Here's something to chase the winter weather blues away! When it's rainy, cold and generally crap outside, what you need is a really big beef stew - almost black, piping hot, thick, round and rich.
It almost hurts to chuck a whole bottle of fine ale (I heartily commend Fullers London Pride) into a stew, but the end result’s worth it, believe me. Serve this with peas and perhaps a little braised red cabbage for a hearty, winter warmer main course. You’ll find kecap manis (an Indonesian ingredient, it’s sweet soy sauce: soy sauce mixed with palm sugar) in the Asian food section of Spinneys and many other supermarkets. It’s worth buying as it’s fantastic stuff and can be used in a whole range of recipes - like sticky chicken!
If you're thinking that perhaps some of the flavours look a little brash (curry powder? Yup!), then don't worry. The cooking brings them all down into a fine, intense richness.
BTW: If you don't 'do' alcohol, then substitute a dark stock for the beer.
- 1 kg lean beef in 1-2 cm cube
- 800g potato in 2cm cube
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 onions, roughly chopped
- 4 largeish mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 500ml excellent ale
- ½ tsp curry powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp sage
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp kecap manis
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 50g light suet
- 100g self raising flour
- 5 tbsp water
- Pinch salt
Fry off the beef in small batches in a little olive oil over a really high heat to brown the cubes all over and reserve them in a roomy bowl. If you put too much beef in the pan at a time, it’ll stew rather than fry: about 4-5 batches is about right. Deglaze the pan with a splash or two of the beer and strain the resulting liquor into a handy bowl or jug.
Add the flour to the beef in the bowl and mix it up. Meanwhile fry off the chopped onions in the remaining oil over a medium heat so that they cook and start to brown but don’t catch and burn. Add the mushroom and turn the heat to high, throwing in the carrots, potato, the garlic and then the beef. Stir to combine and then rinse the bowl out with the beery liquor and then add this to the pan along with the other ingredients, including the rest of the beer. Give it all a good stir then cover the pan and turn the heat to as low as it’ll go and leave to cook, stirring every 15 minutes or so, for about an hour and a half or even, if you've got the time, two hours. Each time you stir it, throw away any water that’s collected on the lid of the pan.
Take the stew off the heat and let it gently cool down. When you’re ready to eat, mix the dumpling ingredients together, adding more water until you’ve got a firm dough: scoop the mixture up using two wet spoons and dump it into the reheating stew: you’re looking to get four dumplings out of this. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, then finish it off under a hot grill to brown the top of the dumplings. Serve with a really fat red wine!