Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Beef Stew with Jamie Oliver's Dumplings
Brrr... how cold is it this week! When I leave home in the morning, I've been wearing thermals, tights AND a massive down jacket, and I'm still cold! This is the time of year where I like to hibernate on the couch with the doona and dream of warmer, sunnier climes.
Unfortunately, exotic travel isn't on the cards for me right now, so on Sunday I thought it would be the perfect night to stay in and bring the warmth to me, with a nice hot bowl of stew.
Another reason for making the stew was that I wanted to try out Jamie Oliver's dumplings (minds out of the gutter, kids!), the recipe for which is here, and in the Ministry of Food book. I'd never had English stew dumplings, but assumed they'd be doughy and crunchy and soak up all the delicious stewy juices. They didn't turn out quite as I'd hoped, but more on that later.
Here is the pot.
I made a standard beef and red wine stew, you know the drill. I coated pieces of beef in seasoned flour and browned them, then cooked some thinly sliced onions, added red wine, stock, tomatoes, carrots and capsicum. Then it was simply a matter of shoving the whole pot in the oven and cooking it on a low heat for 3-4 hours. The main benefit of slow-cooking, apart from the wonderful aroma and the super-tender beef it produces, is that it keeps the kitchen warm for hours! (So important now that I live in a place with no central heating).
While that was cooking, I got on with the dumplings. English stew dumplings are quite different from the German potato dumplings or the Chinese meat-filled dumplings I know so well. These ones are simply a pastry dough - half butter to flour, bound with a touch of water.
A great tip Jamie shares is to grate the cold butter into the flour, making it very easy to rub it in with your fingers. (An especially handy method because I don't have a food processor at the moment).
Once you rub the butter into the flour, you add a little water and form it into a dough.
Jamie's recipe makes 12 dumplings, I halved it and made 6. I have to admit I was a little geeky about it, and weighed each ball (ooer) individually to get them all the same size - which happened to be 33 grams. So there you go.
What you're supposed to do is drop the dumplings into the stew so they're half-submerged, and pop them in a hotter oven, covered, for half an hour.
After the half hour, they looked like this:
Huh? Was that right? They'd expanded a bit and absorbed some liquid, but where was the crunchy top I'd pictured, the fluffiness? The picture in the book and on the website are only of the raw balls (hehehehe), so I had no reference point. I opened one up to test it, and it was awfully doughy. I couldn't tell if it was cooked or not, so I took off the lid and put the whole lot back in the oven for another 20 minutes. After that time, they looked, well, exactly the same (and more importantly, I was hungry!) so I served it up.
I do love the warm red and orange tones of this meal. I feel warmer just looking at it!
As for the dumplings, they were, still, super doughy, and actually tasted just like raw pastry dough (unsurprising now that I think about it). I can't say I'm the hugest fan of these. In fact, I think I would have been better off rolling out the dough and making a crunchy pastry lid for the stew. Or, of course, making Schupfnudeln again.
Well, the stew itself was a winner, and I'm glad I finally tried these dumplings, if for no other reason than I'll stop obsessing over them now! (And the butter-grating tip will make all kinds of scones and pastries a helluva lot easier!) They're just a little too stodgy for me. Has anyone else tried making English stew dumplings? What are your thoughts? Too heavy, or are you a fan of the stodge?