A hearty beef stew really is my kinda meal between Christmas and New Year, we tend not to do the big Turkey/Ham roast, but I still manage to use every single pan, dish and gadget in the kitchen to cook what was this year a wonderful and rather ‘cheffy’ Venison Haunch for Christmas Dinner. So a one pot wonder is most definitely called for to get a break from all that infernal washing up! Add that to the fact that our corner of Hungary has been blanketed in a fog that is so dense we have not seen the end of our garden for 2 weeks means it is definitely beef stew o’clock. I maybe fond of international food but this dish is as British as it comes and is a dish I have eaten hundreds of times whether that be as a child or by myself, in fact it may very well be one of the first taught myself to cook when I left home to go to college… After I ran out of money to buy take aways that is 😉
I have seen all sorts of pieces of beef recommended for cooking in stews but for me the long and slow cooking really lends itself to using something with a bit of connective tissue that breaks down in the cooking process. For me the ideal cut is a shin of beef, but you could use blade, skirt anything with a bit of fat and body you don’t want anything too lean or it will dry out. I’m not sure if suet dumplings are a thing in the US which, if my assessment is correct, where most of you guys live, but they should be ;). A beef stew aint a beef stew without them and they were and remain my favourite part of this dish, I like my dumplings to have a crispy topping and to be soft underneath but you could equally keep them soft by just placing in the oven with the lid on. But you should really give them a go, you can either use fresh suet, which is the fatty coating that covers the kidney and liver, which you can get from a butchers or even dried suet it really makes no difference.
This time of the year always feels increasingly odd, all the talk of the end of the year and resolutions always feels just wrong since we became ‘farmers’. The end of the year is nothing more than an arbitrary number for us and the end of Autumn really feels like the end of the year for us, when the final bit of winter wood is chopped and the harvest collected, that is the end. New year feels like nothing more than a mid season break, our new year will begin at the end of February when we can get out in our garden and get stuck in, something we are beginning to plan over the next week when we start juggling our crop rotation plans.