Easy Beef and Dumpling Casserole


Not only is this dish simple to assemble, it ticks every box for a sour, dull, dank, rainy day in need of serious cheering up on the food front! I made it yesterday for a late lunch. Cooked for 4 of us and there is still a bowl left over for a late night something later on!



1 kg beef cubed – chuck steak is great – skirt too – just ask your butcher

Olive oil

8 tulip shallots peeled and roughly chopped (or you could use 3 medium sized onions)

1 tbsp plain flour

900 ml good beef stock

200 ml beer – I used Guinness

Heaped tsp of dried thyme or good sprig of the fresh stuff

2 bay leaves

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tbsp of tomato puree

Salt and black pepper


Heat oven to 140c,

Add a good glug of oil to a large frying pan and when hot add the beef. Stir round til browned all over. Remove and place in a large casserole dish – one with a lid. Add the onions to the frying pan and fry until the onions soften. Add them to the beef and then add the flour. Put over a low heat whilst you stir in the flour.

Add the thyme, bay leaves, garlic and a swizzle of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Add the stock and beer, stir and add the tomato puree – you can use a good brand tomato sauce instead if you wish.

Once it is starting to simmer – put the lid on and pop in the preheated oven for 2 hours and ten minutes. 

Now make the dumplings – 

You will need 100 gm of self-raising flour and 50 gm of suet – I use Atora – love the funky 60s retro box!

Mix the flour and suet together in a bowl, add a good pinch of salt and then around 5 table spoons of cold water. Mix it together until you get a good consistency and no flour is left in the bowl. Wash your hands and then make 8 golf ball size dumplings.

Put to one side. When the timer goes for the beef, remove the lid and gently place in the dumplings – well spaced out – pop lid back on and return to the oven for twenty minutes.

I served the casserole  with sweet mashed potato, buttered with a little cumin. I also had steamed kale and new potatoes in butter and coriander. It was a marvellous combination of flavours.

As with so many recipes this is one you can tinker with to your heart’s desire – you could use half beer half stock – even all beer if you wished! You could add a little pureed spinach to your dumpling mix – the possibilities are endless.


IMG_5424 This is funky – admit it !

Catching my breath…


It has been a strange and hectic couple of weeks as the end of term approached. Busy wasn’t even close. Anyway, my feet are now just touching the floor and I have spent the last few days trying to be lazy – but it takes me a while to throw off work mode – still, I have enjoyed some very nice glasses of various wines and some simple but delicious meals including the cold rare roast beef sliced from the previous days topside joint cooked Brazilian style – see recipe from a few blog posts ago…and this time I had it with some simple home made pan fried chips, pepper sauce and a light salad.

The day before we had enjoyed the beef off the barbecue with lots of salads and a simple ratatouille I cooked up – using just pan fried cubed aubergine, home grown cubed courgette, shallots, san marzano tomatoes pan fried and lots of fresh basil and oregano – a dash of red wine vinegar and a splash of olive oil with seasoning.


And it is unctuous cold the next day too!

I had to have several drinks to get per the shock of watching Brazil get trounced by Germany 7-1. I thought it was something I’d eaten!

I also have sent a few hours with a guy who is hot into SEO stuff and I think I learnt something We will see! I now have time to focus on writing some posts inspired by Bonnie Lalley‘s art work and on our proposed book. A week to relax now, several folk round for lunches and sleep overs and then on the 20th we are off to Valencia…can’t wait!

A stunning French red to start the holidays...

A stunning French red to start the holidays…

An Italian fizz to fire me into the festivities of July!

An Italian fizz to fire me into the festivities of July!

Home made ratatouille

Home made ratatouille

A Catalan beauty that saw me through the despondency of Germany beating brazil.

A Catalan beauty that saw me through the despondency of Germany beating brazil.

Beef at its best...

