Getting in a Stew!
Time is precious now we have well and truly entered the festive period, so to have a simple, home cooked supper that delivers on comfort and flavour seems the perfect indulgence on a cold, winter’s evening. Packed full of seasonal vegetables, tender meat and plump dumplings, my easy stew is foolproof to prepare, but is brimming with nutrition, and not too bad on the pre-Christmas waistline!
December hosts an abundance of delicious root vegetables, hardy enough to withstand the harsh weather, and therefore perfect for simmering in a stew for a good few hours. Seasonal veggies such as Swede and turnip are fantastic base vegetables for your broth, and can be added from the beginning of the cooking process, still retaining their texture and vibrancy. Their earthy flavours add body to the stew, yet their sweetness compliments the richness of the meat.
Do not hesitate if your Swede is looking a little sad, this is the perfect recipe for using up all those forgotten vegetables. The versatility of this recipe also means you can adapt depending on your store cupboard – as long as the vegetables are hardy in nature, they will be an ideal addition. Carrots, Swede, turnips, parsnips, potatoes and leeks are among a few seasonal vegetables I look to throw in.
With at least a four hour cooking time, this is sure not a recipe for a last minute munch, but one that is quickly and easily prepared of an afternoon, and simply left to its own devices – a couple of stirs once in a while is all it requires. This not only allows the meat to become ‘melt in the mouth’, but for the juices to make a rich and flavoursome broth.
With money tight at this time too, this is not a fancy recipe that pulls on the purse strings. Due to the long cooking time, cheaper cuts of beef are more than adequate – braising cuts are best for the job. Braising meat often refers to cuts that are from hard working areas of the cow. Taken from the shoulder area, I like to use locally grown Somerset chuck beef from my local butcher FJ Scrivern and Sons. This meat contains high levels of connective tissue that melts during the cooking process, therefore, adding delicious flavours, whilst also tenderising the meat.
You couldn’t have a stew without the dumplings, so I have provided the ideal recipe for a light and fluffy homemade variety. This recipe really is simple, and with being made from butter instead of suet, they make for a lighter, slightly healthier version. Popped into the pan 40 minutes before serving, these dumplings are simply heavenly, and make for a truly satisfying supper.
- Splash of oil
- 500g chuck beef
- 1 large white onion, diced
- 1 small Swede/turnip, diced
- 2 - 3 Parsnips, diced
- 2 - 3 Carrot, diced
- 2 leeks, chopped
- 1 large potato, diced
- 2 ½ – 3 pints beef stock
- Couple of bay leaves
- Mixed dried herbs
- Mild curry powder
- 200g Self raising flour
- 80g butter
- Sprinkling of dried herbs
- Dash of water
- In a large heavy based pan, add a splash of oil and allow to heat. Put in the meat and a roughly chopped onion, and the meat to brown.
- Once the meat has some colour, throw in your roughly chopped vegetables (minus the potato) and stock. Ensure the stock just covers the ingredients before adding herbs, seasoning and a sprinkling of curry powder. Allow to cook for at least 4 hours, adding the potato in the last hour.
- Make the dumplings whilst the stew is cooking – place the flour and butter in a bowl, along with the herbs, and rub together to form the breadcrumbs. Add a splash of water, just enough to bring the mixture together. Form into balls (around 10) about the size of a walnut – these will grow whilst cooking in the stew.
- Before you add the dumplings, taste your broth and add more seasoning and herbs if needed. Carefully place your dumplings into the top of the stew and cover with a lid, stemming for 40 minutes.
- Serve with a little crusty bread to soak up the delicious broth!