Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Beef Stew and Dumplings

This post does represent me putting my hands up and saying publicly 'I was wrong'.  Not an easy thing for me to do I have to say!  I have been with Steve for a long time now and during that time I have always told him I hate slow cooked beef, that it is dry and chewy and flavorless and that I would much rather have a steak where you wipe its backside and send it to the table, preferably still moo-ing (I like my steak blue - Parisian blue, not English blue).

Steve on the other hand has frequently gone googly-eyed over a slow cooked joint of beef.  He is a Northern boy by way of Lincolnshire and I strongly suspect that gravy runs through his veins instead of blood.  This weekend I caved and agreed to cook him a beef stew with dumplings.  With the proviso that I could get a pizza if I hated it.

I spent ages online looking at different recipes, different cuts of beef, different cooking times and methods and amalgamated a lot of them into this version.
Oh. My. God.  This was incredible.  Lip smackingly, scrape the bowl, stick your nose in and lick it clean good.  The beef had the most rich, succulent, decadent aroma that lit up your taste buds like fireworks night (this would actually work extremely well as a belly warmer on November 5th!); it melted in your mouth, it was gelatinous and sticky and soft. The dumplings were soft and fluffy and mopped up the gravy better than ciabatta (haven't tried it yet?  Next time you have gravy make sure you have some ciabatta).  The noises that came out of Steve as he bolted down his meal were bordering on the obscene.

So I thought I would share this recipe here.  Before I do I have a few announcements / warnings.

1) This is not healthy.  Not even close.  It is worth it.
2) If you cannot get shin of beef or beef dripping, do not substitute.  Please.  I'm begging you.  Just go to your butcher and arm wrestle them until they agree to order it in.  Most supermarkets should have it on their meat aisle shelves though.  It is a really cheap cut of meat.  Beef dripping can normally be found near the butter and margarine.
3) If you have any leftovers, try them on top of a slice of buttered bread the next day.  Trust me - you will never turn back.
4) It takes a couple of hours.  Do not even attempt unless you can spend 2-3 hours near the kitchen.

  • Beef Dripping (10g per 150g of beef) (if anyone can find this is smaller packets than the monster I had to get can you let me know?!)
  • As much shin of beef as you think your family can handle.  Then add a bit more for good measure.
  • Small bottle of red wine (or big and drink the rest.  Whatever floats your boat)
  • 1.5 medium carrots per person - diced
  • 1/2 stick of celery per person - diced
  • 1/2 leek per person - diced
  • 3 small shallots per person - peeled and left whole
  • 1 bay leaf per person
  • 1 clove garlic per person - peeled and crushed
  • 2 fresh sage leaves per person
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme per person
  • Flour
  • 5 Chestnut mushrooms per person - brushed and halved
  • 250ml liquid fresh beef stock per person
  • 100ml beef gravy per person
  • Seasoning - salt and pepper
 For the Dumplings

I cheated and got a just-add-water dumpling mix.  There is a great dumpling recipe here though http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/beefstewwithdumpling_87333

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

In a large casserole dish that is both hob and oven-proof, melt the dripping.
Cut the shin of beef into large chunks.
Season the flour with salt and pepper and coat each chunk of beef in the flour.
Brown in the dripping for about 5 minutes then add a generous slosh of red wine.  Reduce down until bubbling.
Remove the beef and set aside.
Add all the veg bar the mushrooms to the dripping, beef juice and red wine mix and soften.

Add the garlic.

When nicely soft return the beef to the pan and add the herbs.

Pour over the liquid stock, stir it all together, cover, stick it in the oven and cook for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove from the oven, stir and add the beef gravy.  Cook for 30 minutes (covered).

Make the dumplings. If you coat your hands in oil it is easier to roll the dumplings as the dough is very sticky!
After 30 minutes, remove from the oven, add the mushrooms and stir in.

Place the dumplings on top of the stew, making sure that they don't touch each other or the edges of the dish if possible.
Cook for 30 more minutes (uncovered if you want the dumplings slightly crispy)

Serve with mash potatoes and green vegetables if you feel like it.  I find this a hearty meal all on its own though.
Stick it on the table.  Tuck in. 


  1. Top marks for this recipe. Tastes great. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks so much, glad you liked it! I adapted it slightly last weekend and turned it into a pie filling by chopping the meat and veg much more finely, cooking the same way, then adding the filling (with a bit less gravy) to a pie dish fully lined with puff pastry and a puff pasty lid. It works well!