Shin of Beef Stew in Ale with Crusted Mustard and Chive Dumplings

One of the joys of my life is going to a football match on a Saturday afternoon in the chill of midwinter, having organised things in such a way that, when I return home, I am welcomed by the evocative aroma of something wonderful and warming simmering gently in the oven. If that something is shin or leg of beef and it's given a long, slow cooking with chunky vegetables, herbs and ale then what will happen during that long sojourn in the oven is that those very unattractive gelatinous bits present in the meat will gradually dissolve and, as that happens, release a high proportion of concentrated beefiness to enrich the sauce. Then, on your return, if you pop in a few mustard and chive dumplings and bake them until they become crisp and golden on top, this will give you a meal for four that will be aptly fit to celebrate a victory or sublimely comforting to soothe you in your loss.

Serves 4

This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine (Jan 1996).

Shin of Beef Stew in Ale with Crusted Mustard and Chive Dumplings
 2 lb (900 g) shin or stewing beef
 1 x 500 ml bottle pale ale
 1½ oz (40 g) plain flour, seasoned with 1 level teaspoon salt and some freshly milled black pepper
 12 oz (350 g) carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
 12 oz (350 g) swede, peeled, cut into ½ inch (1 cm) slices and then into chunks a similar size to the carrots
 4 small onions (8 oz/225 g total weight), peeled and left whole
 3 good sprigs fresh thyme
 2 bay leaves
 salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the dumplings:
 1 heaped teaspoon mustard powder
 1 heaped tablespoon snipped chives
 6 oz (175 g) self-raising flour
 3 oz (75 g) shredded suet
 2 level teaspoons grain mustard
 salt and freshly milled black pepper
 Preheat the oven to gas mark 1, 250F, 130C
You will also need a large, shallow, flameproof casserole of 6 pint (3.5 litre) capacity with a tight-fitting lid.


First of all, put the seasoned flour into a large bowl. Then, simply cut the meat into 2 inch (5 cm) chunks and dip each piece into the seasoned flour, giving them all a good coating and, as you do this, arrange the pieces on a plate. Then, toss all the prepared vegetables into the remaining flour so these all get a coating as well.

Now, arrange the meat and vegetables in the casserole, tucking the vegetables around the meat as it goes in. Next, add the herbs, a little more seasoning, then pour the ale over everything and place the casserole over direct heat. Bring everything up to a gentle simmer, then cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid, placing a sheet of foil under the lid to get a good seal.

Next, place the casserole in the pre-heated oven, on the middle shelf, and give it 4½ hours cooking time. After that, remove it from the oven, turn the oven temperature up to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C) and then make the dumplings. To do this, sift the flour, mustard powder and a little salt together, then add the suet and the chives and a good seasoning of freshly milled black pepper.

Now mix the grain mustard with 3 tablespoons of cold water together in a separate bowl, sprinkle it over the dry ingredients and, first using a knife and finally your hands, bring it together to a soft dough, adding a little more water if you need it.

To make the dumplings, divide the dough into 8 and simply roll them into little rounds using the palms of your hands. After that, pop them into the casserole and then return it to the highest shelf of the oven, this time without a lid, and cook for another 25-30 minutes or until the dumplings are golden brown and crusty.

Print Page