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Beef and stout casserole with herby dumplings

This dish freezes well, so save some for another occasion if you don’t need such a large quantity

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Ingredients (Serves 12)
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 500g/1lb 2oz shallots or button onions, peeled
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2.5cm/1in pieces
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 65g/21⁄2oz plain flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.6kg/31⁄2lb Irish chuck steak or Irish braising steak, cut into 6-7cm/21⁄2-3in chunks
  • 75g/3oz butter
  • 1ltr/13⁄4pt Irish stout
  • 300ml/1⁄2pt beef stock
  • Leaves from 3 large sprigs of thyme
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 250g/9oz chestnut mushrooms, wiped and left whole
  • 250g/9oz field mushrooms, wiped and thickly sliced

For the herby dumplings (serves 6)
  • 100g/4oz self-raising flour
  • A large pinch of baking powder
  • 1⁄4 tsp salt
  • 50g/2oz shredded beef suet
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • About 100ml/4fl oz cold water

Method

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large flameproof casserole, add the shallots or small onions and fry until they are nicely browned all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate. Add the sliced onion, carrots and sugar to the pan and fry until nicely browned. Set aside with the shallots. Put the flour into a large bowl and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the beef and toss to coat well.

Heat the remaining oil in the casserole and fry the beef in batches until nicely browned on all sides. Set each batch aside with the vegetables as it browns. Add 25g/1oz of the butter to the casserole and stir in the remaining seasoned flour from the bowl. Gradually stir in the stout, scraping the base of the pan to release all the caramelised juices. Stir in the beef stock, followed by the meat and vegetables, thyme and bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and some seasoning. Bring to the boil, part-cover and leave to simmer very slowly on the stove for 11⁄2 hours. Melt the remaining butter in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms and fry briskly for 2 minutes. Stir them into the casserole, part-cover with the lid and simmer for another hour until the beef is tender.

For the dumplings, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and a little pepper into a bowl and stir in the suet and thyme. Stir in enough water to make a soft, slightly sticky dough. Divide into 6 balls and drop into the top of the simmering stew 25 minutes before the end of cooking. Cover and leave to cook until fluffed up and cooked through – a fine skewer pushed into the centre of a dumpling should come out clean. Garnish with extra sprigs of thyme and serve in warmed bowls.

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