Thursday, 11 February 2010

Is This Cheating?

Doesn't look like it to me...

except aren't those dumplings uniform and beautifully formed?

That's because I - shhh - cheated a bit. You see, I may be one of the only people in the world who doesn't like dumplings. This makes it very difficult to know if the ones I make from scratch are any good. I mean, I'm happy to take my very willing taste testers' word for how good things taste in most cases, but when I genuinely don't like something I make myself, my inner critic's voice gets loud enough to drown out theirs. As a result I have never been able to make dumplings from scratch that I was genuinely happy with.

Which is why I was so delighted when I found these:-

Ready prepared dumplings you bake in the oven and then pop on top of your stew. Aren't they cute?

They are from a grocery store here in England called Waitrose and I think they are a fantastic idea. The best bit is that as you bake them in the oven on a baking sheet they don't get all squashy like homemade dumplings. Although I am told that is a major part of their charm, for me that squashy goodness is kind of yucky. So these I almost liked - a little.

I know some purists might be horrified, but for me, these have been a lifesaver. And my family are delighted to have dumplings without me worrying about whether they taste good or not.

As for the stew, my recipe for that I am very happy with - so I'll share it with you here.

The 21st Century Housewife's© Beef Stew

2 tablespoons oil (any mild olive oil, sunflower oil or canola oil works fine here)
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 pound of stewing beef or braising steak, cubed
¼ cup flour
2 cups of beef stock (made from cubes is fine)
3 - 4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1 inch chunks
3 - 4 parsnips, peeled and cut in large chunks (or cut in half and quartered depending on how big they are)
1 piece of celery
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat the oil over medium heat in an oven safe casserole that you can also use on the stove top (I use one by Le Creuset). If you don't have a casserole like that, you can start this recipe off in a large frying pan and then transfer the ingredients into the oven safe casserole before you put them in the oven to cook.

Cook the onion in the oil until it begins to soften slightly. Put the flour in a small bowl and coat the cubes of beef lightly with flour before adding them to the onion in the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the beef begins to brown.

Pour over the beef stock and stir to make a gravy. It will still be fairly runny at this point but will thicken up as it cooks. Add the carrots, parsnips, celery and seasonings.

Cook in the oven at about 350℉ or 170℃ for an hour and a half or so, stirring about every half hour. The stew is done when the beef and vegetables are very tender - the beef should be almost falling apart. Remove the stick of celery. (Celery adds a beautiful flavour to stews but my husband does not like the texture of it so if I take it out, he is none the wiser. I always eat the celery as a "cook's treat" - and to hide the evidence!)

If you want to add homemade dumplings at this point, you are on your own - or you can "cheat" like I did and add some ready made ones :) I've also served this without dumplings and nobody minded a bit!

(No promotional consideration for this post was provided by Waitrose. The opinions of their product are my own.)

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