I’m going to let you in on another best kept secret: Stew! I’m talking Medieval cooking where you throw the meat into a pot with vegetables and cook it for ages until all the flavours blend together in one big, hearty pot of goodness. I mean, if we want to be truthful, this is caveman cooking!
Again, I’ve told you about the beauty of casseroles, soups, steamed rice & veggies, as meals for busy working mums. Well, add stews to that list! Basically, a stew and casserole is the same thing – that I know of – but I mix it up by using both terms, so that the kids don’t get bored of hearing the same thing for dinner! Shh, don’t tell them they’re the same thing!
To make this a balanced meal in itself, add barley or a bit of soup mixture (barley and lentils). This way, you have meat, veggies AND a carb.
To begin, you’ll need to buy lots of root veggies and other types of veggies to put in your pot. Root veggies are best as they retain their shape. Others go all gooey and gushy after so long in the oven.
I’ve just popped this dish in the oven for tonight’s dinner, and before that, I took this pic to show you what I’ve put in today’s stew:
As you can see, I have used the following: carrots, zucchini, asparagus, potatoes, corn (which I’ll cut off the cob), garlic, onion, potatoes, sweet potatoes (I think Americans call them something different, I’m thinking Kumara?), broccoli, parsley and bay leaves from my own garden (I love that!).
On that note, buying a bay tree is the best. I have two in pots and, whenever I need to use their leaves, I simply pop outside and pick them freshly off my trees. Here’s a pic of my beautiful bay leaf tree…
Aside from the ingredients that I’ve mentioned, you’ll also need beef stock and diced beef.
I use a big cast iron pot that can cook on the stove and then be moved into the oven. I suggest you invest in one, if you haven’t got one. It makes life easier. If you don’t have one, it means you’re using two different pots, which means more washing up, which in my book means too much hard work!
This is what my pot looks like:
Now for the ‘Method’
- So, begin by cutting up all the veggies and set aside.
- Next, you’re going to throw a big chunk of butter into the bottom of your pot and fry your onions and garlic.
- Quickly coat your diced beef in plain flour. Once the onions and garlic are soft, add your floured meat and brown.
- Throw in all your veggies.
- Pour some hot water from the tap into your pot but only fill a quarter of the pot. Your veggies and meat should nearly be to the top. See the photo right at the top to see what this stage should look like.
- Add your bay leaves, stock, salt and pepper.
- Pop in the oven and cook on about 170 (that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit) for a good hour and a half. You’ll know when it’s ready as the meat will fall apart easily with a fork.
Did I say ‘DUMPLINGS’?
Now for the piece de resistance! Just when you thought the stew was sounding good enough, it gets even better! Yep, I’m going to tell you how to add dumplings – your own, hand-made dumplings – into this pot. Now dumplings need about 20-25 minutes to cook. So, check your stew, and when you think it has around this amount of time to go, add your dumplings. If all the water has been absorbed, add a little more with stock. By the end, the dumplings take on the flavour and transform into buttery, doughy balls of deliciousness.
You basically rub butter into flour, as you would when you make scones (again, I think Americans call scones something else. Sorry, I can’t remember what). Anyways, use approximately 2 cups of flour (I love plain flour as I like my scones to be thick and chewy, but you can use SR Flour for fluffy ones. It really doesn’t matter which flour you use) and 5 tablespoons of butter. This is not an exact measurement. I appreciate that some people might find making a dough difficult, so here is a picture of my flour and butter to the right of this paragraph.
Next, rub the butter into the flour with your fingers, until they resemble breadcrumbs – see left.
Now, you need to add a few tablespoons of milk at a time until this forms a dough. You can add a fresh herb at this point if you like. I love thyme. Then, roll into little balls. Don’t be precious about the appearance of the balls. They’re going to be thrown into your stew now, so don’t waste time making them look pretty!
Drop them in, and that’s it, you’re done. Wait 20 mins or so, then enjoy!
Note, I normally serve this with buttered toast. Here’s picture of the finished stew.
And, what makes this a Busy Working Mums’ favourite?
Freezing leftovers, of course!
Hope you enjoy this as much as my family does! Post me a comment and let me know.
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