I’ve been craving big meaty dishes recently. It’s the bad weather of course. That and still feeling sorry for myself after I fell on the ice and banged my head so hard. I still have a bump you know and I just hope I don’t go bald because I have a very odd shaped head now.
When you think about it, that could have been a really nasty accident, so the best thing to do is to celebrate…. not with champagne… but with dumplings! There’s something rather lovely about a dumpling, don’t you think?
I used to hate them – as I did anything that reminded me of a school dinner.
How on earth could a mixture of suet and flour possibly taste half way decent? My friends talked of the joys of a decent dumpling, all crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, bobbing merrily about on a luscious stew or casserole but I still refused to have anything to do with them.
I have no idea what changed my mind but one day I thought it couldn’t possibly be as bad as I thought. I think I’d been to my favourite butcher and seen fresh suet for sale at a ridiculously low price and thought I had to give it a go. I knew that I had managed to conquer other fixed dislikes…. it really does come down to how things are made.
So if I was to experiment, then buying some suet for 33p wouldn’t break the bank, would it?
33p? For 282g? That had to be a bargain and I had to be able to make something decent with it. So I did. I looked up recipes and thought about what I wanted to achieve and then I made my first dumplings.
I’ve never looked back. I’ve made apple and chive dumplings to go with a chicken and cider casserole.
I made minty dumplings to go with lamb. I’ve made all sorts of dumplings and, do you know, I have enjoyed every one.
Now I fancied a beef and ale stew…and what would I do with the dumplings? I thought I would mix beer in them…
I had some lovely beef, just crying out to be made into a stew, and some incredibly beautiful looking carrots from the farm shop….
And I had some ale – Theakston’s XB. It would be the work of moments to get everything ready the night before and then just set it off in the slow cooker when I went to work. I’d be able to sit at my desk all day, knowing that while I was working, the supper would be cooking, and, best of all, when I opened the door of the apartment, I would be greeted by the smell of a rich and delicious stew. I love coming home to the smell of supper waiting for you. But until I become independently wealthy and can afford household staff, it is only going to happen when I sort things out by putting something in the slow cooker the night before…….
I really do think the slow cooker has been worth every penny I paid for it. I was always too cautious to go out leaving the oven on all day but I feel quite safe with the slow cooker. Maybe it is because I grew up with a gas oven and there was always the potential for explosion… I don’t know.
Anyway, fast as you can, peel and chop carrots and put half of them in the slow cooker
Sear the chopped stewing steak in a hot pan with some oil.
Put that in on top of the vegetables
Cover the meat with the rest of the carrot and onion, give everything a quick but generous shake of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce and then pour in a bottle of ale.
That pan that you seared the meat in? Look at the lovely meat juices in there…
Add a spoonful of flour and stir it round to mix with the meaty juices
That will thicken the gravy beautifully while it chugs away when I am at work, so there’s no need to worry about cooking it out. Just get a smooth mixture
And pour it over the meat and vegetables in the slow cooker.
And that’s it till the next morning. Maybe ten minutes work, including wiping up.
One word of advice though… if you do this, as I did at 11.00pm, you will go to bed with everywhere smelling of fried meat. Maybe it would be better to do it earlier in the evening.
I wished I’d done it earlier as I lay there, trying to get to sleep, smelling meat that overpowered everything else, including the lavender that I normally sprinkle on my pillow. Serves me right, eh? I should have got everything done sooner instead of leaving it till the last minute.
See that? Pitch black at 7.15 am and I am on my way out of the door – but not before I have turned on the slow-cooker. I use the Auto setting, which means it starts it off high and then turns down to low for the rest of the day.
And off I go to earn my pennies….
On my return, there’s a glorious smell of meaty loveliness… and all I have to do is mix up some dumplings.
Now, I would have fancied putting some horseradish in the dumplings to give them a bit of a zing, but the Bear hates horseradish (I really will have to do something about that…. ) so I think tonight I will mix the dumplings with beer, instead of water. That should give them a lovely beery, malty kick. Perfect for beef in ale….
120g of self raising flour and 60g of that lovely suet … mix it together with
a teaspoon of stock granules… I need to put some seasoning in – salt and pepper is good, but I thought this might round the flavour out ….
And instead of mixing it with cold water, a couple of tablespoons of beer will do just fine.
That does, of course, leave you with the rest of the bottle to deal with…..which might not be considered a hardship.
Anyway, roll that slightly sticky dough into dumplings (remember they will expand in the stew) and pop them in, but because I am using a small two-person slow cooker, I can only get four in… so the rest go into the oven alongside some little potatoes which are baking….
they will crisp up beautifully… while the others baste in that gorgeous meat and gravy
They swell plumply as they bob about…..
And the baked ones have a gorgeous crispy crust…
Look at that – steaming, savoury beef in ale with dumplings that make you laugh with pleasure.
Can’t ask for anything more, can you?