Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Beef in Cider with Dripping Dumplings

Stew... mmmm... Stew in cider ... double mmmmm... you just make normal stew, in your normal way, but replace half of the liquid with medium cider, preferably the cloudy sort.

I really like feather steak when I can get it, it has a seam of cartilege running down the middle, that cooks into the gravy giving it lots of flavour and body. If you can't get feather, then use any braising or shin of beef, and cook it gently for about 4 hours with some carrots and celery for lots of flavour.

Stew of course needs dumplings. Dumplings normally need suet. But when the shops are shut and you find the suet in the cupboard is very manky indeed, you get to thinking what you can use instead.

Butter would be both too soft and too rich. I could have used lard I guess, but suet is a very hard almost crystalline fat.

Dripping (the shop bought refined kind) is also very hard fat.

Grating fresh suet was the old fashioned way to use it.

Dripping can be grated... I asked on Twitter and Facebook if it would work.. have a go! people said.

I did . It did. It is better than suet!

Way to go me.

Dripping Dumplings for 2 greedy people or 4 ordinary ones.

  • 100g plain flour + one good teaspoon baking powder, or Self raising flour + extra quarter tsp baking powder
  • 50g refined dripping grated into the flour (or you can use packaged suet if you have some to use up before it goes manky)
  • Salt and pepper, herbs to taste - I used a good shake of thyme, and some chopped parsley
  • Cold water to mix. 

Mix the dripping, flour, baking powder,  seasoning and herbs  together in a bowl. Add water gradually , mixing lightly with a knife until the mixture comes together into a soft dough. Don't overmix, you are looking for a soft dough that just holds its shape, but incorporates all the flour.

Have the stew ready at a gentle boil (if you are cooking on the hob, or in a casserole dish you can't put directly onto the heat, you can strain the gravy from the stew into a saucepan and make the dumplings in that to ensure that the meat doesn't scorch then pop it all back into the stew afterwards), and drop the dumpling mix in by the spoonful, don't roll into balls, you will compress the mixture and make it heavy.  Cover the pan or the stew casserole, and either bring the heat down to a gentle simmer, or put the casserole back into the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes without taking the lid off (or you will lose the steam) and then check the dumplings by putting a knife into one and pulling it slightly apart so you can see that the middle is properly cooked.

You can serve now, or you can give it another 15 minutes in the oven to get a lightly crusty top on the dumplings. 

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