Beef Stew with Dumplings


Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook

By Annie Gray

Published 2019

  • About

Beef stew is a true servants’ dish: cooked low and slow, hard to spoil, and filling for hungry bellies. This version comes with rib-sticking dumplings, so it’s a real meal in a pot. It features several times on Downton Abbey, both as a dish in the servants’ hall and at the soup kitchen, where it is set up for starving and injured soldiers in the episodes set during the Great War. The secret is to have a cut, such as brisket, that has some fat with it and that will benefit from long cooking. Beef was considered a symbol of Britishness, and a great deal of it was consumed both below and above stairs in country houses. In season 1, Daisy fails to sabotage the beef stew during her short-lived campaign to ruin the dishes so Mrs. Bird won’t be seen as a better cook than Mrs. Patmore.


  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
  • ½ lb (225 g) lardons
  • 2 lb (1 kg) stewing beef, cut into 1–1½-inch (2.5–4-cm) cubes
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoons malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce or mushroom ketchup
  • teaspoons black treacle (blackstrap molasses)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups (480 ml) beer
  • Salt and black pepper

For the Dumplings

  • 1 cup (115 g) flour
  • 3 oz (90 g) shredded suet (about ¾ cup) or shredded cold butter
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Black pepper


Heat the lard in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat and fry the lardons (bacon cut into strips about 1 inch/2.5 cm long and ¼ inch/6 mm wide and thick) and beef until browned. Reduce the heat to low, add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3–5 minutes. Sprinkle everything with the flour and fry, turning all the ingredients regularly, for a few more minutes. Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, treacle, cloves, bay leaves, beer, and water as needed just to cover the beef. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low, and cook gently, stirring occasionally and adding a little more water if the pan begins to boil dry, until the beef is tender, about 3 hours.

Once the beef is cooking, make the dumplings: Stir together the flour, suet, baking powder, salt, rosemary, and a little pepper in a bowl, then mix in enough cold water (7–8 tablespoons/105–120 ml) to form a stiff paste. Divide the paste into eighths, shape each portion into a ball, and pop the balls into the pot to cook with the beef for about 2 hours.

At the end of cooking, using a slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings and beef to warmed individual plates. Turn up the heat and reduce the cooking liquid to a good sauce consistency, then spoon an equal amount over each serving.

MRS. BIRD: There, there. There are worse crimes on earth than loyalty. Dry your eyes, and fetch the beef stew I was making for tomorrow. You’ve not had a chance to spoil that, I suppose.

DAISY: I was going to mix in some syrup of figs. But I’ve not done it yet.


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