Sunday, 11 December 2016

Chestnut and veggie stew with herby dumplings

In the depths of winter there's nothing quite like homemade stew, preferably with dumplings.  Before my daughter became a vegetarian (nearly a year ago) I relied heavily on my slow cooker for hearty, warming dinners on a weekday, normally with beef or chicken as the star of the show.  Until now I hadn't made a such a stew with veg, fearing a loss of flavour, relying more on Asian or Middle-Eastern spices to add flavour.

But yesterday I watched Nigel Slater make a delicious-looking vegetable stew so adapted his idea to make one of my own today for Sunday dinner, with very pleasing results.  Here's the recipe if you want to try it - or add your own twist.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1 bag of frozen casserole veg (I know, the lazy option).  By all means chop your own selection of carrot, celery, swede, parsnip, or any other root veg.
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped in large chunks
1 pack cooked chestnuts (you could also use chick peas but chestnuts are seasonal right now!)
1 spring fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme (use fresh if you have it)
6 chopped sage leaves
4 juniper berries
small handful of porcini mushrooms
1 veg stock cube
1 tbsp plain flour
2 bay leaves

Soak the porcini mushrooms in around 200 mls boiling water.  Meanwhile, heat the oil to a heavy lidded casserole dish, add the chopped onions and sweat until lightly golden.

 Add the rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaves and juniper berries and stir around for a minute or so.  Add the bag of frozen veg (or your chopped celery and root veg) and continue to saute for around 10 mins until the veg is looking glossy.  If it catches on the bottom, don't worry - that all adds to the flavour.

Sprinkle on the flour and stir well, then drain the porcini mushrooms and add the liquor to the pan, reserving the mushrooms to add later.  Add the potatoes, the crumbled stock cube and some salt and pepper. Chop the reserved mushrooms finely and add them to the pan. Add enough water to barely cover the vegetables.

Bring the mixture to the boil then simmer on the hob for around 1 hour or cook in the oven at 180c.

20 mins before the end of the cooking time, make the dumplings.

In a mixing bowl measure out:

100g self-raising flour
50g vegetable suet
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Small handful grated strong cheddar (optional)

Check the fluid levels in the stew.  If drying out, add more water so there is plenty of gravy.

Add approx 5 tbsp cold water to bring the dough together and drop heaped teaspoons of the dough into the stew.  Bury them slightly so they pick up all the flavour and leave gaps between them as they will spread.  Cook for a further 20-25 mins until the dumplings are cooked through.

Serve the stew with lashings of Dijon mustard and some steamed and buttered greens.

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