This recipe for Irish Stout Stew is like a big cuddle from the inside out, I’m not sure whether it’s the thick warming gravy, melt-in-the-mouth meat, the pillow-soft dumplings stuffed with thyme, the onion studded champ or the homemade soda bread I serve with it, that keeps me coming back for more.
I add a couple of additional ingredients, cocoa helps thicken and along with the prune juice counteracts any bitter taste left by the Guinness.
Perfect for St Patrick’s Day it ticks all the boxes, and more. In fact you can prepare this on Sunday afternoon,t tastes super on the day, superb the next, there’s hardly any washing up if you stick to the one pot and it freezes perfectly. This serves four generous portions.
2tbsp Rapeseed Oil (I use Farrington’s Mellow Yellow) or sunflower oil
1kg stewing steak from the Ocado butcher – chuck or blade steak is perfect.
1 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 beef stock cube or alternative
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
500ml Guinness Stout
500ml Sunsweet Prune Juice
3 bay leaves
1 large bunch of fresh thyme
200g button mushrooms, wiped
5 medium sized carrots, peeled and cut into chunks about an inch thick
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 strands of Thyme with heads stripped
100g self-raising flour
50g Atora suet
A pinch of salt
5 tbsp cold water
Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas Mark 3. Season your meat and cut off any of the larger pieces of fat.
Heat the oil in a large, lidded casserole that can be used on direct heat, and brown the meat in batches.
If you don’t have a casserole that can be used on direct heat, use a lidded frying pan. When brown, remove from pan, along with any juice, and set aside.
Next, add the onion, button mushrooms and carrots to the casserole dish and brown them too, tip over the flour and the cocoa and stir well to coat.
Add the meat and give it a good stir to coat in cocoa and flour. Pour in the Guinness, the prune juice, and add the crumbled stock cube. Season the stew with pepper – stock cubes are quite salty so check at a later stage whether the dish needs more. Add the herbs and bring the contents to a simmer.
Add the lid and move it to the oven for about 2 hours until the meat is beautifully tender.
When your two hours is up, it’s time to make the thyme dumplings which need about 20 minutes to cook. It might also be worth checking the stew’s sauce and add seasoning.
Strip the tough stalks from thyme and whizz the small leaves in a processor, or chop very finely. Mix flour, thyme leaves, suet and salt with enough water to form a firm, but soft dough. Divide into 6 or 8 pieces, drop onto the surface of the bubbling stew and keep the lid on. Don’t leave the uncooked dumplings standing, they need to be cooked immediately for best results. Don’t be temped to peek before the 20 mintues, they need steam to make them pillowy-soft.
After twenty minutes, the stew’s ready to serve. If you want to cook it the day before, leave the dumplings and make them on the day you plan to eat. If you freeze leftovers, remove any dumplings – they won’t freeze well at all. You can keep this dish for up to three months in your freezer but defrost it thoroughly and heat it through until it’s piping.