18 February 2011

Shin of Beef : a hearty stew with parsley dumplings

I want to make a steak and kidney pie.

There, I’ve said it.  Owned up to it, so I’ll have to do it now, instead of shying away from it like a pony scared by a flapping leaf.

With that in mind – you see, I’ve been working up to this moment – I thought I’d better suss out the beef from our local butcher.  We’d had a fabulous piece of rib of beef at Christmas, but that was all and I wanted to get some cheaper cut just to see whether I was capable of cooking it in the manner that would get the best out of it.  So, when we visited the butcher this week, I picked up 600kg of Shin with a view to doing a properly hearty beef stew with dumplings.

Now, remember I’ve got two fat-phobic boys in the family here.  They can’t bear it if any of their meat is “wobbly” (their description).  This is why I approached the Shin with caution, as I was very aware of their requirements and didn’t really want to spend hours trimming every little bit of fat from the meat – and so lose a lot of the flavour.  But sometimes you have to experiment in order to discover.

As such, I wasn’t too particular over trimming the meat.  Obvious strings of gristle were removed, as well as thick pieces of fat, but otherwise I left it in the hope that the 4hrs cooking that was ahead of it would do the trick and render what little fat was left.

I found that the 600g of Shin was the perfect quantity for 4 of us.  Yes, I know there are only 3, but you’ve just got to have second helpings of this one!

I started the cooking at around 2pm, by cooking all the ingredients that were going to add flavour to the gravy and then adding the meat.  When we came back from collecting Son and heir from school, the whole flat smelled of glorious beef stew.  I next looked at it with an hour and a half to go and added the “soft” vegetables.  Then, with just a half an hour to go, I included the dumplings.

Oh. My. God.  Honestly, if you never master any other dish – master making this one.  It truly is heaven.


Ingredients :

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 tablespoons of plain flour
salt & pepper
600g Shin of Beef, cubed
1 fat clove of garlic, grated
1 leek, sliced
2 sticks celery, de-stringed and chopped
half a red pepper, seeds removed and cut into cubes
2 beef oxo cubes
1 litre plus of boiling water
1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon of creamed horseradish
1 large teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon of Bovril
a shake or two of Worcestershire Sauce
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm pieces
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3 mushrooms, cleaned and each cut into 6
a handful of peas or broad beans

For the dumplings :

150g self-raising flour
50g suet (I used vegetable suet)
salt & pepper
fresh chopped parsley to taste – if you don’t have fresh, make plain dumplings
small quantity of milk to bind

Method :

1.  Turn your oven on at 160deg (fan) to pre-heat.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a deep pan or casserole – one that will go from the top to the oven.  Cook the onions very slowly until transparent and beginning to colour – approx 5-10 mins.  Remove and keep warm.

2.  Put the flour onto a large dished plate (or one with a lip) and season it well, then mix lightly with your fingers.  Toss the shin of beef in the flour until it is coated.  In the meantime, heat 1 more tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the coated beef.  If your pan isn’t big enough, you might need to fry the beef in two batches.  Make sure it fries and browns – don’t let it stew!

3.  Remove the beef and keep warm.

4.  Add the leek, garlic, celery and red pepper and cook until it begins to soften.

5.  Then return the onions to the pan and add the remaining flour, mixing well to ensure it amalgamates and cooks for 2-3 minutes.

6.  Add enough boiling water to just above the contents, mixing well with a whisk to ensure no lumps form from the flour.  Add the tomato ketchup, horseradish, mustard, Bovril and Worcestershire Sauce.  Return the beef to the pan and stir to combine.  Add a little more water, if the beef isn’t submerged.

7.  Cover with a lid and place into the oven for a minimum of 1½ hours – whatever suits you. A longer time would be fine, but a shorter time is not good.

8.  Remove the lid and give the contents a stir.  Taste, so that you know where the gravy is headed.

9.  Add the potatoes, parsnip, carrot and mushrooms, stir to combine, replace the lid and place the whole lot back in the oven for up to another 2 hours.

10.  Remove the lid, stir the contents and taste for seasoning.  Add more seasoning if you think it is required.  Add the peas or broad beans (or both if you’re feeling rash!), replace the lid and return to the oven.

11.  Make the dumplings.

12.  Place the flour and suet into a bowl and season.  Add the parsley and mix to combine.  Add a little milk and mix to combine.  The dumpling mixture should stick a little to the spoon, but not be fluid in any way.  If your mixture is too fluid, add a little more flour.  Too dry – add a little more milk.  The mixture should make eight dumplings.

13.  Remove the stew pan from the oven, remove the lid and carefully add spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture to the stew.  Allow them to sit where you dropped them, then replace the lid and back in the oven they go, for 20-30 minutes, depending on how big your dumplings are.

Once the dumplings are cooked (you can insert a knife into one, which will show you whether they are still sticky or not), serve into warmed bowls or warmed dished plates.

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