This is a stew made rich and dark as sin with stout, but it’s the blue cheese dumplings that make it stand out. Unintentional rhyming there, but fear not, I’ll still blog when they make me poet laureate. If you think that’s delusional you should know my first draft had me channelling Good King Wenceslas. The poetry gig is a step down from the monarchy but follow boldly in my footsteps anyway.
Lockdown, don’t you love it? I’m losing my mind. Back to the stew: it needs little more than some creamy mash and a veggie side to make a warming winter meal. We had carrots because that’s what we have growing but something green and broccoli-ish would be good. Sanity check optional.
The dumplings are a variation on my mum’s old recipe. Double the quantities if you’re making it for four – I was aiming to freeze half of the stew for later. The casserole is best made a day ahead but don’t make the dumplings until just before serving.
Beef Stew with Cheesy Dumplings
Ingredients for the stew:
2-3 tbsp oil
1 kg shin of beef
3 onions (I used red, white are fine), peeled, halved and sliced lengthways
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp flour
400 ml stout
300 ml beef stock
Bouquet garni of bay leaves, thyme and rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped + knob of butter and a splash of oil
For the dumplings:
50g self-raising flour
Pinch each of salt and pepper
1 level tbsp suet (veggie or otherwise)
Enough milk to make a stiffish but malleable dough
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
20g blue cheese (I used Shropshire Blue but any crumbly blue cheese will work)
If you’d like to cook the stew in the oven rather than on the stove top (less stirring), heat the oven to 180C/160fan/360F/Gas Mark 4.
Heat the oil in a deep pan and brown the beef in batches. Scoop out and set aside. Add more oil if necessary and add the onions, sprinkled with a little salt. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
Scrape a hole in the middle and squeeze in the tomato puree, cooking it off for a few minutes. Stir in then add the red wine vinegar. Let it sizzle and almost disappear. Put the beef back in the pan with any meat juices and stir in the flour. Cook off again for a few minutes before slowly pouring in the stout, stirring to mix and thicken.
Add the stock and bouquet garni and season to taste with salt and pepper. Put on a lid and cook at a simmer for about 2 hours either on top of the stove, stirring occasionally, or place in the pre-heated oven. Check the liquid levels halfway through and top up if necessary.
While it’s cooking, fry the mushrooms in a mix of butter and oil and add to the stew when it’s done. Check the seasoning, cool and refrigerate the casserole overnight. Trust me, it’ll taste better. Remove from the fridge at least half an hour before you want to eat, then put it back on the stove and bring up to heat.
To make the dumplings, put the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk gently to mix. Add the suet and chopped parsley and gradually stir in just enough milk to form a stiff but malleable dough. Mix through the crumbled cheese and using floured hands, form into four balls.
Drop the dumplings into the stew, put the lid back on and cook for around 20 minutes, either at a gentle simmer on the stove or in the oven at the same temperature as before. If you want your dumplings to brown, remove the lid once they’ve puffed up; I think they’re lighter and more tender with the lid left on but it’s a matter of personal preference. Eat and enjoy.