This easy beef and vegetable stew topped with fluffy thyme dumplings is great to make for cold, January evenings, served with a good bottle of red wine, and perhaps some Mustard Mashed Potatoes to soak up all those delicious juices.
For the Beef Stew
- large knob unsalted butter
- light oil
- 400g (14 oz) cubed beef stewing steak
- 1 heaped tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 leek
- 1 brown onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1 large celery stick
- 1 small potato
- 1 large garlic clove
- 250ml chicken or beef stock
- 75ml red wine
- 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme
For the Thyme Dumplings
- 65g (2 oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for shaping
- 30g (1 oz) beef suet
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 3–4 tbsp cold water
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (350 fahrenheit). Heat a large knob of butter and a splash of oil in a heavy bottomed, lidded casserole over a medium high heat. Generously season the flour with salt and pepper in a shallow dish, and toss the beef in the flour so that it is lightly coated.
- Working in two batches, fry off the beef so it is well browned, transferring it with a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain off any excess fat.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Top and tail the leek, and cut into into 2cm rings. Peel and cut the onion into wedges, and peel and cut the carrot into bite sized chunks. Top and tail the celery and cut it into similar chunks, and peel and cube the potato.
- Fry the vegetable off in what oil remains in the pan for 4-5 minutes until it has just started to soften. Peel and crush the garlic, and add it to the pan, frying for a further minute until aromatic.
- Add a splash of the stock and using a wooden spoon scrape off any browned bits from the bottom of the dish. Add the rest of the stock, the wine, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and thyme.
- Turn up the heat and bring the pan to the boil. Clap on the lid and transfer the casserole to the oven to cook for 1 hour, 30 minutes until the beef and vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, to make the dumplings combine the flour, suet, baking powder, thyme and a pinch of salt in a small to medium bowl. Gradually add the water a spoonful at a time and using an eating knife and a simple cutting motion, bring the mixture together into a sticky dough.
- Remove the stew from the oven. Add a splash more water if you think it is drying out (this will depend on how well the lid of your casserole keeps in moisture) and check the seasoning to see if it needs any more salt and pepper.
- Cut the dumpling dough into four equal pieces and using lightly floured hands roll each piece into a small ball, dropping them into the stew as you go.
- Return the stew to the oven without its lid for 20 minutes until the dumplings are puffed and golden. A sprinkling of parsley (flat leaf or curly) would not go amiss when serving, but it is by no means essential.
The original recipe contained swede (rutabaga) instead of potato but I find it is a rather a contentious vegetable, so feel free to switch it back in if it is a favourite or you’ve got a load to use up lurking at the bottom of the fridge.
I’ve made the dumplings with plain wholemeal flour before, as well as regular white plain.