Beef and Vegetable Stew with Crusted Onion Dumplings
Here is a good old-fashioned family stew – good meat and good vegetables simmering gently and slowly together, and in this slowness releasing precious juices that mingle to provide intense yet mellow flavours and the tenderest of textures.
Let's not be duped into thinking we don't have the time.This stew actually takes very little time – you'll be amazed. The time it does take is not yours. Tucked away in the oven, it will leave you free to go out for a couple of hours if you want to, ready to greet you with evocative, comforting aromas when you come home. I have included some dumplings in this recipe (because I like them!), but even without them it is perfectly good. Because our stew is going to have a long, slow cooking time, make sure, when you prepare the ingredients, that you cut everything into large chunks: if they're too small they'll tend to disintegrate. The very best meat to use is shin of beef, which has a lot of gelatinous connective tissue that is rendered down during the long cooking to give lots of depth and flavour.
Most beef labelled 'stewing' contains shin.
This recipe first appeared in Sainsbury’s Magazine. Serves 6
Start off by placing the seasoned flour in a large bowl and dip each 2 in (5 cm) chunk of meat into it to get a good coating, then transfer to a plate.
Next, toss all the prepared vegetables in the remaining flour, then add all the meat and vegetables to the flameproof casserole dish and sprinkle in any remaining flour. Now add the thyme, season with salt and pepper, then pour in the cider, plus the Worcestershire sauce and butter beans. Put the casserole on the hob and bring it up to a gentle simmer before covering with a tight-fitting lid.
Place a sheet of foil under the lid to ensure a good seal. After that, place the casserole on the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven and cook for 4½ hours.
After this time, remove the casserole from the oven, set aside, turn the temperature up to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C) and make the dumplings. Sift the flour, mustard powder and a little salt together, then add the suet, snipped chives and caramelised onion, and season with pepper and a bit more salt. Now sprinkle 3 tablespoons of cold water over all the ingredients and, using first a knife, then your hands, bring it all together to form a soft dough (adding a little more water if you need to).
Next, divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each one into a little round using the palms of your hands. Add them to the casserole so that a part of each one can be seen just above the surface of the stew.
Return the casserole to the top shelf of the oven and cook, without the lid, for a further 25-30 minutes, until the dumplings are golden brown and crusty.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275ºF (140ºC).