Sunday, 31 August 2014

A beef stew

My mum used to make beef stew with dumplings - the beef was never my favourite bit, being diced too small and quite dry as a result, but I loved the dumplings and the barley. When the Highland summer turned suddenly into autumn a couple of weeks ago, I started making stews and pies. Today, I made beef stew again, and the sun decided that it was time to make picnic weather. It's roasting (comparatively, in Ross-shire terms) and we only ate about half the pot. The other half went next door to the Carlsbergs (as in "If Carslberg did neighbours...") and I didn't bother with barley. Anyway, I've been told to write it down, so here we go.

For the stew
750g stewing steak, diced
a small swede, cut into large dice
four carrots, cut into large rounds
two sticks of celery, chopped
a big sprig of thyme
a medium onion, roughly chopped
a shallot, roughly chopped
a handful of barley
two cloves of garlic, sliced
500ml of beef stock
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
250ml of red wine
50g of plain flour
a bay leaf
4-5 tablespoons of oil
salt and pepper

For the dumplings
100g of self-raising flower
50g of beef suet
½ teaspoon of mustard powder
½ teaspoon of dried sage

Heat the oven to 150C.
Season the flour and toss the steak in it.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy casserole dish. Fry the onion and garlic and remove from the pan. Turn up the heat a little and brown the steak in batches, adding more oil as required.
Toss the carrots and swede in the flour and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the celery, then turn the heat right up and pour in the wine. Scrape away at the pan to mix in the browned flour and meat scraps, then bubble the wine until reduced by half.
Meanwhile heat a little oil in a frying pan and brown the onion and garlic.
Add the steak, onions, barley, thyme and bay leaf to the casserole, then tip in the stock and Worcestershire sauce. Sieve in any remaining flour. Mix well and bring to the boil.
Cover with the lid over a piece of foil to ensure a good seal. Place in the oven for two hours, then remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 200C.

Mix the flour, suet, dried sage, mustard powder and a heaped teaspoon of salt with five or six tablespoons of cold water to make (as Atora puts it) a firm but pliable dough. Divide into twelve pieces and roll into spheres. Press into the stew (check the seasoning of the gravy) until just the tops are poking out, then re-cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for 10 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread.