For the casserole
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 15g butter
- 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
- 12 shallots or very small onions, peeled and halved
- 500g lean braising steak, cut into chunks
- 4 tbsp brandy or red wine
- 500ml beef stock
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 150g mushrooms, halved
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dumplings
- 150g self-raising flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 75g suet
- 1½ tbsp horseradish sauce
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 4-5 tbsp chilled water
- Heat the vegetable oil and butter in a large flameproof casserole dish or large saucepan over a medium high heat. Add the chopped bacon and shallots or onions and fry for 4-5 minutes, turning often, until well browned. Remove them from the casserole dish with a draining spoon and set to one side.
- Add the meat to the casserole dish or saucepan a handful at a time, browning each handful before adding the next – and avoid turning the meat too often, as it needs to sear. This is important, as the browning gives the casserole a great flavour and good colour. Avoid adding the meat all at once as it will steam, not fry, and won’t brown so well.
- Add the brandy or wine to the casserole dish and let it bubble up. Pour in half the beef stock. Allow to simmer for a few minutes to deglaze the pan – this means that all the lovely browned bits on the base and sides of the casserole dissolve into the liquid. These meaty extracts enrich the sauce, giving the finished casserole a rich, deep flavour.
- Pour in the remaining beef stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Add the onions, bacon, carrots and garlic. Stir, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook gently for 1½-2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Check the casserole from time to time – it should retain the liquid, though top up with a little extra boiling water if required.
- When the meat is almost done, make the dumplings. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the suet, then add the horseradish sauce and parsley. Stir in just enough chilled water to make a soft, but not sticky dough (4-5 tbsp). Bring the dough together with your hand and knead lightly for a few moments until smooth. Cover and chill for 10 minutes.
- Once the meat is tender, add the mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes. These are added at this stage so that they remain chunkier. Blend the cornflour with 1 tbsp cold water and stir it into the meat mixture. Heat until thickened, stirring often. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls with floured hands, handling them lightly. Add them to the casserole, dropping them in over the surface. Cover with the lid and cook for 20 minutes, until they are risen and fluffy. Serve the casserole, sprinkled with extra chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy with fresh green vegetables – such as cabbage or broccoli.
Here are two tasty ideas for ringing the changes.
Serve half the casserole for 2 people one day, cooling the remainder quickly and chilling overnight. Next day, heat 4 frozen ready-made Yorkshire puddings (following the pack instructions). Reheat the casserole thoroughly, then spoon into the hot Yorkshires and serve with lightly cooked Savoy cabbage.
Puff-topped Beef & Mushroom Pies
Alternatively, use half the casserole for these scrummy little pies. First, preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Next, share the cooked meat mixture between 2 individual baking dishes. Finally, roll out 200g ready-made puff pastry and cut out lids to fit the dishes. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 22-25 minutes until risen and golden brown.
Got a query? Let Sue help.
Q How can I peel small onions easily?
A Put them into a bowl and cover them in boiling water. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then peel. It’ll be easier – and you might not cry!
Q Could I use different herbs in the dumplings?
A Yes. Try chopped fresh chives, rosemary or curly parsley instead. If you don’t have fresh herbs, add 2 tsp dried mixed herbs instead.
Q I’m not too keen on horseradish. Any suggestions?
A Mustard is another natural accompaniment to beef, so use 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard instead of horseradish sauce.
Q Could I cook this in the oven?
A Definitely. Transfer to the oven at Point 4 and cook for 1½ hours at 180°C/Gas 4 before adding the dumplings, then bake for a further 20 minutes.
5 Golden Rules
- Choose the right cut of meat – braising steak, chuck or skirt all work well, as the long, slow cooking tenderises the beef.
- Browning the meat successfully is key to a tasty casserole, so do follow the technique of browning the beef a handful at a time.
- A slow, gentle simmer is what you are aiming for – not a rapid boil. Remember, a casserole is not to be rushed, it’s to be coaxed and cajoled.
- Do make sure that the meat is really tender – don’t be impatient. If it needs extra time, let it have it.
- Light dumplings need to be cooked in a steamy atmosphere, that’s why you need to cook them with the lid on the casserole.
Recipes and food styling: Sue Ashworth
Photography: Jonathan Short
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