Beef at its best…

Anniversary rib of beef


Anniversary rib of beef

I started this blog a year ago today, so it is fitting that i celebrated the event, and indeed Mother’s Day, with a magnificent 2kg rib of beef from Parsonage Farm. Thank you to all who follow and who have tuned in over the last 12 months.

I can only ask you to use your imagination with this – it was a fabulous piece – the flavour and texture were second to none. The marbled fat tasted as sweet and unctuous as you could wish for and the meat melted in the mouth. I served it with cavolo nero steamed, roasted potatoes with thyme and garlic and the ever necessary home made Yorkshire puds courtesy of my wife! (She has a way with them that I cannot replicate!)

The beef was rubbed in oil and seasoned then laid on a bed of sliced onions, popped in a preheated oven at 230c for 30 minutes, then down to 160c for 1 hour. Key element is to let the joint rest, which I did for around 45 minutes whilst the spuds roasted and the puds rose.

All washed down with a marvellous Malbec – my favourite grape. Happy Mother’s Day to all you mums out there and a Happy Anniversary to Alfredo’s too!



Christmas Carpaccio!


Christmas Carpaccio!

Which is just the same as at any other time of the year! But it got our Christmas day lunch under way with a gentle zing of flavours and textures. Carpaccio was an invention of the guy who owned Harry’s Bar in Venice and originally allegedly made for a visiting countess who had been advised by her doctors to eat only raw meat. Lucky for us! There happened to be an exhibition on at that time in the 50s in Venice for the great painter Carpaccio – who had a penchant for the colours red and white – appropriate for the dish (and for my current blog look too!) .

So that was who it was named after.

Traditionally made from fresh sirloin sliced very thin and scattered, as here, with lemon juice, olive oil and shavings of good parmesan, it is just so delicious, and light too, as an antipasto. If you can, instead of olive oil a little truffle oil makes it really special. I have also had it served in France with a very fine mayonnaise.

If you have not tried it – you must! One way to prepare it is to pop the sirloin into your freezer until it has hardened, then remove and slice very thinly with your very sharpest knife. Season the slices lightly and return to the fridge for at least 15 minutes, then serve as you fancy. There are also lots of great delis who sell it. I popped some rocket on the side too as I adore the stuff.

Happy St.Stephen’s Day!

Beef and Guinness…a marriage made in a casserole


Beef and Guinness...a marriage made in a casserole

Right, normal service soon to be resumed – thank you all for your patience – a tough 10 days at work now over…all is well with the world and today I said hello to winter with a stonking beef stew that warmed cockles and fortified frozen bones. It is a common dish but one that still needs a tender hand and a little attention along the way to adjust the flavour to exactly what you want it to be.

Ingredients for 4

800 gm of stewing steak- you could also use shin – just leave it in about 20 minutes longer
4 slices of smoked bacon chopped into bite sized pieces
50 gm butter
1 500 gm bottle or can of Guinness
Beef or chicken stock
Plain flour
A tablespoon of chopped thyme
2 bay leaves
About 12 chestnut mushrooms
500 gm of baby onions or 4 medium sized onions quartered
8 baby plum tomatoes
Salt and black pepper

Toss the beef in seasoned plain flour. Heat the butter in a large frying pan with a little olive oil. Brown the bacon pieces and transfer to a large casserole. Then brown the onions – add these to the pot.

Then add the beef and fry gently until golden. Once you have added the beef to the casserole deglaze the frying pan with a little of the Guinness. Add these magical juices to the pot too.

Now add the rest of the Guinness to the casserole plus the thyme and bay leaves. Add a little more salt and black pepper.
Bring to the boil then simmer with the lid on gently for about two hours. Then add the tomatoes. Cook for another 45 minutes then add the mushrooms whole. Add a little hot water if it looks too thick but you do not want it to be thin.

Make some dumplings and add these for a further half an hour or so.

I served it with buttery horse radish mashed potatoes.

Warming and filling and wonderfully wintery in all respects!

A little Moroccan Magic makes Sunday sublime….


A little Moroccan Magic makes Sunday sublime....

