A real hearty dish and proper winter warmer that will help you brave even the coldest winter evening. This dish has no airs and graces and is full of what my grandma would call ‘proper’ ingredients. It does require several hours of supervised cooking time so it’s not one to try and make from scratch when you come home from work, but is wonderful if you have an afternoon where you can get to your stove top from time to time.
1-2 tablespoons cooking oil, or a small slice of hard cooking fat such as lard or dripping
300g-600g stewing steak, chopped into 2cm/1 inch cubes
3 onions, roughly diced
3 carrots, sliced
handful of frozen green beans, broad beans or peas
2 -3 beef stock pots or stock cubes (there are several safe versions on the market, depending on what you react to. I use Knorr stock pots)
2 teaspoons safe yeast extract (vegemite or Tescos own are the usual versions that are safe)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon bisto gravy powder
1 tablespoon cornflour
100g self raising flour
50g beef suet (this is usually preferable to vegetable suet as it has far fewer additives and normally is far less reactive)
1. Put the fat in a large casserole pan and let it melt and start to heat up. Add the beef, cooking the cubes on each side so that they brown.
2. Stir in the onion and let it soften and become translucent, then add the carrots and frozen vegetables.
3. Dissolve the stock cubes/pots and yeast extract in a pint/500ml of boiling water and add to the pan with the bay leaves. Season well with salt and pepper, top up with water so that all the meat and vegetables are well covered, and bring to the boil.
4. Turn heat down, put a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for at least 2 hours. Check the pan occasionally, stirring and adding more water as necessary. Note that you need to ensure you end up with enough gravy to float the dumplings.
5. About 45 minutes before serving, take the bay leaves out of the stew and thicken it with the bisto and cornflour, both stirred together into some cold water before adding , creating a rich, smooth gravy. Keep on the stove, stirring carefully, until it boils again, then turn down whilst you make the dumplings.
6. To make dumplings, mix the flour and suet with a pinch of salt and enough water to make a sticky dough. Break this dough into about 8 small balls, rolling them in a little extra flour if necessary so that you can work them without too much difficulty.
7. Stir the stew one last time – you won’t be able to stir it once the dumplings are in. Add the dumplings carefully, replace the pan lid and cook for about 20-30 minutes, turning them over once during cooking.
8. Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes for a real old-fashioned favourite.