A Bit of the Irish Stew with Crusted Dumplings
Irish Stew is one of the best casserole dishes in the entire world.
If you top it with dumplings, then bake it in the oven so that they turn crusty and crunchy, you will have a heavenly banquet on your plate. Serve it as the Irish do, with simple boiled cabbage.
This recipe is from Delia Smith's Winter Collection. Serves 4-6
Start by drying the pieces of meat on kitchen paper, trim away any excess fat, cut the fillets into 1½ inch (4 cm) rounds, then dip them along with the cutlets into the seasoned flour.
Now arrange a layer of meat in the base of the casserole, followed by a layer of onion, carrot, leek and potato and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Then add some more meat and continue layering the ingredients until everything is in. Next, sprinkle in the pearl barley and pour in about 2 pints (1.2 litres) of hot water and bring it all up to simmering point. Spoon off any scum that comes to the surface, cover with a well-fitting lid and leave it to simmer over the lowest possible heat for 2 hours.
About 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C), then make up the dumplings: mix the flour and parsley with a seasoning of salt and pepper in a bowl, then mix in – but do not rub in – the suet. Now add just sufficient cold water to make a fairly stiff but elastic dough that leaves the bowl clean. Knead it lightly then shape it into 12 dumplings.
When the stew is ready, remove the lid, place the dumplings all over the surface, then transfer the casserole to the highest shelf of the oven (without a lid) and leave it there for 30 minutes or until the dumplings are golden brown and crusty. Serve the meat surrounding the vegetables and dumplings, with some of the liquid poured over and some in a gravy boat, and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.
You will also need a 6 pint (3.5 litre) flameproof casserole.