenproof pot, brown the beef and add the flour to coat the beef.
- Add the stock and stir so the sauce starts to thicken. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
- Throw in all remaining ingredients apart from the thyme and parsley. Stir well and bring to the boil.
- Put in the oven for 1.5 hours with the lid on.
- Put the dumplings on top and put in the oven, with the lid off, for about 20 minutes or until they’re golden-brown.
- Garnish with the thyme and parsley and serve with mashed potato or pasta – and the rest of the red wine.