While I was preparing to get back to work I went shopping to get supplies in. I saw that the butcher had some stewing lamb and I thought that there would be nothing nicer to come home to, after a day at work than some slow cooked lamb that I could pop some dumplings into, to cook while I got changed and then we could settle down to a hot meal.
The lovely thing about slow cookers is that you can get everything prepared (and when I say prepared, I am not talking about a huge investment of time… maybe 5 minutes or so?) anyway, you can do that the night before and then start the slow cooker in the morning before you leave for work.
Fry off the meat (you can see why it is a good thing to do this at night… I certainly wouldn’t want to be frying meat at 6am) until it is browned on the edges. This helps the gravy develop a good colour and a decent flavour.
While that is sizzling, chop an onion and some garlic and think about the way you want to go with the lamb stew. I thought about using some spices… sort of a tagine feel but in a toned down way. I looked about to see what we had and found a bag of dried peaches. I had thought there might be some apricots but there wasn’t, so peaches it was going to be.
They are pretty sharp in flavour which is a good thing with lamb as that is sweet in itself . I hadn’t actually used dried peaches before so this really was going to be an experiment.
Because I was using fruit in there I looked for spices to go with it… and found a tin of tagine spices…
By now the lamb was browned off and I put it into the slow cooker with the chopped onions.
Then scattered a handful of dried peaches on top
And then sprinkled the spice mix.
Some stock granules over the top of that and pour in some water.
That took just over 9 minutes and that is because I was having to wash my hands in between each step to take a picture. If you aren’t doing that 😉 you can expect it to take a lot less time
And that’s it for the night. Lid on and leave it unto the morning when you can turn it on before you go to work.
Set it to Auto and then set off to work.
The good thing about a slow cooker is that the Auto function starts it off as high to get things going then goes right down to low to tick over until you get home….
What to do with it? When I started out I was thinking of minty dumplings but then I hadn’t thought of the tagine hint….and by the time I got home we had a friend to feed as well. That was good news and there was certainly no problem about that but what it did mean was that dumplings for three people wouldn’t fit in the small slow cooker…
Anyway, I got in and tasted it.. it wasn’t too spicey… there was a hint of spice, sure enough, but it wasn’t totally tagine. It was a mix of sharpness from the fruit, warmth from the spices and and meaty juiciness. Dumplings would go, after all. Maybe not dumplings poached in the gravy… but they could be baked and then placed on top…
I needed to thicken the gravy slightly – at the moment it was just the slow cooked lamb juices and the water… a delicious stock but it needed to be thicker. If you take a couple of spoonfuls out of the pot and mix it with some cornflour, it mixes easily in the bowl you can add it straight back in to the main pot without making it lumpy. Now that is is thickening nicely… on to the dumplings!
First of all, put the oven on, if it isn’t on already. 200 degrees C should do it.
So, in a bowl put 80g of self raising flour ( add a couple of teaspooons of baking powder if you use plain) and 40 g of suet..
Chop up some mint
Add that and a sprinkling of stock granules to the flour and suet and then add a couple of teaspoons of water and mix together
Form into dumpling shapes and put on a baking tray
Fifteen minutes later… look!
Serve up the lamb and balance the dumplings on top….
Oh they were delicious! Light and fluffy with a soft middle and a gorgeously crispy outside…. what a good thing it was that we needed more than could be cooked in the slow cooker.
Sometimes you discover things by accident and are really glad you did.