Archive for February, 2010

Hearty Beef, Mushroom and Ale Stew with Fluffy Dumplings

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Winter is upon us, the nights are short, the days are cold. It’s the perfect time for a warming, tasty and cheap to make stew. I’m including approximate costings, based on Sainsbury’s prices (plus beef from the local farmers’ market) at time of writing.

These quantities will make about 10 or 11 portions. Serve with hot buttered mashed potato, or parsnip and potato mash.

Preparation time: 45 minutes. Cooking time: 30 minutes + 2 hours in the oven, Gas 2 / 150 °C / 300 °F

Special Equipment:

1 large heavy casserole dish, approx 6 litre. The 28cm round cast iron Le Creuset is ideal, or any other large heavy oven proof pan or dish.


For the Stew:

  • 1.2 Kg / 2.5 lbs Shin of (or other stewing) Beef (preferably good quality, aged beef) (£ 7.68)
  • 2 Large Onions, diced or sliced. (£0.50)
  • 1 Kg / 2.2 lbs Carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 inch (2 cm) lengths (£ 1.00)
  • 25 g pack Merchant Gourmet Mixed Dried Mushrooms (£ 1.60)
  • 1×250 g pack Chestnut Mushrooms, quartered. (£1.08)
  • 1 litre / 2 pints of your favourite Brown Ale (not too bitter — I used Mann’s Brown Ale, 2 x 500 ml bottles, total cost (£ 3.00);
  • 3 Good Quality Beef Stock Cubes (such as Kalo Organic) (£ 0.48)
  • 4 tablespoons Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup (£0.42)
  • 1 rounded tablespoon Dark Brown / Muscavado Sugar
  • Good sprinkle Thyme.
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • Plain Flour for coating the beef pieces.
  • Vegetable oil for frying the meat and vegetables.

Total Stew cost: £15.76. You should get 10 or 11 portions out of this.

For the Dumplings (makes 10 small dumplings. double up if you want more):

2 oz (60 g) Self Raising Flour (£ 0.10)
2 oz (60 g) Fine White Breadcrumbs (about 4 slices of bread, crusts removed) (£ 0.20)
2 oz (60 g) Shredded Beef Suet (£ 0.15)
1 Medium Free Range Egg (£ 0.26)
A little water to mix
Salt, Pepper and thyme (or any other chopped herbs you fancy) to season.

Dumplings cost: approx 71p for 10.


Soak the dried mushrooms in half a pint of boiling water and leave for at least half an hour, while you prepare the other ingredients.

Cut the Beef into approx 3cm / 1.5 inch chunks, and trim any larger pieces of fat from the meat. The connective tissue will break down during cooking, so only remove any particularly large pieces.

Add a good splash of oil to the casserole dish, and place on a medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, thoroughly coat the pieces of beef in seasoned plain flour. Brown in small batches in the casserole, adding more oil if necessary. This should take a couple of minutes per batch, and require about 3 batches. You’re trying to get a good outer colour on the meat, without actually cooking it too much.

Set the browned meat aside on a plate. Add some more oil to the pan, and add the chopped onions, carrots and chestnut mushrooms. Lightly fry to get some colour into them.

Once they’re browned off, turn the heat down to low, and add the liquid ingredients — both bottles of ale, the soaked dried mushrooms (plus their soaking liquid). Add the thyme, bay leaves, brown sugar, stock cubes, and beef pieces and stir thoroughly. Add enough water to cover everything.

Bring gently up to simmering point on the hob (should take about 15 minutes). Meanwhile, begin to preheat the oven to Gas 2 / 150 °C / 300 °F.

Once the stew is simmering gently, transfer to the oven, on a middle shelf. Cover with a lid, and cook for 1 and a half hours.

After 1 and a half hours, remove the lid, give a brief stir and add the prepared dumplings, cook for a further 30 minutes.

Skim off any fat that’s risen to the surface, and serve with mashed potatoes. Parsnip and potato mash is particularly good with this. An interesting addition to the stew is to put in some green anchovy-stuffed olives just before serving.


This recipe makes 10 or 11 light, fluffy dumplings. If you prefer heavy stodgy ones, follow the recipe on the Atora Suet packet.

Grate the slices of bread or crumb in a machine until you have fine crumbs.

Combine all ingredients, add enough water (a few tablespoons) to make into a stiff, but quite wet, dough.

Roll in the palm of your hands into walnut sized balls (it helps if you wet your hands first to help stop the mixture sticking) and add to the stew 30 minutes before the end of the 2 hour cooking time, so that the dumplings get half an hour cooking.

Depending on portion size, the whole meal should come out at £1.50 to £1.80 per portion. It will keep for a good few days in the fridge, and can be frozen in individual portions for your own home-made ‘ready’ meal. Compare with supermarket ready meals, where you’re eating salty processed junk, and paying heftily for the privilege.

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