Beef Stew and Dumplings

This is a classic British dish which is a total meal in itself. You’ve got the meat, the vegetables and the dumplings all in one dish. The chestnuts are optional but I really enjoy the nutty taste they give the dish.


  • 900 g (2 lb) braising steak, trimmed and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) dice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100 g (4 oz) beef dripping
  • 4 large onions, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 25 g (1 oz) unsalted butter
  • ½ bottle red wine
  • 1.75 litres (3 pints) Veal jus or bought alternative
  • 6 carrots
  • 6 celery sticks
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled
  • 350 g (12 oz) button mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée (optional)

For the Dumplings

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 smoked back bacon rashers, rinded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 25 g (1 oz) unsalted butter
  • 100 g (4 oz) chestnuts, cooked, shelled and chopped (optional)
  • 225 g (8 oz) plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 100 g (4 oz) fresh or dried beef suet, shredded
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) water
  • Chicken Stock or water


Season the meat with salt and pepper and fry in the beef dripping until brown. Leave to drain in a colander. Meanwhile, in a large flameproof casserole, sweat the diced onions, garlic and thyme in the butter for a few minutes until soft. Add the red wine and boil until reduced by two-thirds. Add the jus, bring to the boil, and add the steak. Cover and leave to simmer gently for 1½ hours.

Cut the carrots, celery and potatoes into large dice and add them to the stew with the whole button mushrooms and tomato purée. Continue to cook for another 15–20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Check for seasoning.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Sweat the chopped onion, bacon and thyme in the butter until soft. Add the chopped chestnuts, if using, then allow the mixture to cool.

Mix together the flour, baking powder and suet. Add a pinch of salt and the onion mixture and mix to a dough with the water. The dumplings can now be rolled into balls 2.5–4 cm (1–1½ in) in diameter. Bring the chicken stock or water to the boil, add the dumplings and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve the stew in hot bowls, and to finish top with the dumplings.