I saw this idea on a Jamie Oliver programme a while ago now – but I cannot remember which one! Anyway, this is my version using fabulously underrated shin beef – mine was from those lovely people at Parsonage Farm. I love the tactile nature of rubbing the beef in the early stages and the way this cut just melts in the mouth after serious slow cooking. We went to the pub whilst it was simmering! It suited our Sunday and slipped down a treat – highly recommended and great social food. I cooked it in a Dutch oven casserole pan – I know some folk cook it in a tagine – but I have never dabbled in those – yet. Anyway – this works and I have just finished the leftover warmed up inside a pitta for lunch today!

Ingredients for 4/5

750 gm shin beef, fat trimmed off and cut into serious cubes
2 small onions chopped
Bunch of fresh coriander
Half a butternut squash peeled and cubed
400 gm tin chickpeas
400 gm tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp of tomato sauce
600 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
Olive oil

Spice mix
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cumin – I crushed cumin seeds in a mortar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp paprika
Salt and black pepper

Mix all spice ingredients together and add to cubed beef in a bowl – with your hands run in to the beef until all the mix has been taken in. You can do this in advance if you wish.

Add a glug of olive oil to the pan – deep sided preferably – and gently pan fry the beef for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and half the coriander chopped. Fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and the tomatoes and then all apart form 100 gm of the stock – you are just keeping some back for later in case it starts to dry out a tad – but it shouldn’t.

Bring to the boil – stir well – reduce heat – pop some foil over then the lid and simmer for 2 hours on a low heat.

Then add the butternut squash cubes – a little more stock if needed. Put foil and lid back on.

Cook for another 1 and a half hours. Consistency should now be quite thick and the meat should be falling apart to the touch. Serve with cous cous and scatter on the remainder of the coriander.

This is a very satisfying autumnal dish – cheap too – and a great alternative to Sunday roasts!

Roast in peace…!



Roast in peace...!

Which is exactly what you can do with a classic English beef pot roast. It is cooking serenity. No dramas. Just the ticket for a damp, dreek, early autumn Sunday. And the flavours are on the A+ side of phenomenal – and the ingredients do it all for you! Magical!

1.2 kilo piece of silverside – mine was from those wonderful folk at Parsonage Farm
6 carrots, cut into three hearty chunks
4 onions quartered or you could use 10 or 12 shallots left whole
1 bay leaf
beef dripping or lard
275 ml of beef stock
Thyme – fresh if you can
1 bouquet garni
1 tbsp plain flour
25 gm butter
Black pepper

Right, here we go. Preheat oven to 140c. Into a large high sided casserole heat a good wodge of dripping or lard then brown your meat all over in it. Remove to a plate. Then add the carrots and onions and brown them lightly. You could add celery stalks chopped too, or swede..but I find too much veg takes over.

Pop the joint back on top of the bed of vegetables in the pan – add the hot stock, bay leaf, sprig of thyme or teaspoon of dried, and the bouquet garni. Then grind in some black pepper. Cover tightly with foil, then pop the lid on. Bring to the boil – you should hear it begin to bubble – then slide it into the oven for 2 and a half hours.

When ready remove the beef and cover in foil and put to one side Remove the veg with a slotted spoon and also put to one side. Add the butter to the flour in a cup and with a teaspoon blend together until you have a paste. Bring the stock to the boil and add the butter paste. Stir vigorously until it looks smooth, thicker and creamier. Adjust seasoning if you so desire.

I let the beef rest for half an hour whilst the Yorkshire puds cooked – I leave these in the capable hands of my wife – she has a gift for making these gems! I then arranged the beef on a platter, arranged the veg around the side, then the Yorkshires, and then drizzled a little of the gravy over the meat. I served it with buttered boiled potatoes and steamed kale – and more of the gravy at the table.

The beef simply melted in the mouth – it was just divine. (Thank you to Sarah and John for such fabulous meat!)

So, if you have never had a go at this – do – and roast in peace!