Shooting Stew with Parsley Dumplings

A shooting stew is something you would serve a shooting party for lunch – if you move in country circles where large numbers of people need to be fed after a long morning spent blasting birds out of the sky, an activity which will leave them cold, tired and famished. It is safe to assume that those so preoccupied enjoy eating as well as killing their prey, so your typical shooters’ stew should contain game birds as well as beef.

Other hungry people will enjoy this combination after any form of exercise on a cold day, with or without guns. The amounts, which are generous, may be halved to serve 6 people with hearty appetites, or 8 who have been indoors watching TV

Ingredients

  • 2 oven-ready pheasants
  • about 2 litres/ 3Β½ pints chicken stock
  • 450 g/ 1 lb piece of smoked fat bacon, cut into lardons
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2.7 kg/ 6 lb shin of beef, cut into 225 g/ 8 oz portions
  • flour, for dusting
  • 1.35 kg/ 3 lb onions, sliced
  • 450 g/ 1 lb carrots, sliced lengthwise
  • 4 celery stalks, cut across into thin slices
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • salt and pepper

For the Dumplings

  • 450 g/ 1 lb self-raising flour
  • 170 g/ 6 oz butter, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 g/ 1 oz flat-leaved parsley leaves

Method

Poach the pheasants in simmering chicken stock for 45 minutes. This is a good way of dealing with badly shot birds or last year’s from the freezer. Allow to cool in the stock and, when cool enough to handle, strip off all the meat and reserve, returning the carcass to the stock and continuing to simmer for 1 hour. Strain and reserve the stock.

Fry the lardons gently until the fat runs and they start to brown. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a big pot.

Add some sunflower oil to the frying pan and turn up the heat. Dust the beef shin portions in seasoned flour and sear them a few at a time, adding them to the pot.

Put some more oil in the pan and sweat the onions until soft but not brown, then scatter them over the meat.

Fry the carrot strips slowly until caramelized. Add the celery, garlic and 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir and fry all together for a minute or two, then add to the pot with the bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce.

Pour over the bottle of red wine and top up with pheasant stock to cover. Bring to the boil, skim, lower the heat and season with a little salt and lots of pepper. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Check to see if the meat is done, then adjust the seasoning if needed. If not quite done, continue cooking, checking every 15 minutes until it is. It is much better to do this than overcook, as this results in dry, flaky meat. The stew can be held until the next day and reheated.

To make the dumplings, put the flour in a food processor with the diced butter, salt and pepper. Blitz briefly to a crumb. Add the eggs and parsley leaves. Pulse-chop and then dribble a spoonful or two of cold water through the feeder tube until it starts to hold as a coherent mass. Remove and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 2 pieces and roll each into a cylinder. Cut each cylinder into 12 and roll the slices gently into 24 balls.

Poach the dumplings in simmering salted water for 20 minutes or, for the best result of all, steam them. They take about the same time but emerge firm, light and dry. They are always better cooked separately from a stew and using butter rather than suet gives a nicer taste.

About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, stir the pheasant meat into the stew and serve with the dumplings.

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