Beef in Guinness with Dumplings
A beautiful and comforting hug of a stew, perfect for chilly Winter nights. This was my mother's Winter entertaining staple. When she lifted the lid of the huge steaming tureen
everyone would gasp with pleasure, not because of the beef, it was the sight of dumplings which brought on such ecstasy.
Secretly, I am not really a fan of small bits of beef in a casserole. It always surprises me how
pieces of meat in such a wet environment can occasionally become somehow slightly dry in the mouth. Another thing, when and if cooking in quantity, little pieces of meat can so easily collapse and disintegrate during a long, slow cook becoming lost in the gravy. Very good gravy it would be, of course, but substance is necessary.
However, I am a huge fan of admirably economical ox cheek; preferably cut into hefty chunks and gently, gently stewed for about three hours making the meat meltingly soft and succulent with all those grim bits that when raw looked so dubious and unpalatable now miraculously transformed into silky gorgeousness.
1 kg ox cheek (or beef shin), cut into large chunks
2 onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 carrots, cut up diagonally
1 celery stalk, diced
1 tbsp. redcurrant jelly
1 star anise
2 fresh Bay leaves (if available)
1 bottle Guinness
Salt and pepper
To thicken the stew: (optional)
2 tsps. cornflour slaked in a drop or two of cold water
100g self raising flour
Pinch salt, black pepper
Few thyme leaves
5 tbsps. cold water
Oven 140c, fan 120c
Heat a drop of oil in a flame-proof casserole or sauté pan and brown the meat. Remove it from the pan and set aside. (In my catering days it just wasn't practical to brown the meat for relentless numbers, so in the end we gave up doing so and, as far as I could tell, it didn't make the slightest difference to the end result)
Add the onions to the pan and cook gently with a pinch of salt until opaque
Return the meat to the pan and add all the other ingredients
Heat up to simmering point, clamp on a lid and transfer to the oven 140c (see above) and cook for 3 hours
Although it is not necessary, I like to thicken the stew a little immediately before adding the dumplings because I prefer the sauce to have just a bit more body.
Put the cornflour in a cup, add just a little water and stir to dissolve. Stir it into the stew off the heat. Return to the heat and bring back to simmering.
Make the Dumplings. They should be added to the stew for the last 25 minutes of cooking
Mix the flour, suet, thyme and seasonings
Add the water to form a soft dough
Form into balls - this quantity should make about 8.
Sit the dumplings on the top of the stew, replace the lid and return to the oven for 25 minutes.
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