Slow cooker heaven: Smoky beef stew with cheddar and thyme dumplings
What is better than coming home after a day’s adventures to a stew bubbling away? Ideally we’d all like to just chuck the ingredients in raw and it be fab when we get back, but a bit of work before you head out will really pay off in this instance. Browning the meat, softening the veg, getting the stew going and then popping it to slow cook will reap great rewards, I promise.
The cheddar dumplings – so, so good - may possibly cause arguments. Everyone will be fighting over who gets the last one! I suggest serving two per adult, one per child, thus leaving 2 over for a family of 4 which should be divvied up according to who behaved best during the day. Or maybe the chef should get them? You decide.
Makes: enough for 4 people
Takes: 30 mins prep + 6-7 hours cooking
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
500g stewing beef, cut into chunks
100g smoked bacon or pancetta lardons (small pieces)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 swede, peeled and cut into small chunks
3 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into small chunks
3 tablespoons plain flour
750g light beef stock (I use a low salt cube – OR dilute more than it suggests)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 teaspoon Marmite
1 tablespoon fresh or dried rosemary
Salt and pepper
Cheddar and thyme dumplings:
125g plain flour
60g cold butter, cut into small chunks
Splash (few tablespoons cold water)
Salt and pepper
60g mature cheddar
1 heaped teaspoon of fresh or dried thyme
- Heat oil in a large casserole pan. Fry off beef and bacon together over a high heat until sealed and brown. Drain any water than comes out. Remove and set aside.
- Add a little more oil, and all the garlic, onions, and root vegetables. Soften for about 5 minutes.
- Tip the meat back in, and the veg.
- Add the flour and coat the mixture over a low heat, stirring well. Cook it out for a minute.
- Now the tomato puree, the Marmite, the stock, and the herbs. Bring to boil.
- Tip in the slow cooker and set to Low. Cook for about 7 hours. It’s pretty flexible, so if it’s only 6, this will be fine too. Now you are free to go out for the day!
- Make the dumplings ahead also - or last minute – either is fine. Rub the butter into the flour (or use a processor and just whizz it).
- Tip in grated cheddar, seasoning and thyme. Mix.
- Add a little water to make a dough. Bring it together but handle it as little as possible. Divide mixture into 8 and shape into balls. Pop them on a plate – cover with cling film so they don’t dry out - until needed.
- 30 mins before you are ready to eat, pop them into the stew so just the tops are visible. Devour!