How to cook perfect beef stew | Life and style | The Guardian
A word of warning
Lots of stew recipes call for very gentle cooking – but beware, they still need to simmer.
As the New York Times food writer, and general food science genius, Harold McGee explains in his book The Curious Cook,
- "strands of beef collagen don't even begin to unravel until the temperature exceeds 140F (60C), and they don't dissolve into gelatin in any appreciable quantity below 180F (82C)"
– so all that those chewy bits will stay just that unless you keep the stew relatively hot.
A hearty stew should be a simple affair – beefy, savoury, and crowned with a ring of fluffy dumplings. No garlic required.
Perfect beef stew:
Serves 4 – 6
800g shin of beef
2 tbsp flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
Beef dripping, butter or oil
2 onions, sliced
300ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky slices
2 small turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
For the dumplings:
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Small bunch of chives and parsley, finely chopped
1. Trim the beef of its outer sinew and cut into large chunks. Toss with the seasoned flour to coat. Heat a heavy-bottomed casserole or pan on a medium flame and add a knob of dripping or butter, or a couple of tablespoons of oil. Brown the meat in batches, adding more fat if necessary – be careful not to overcrowd the pan, or it will boil in its own juices – then transfer to a bowl. Scrape the bottom of the pan regularly to prevent any residue from burning.
2. Once all the meat is browned, add some more fat to the pan and cook the onions until soft and slightly browned. Add them to the beef and then pour in a little stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Add the beef and onions, the rest of the stock and the stout, season, and add the herbs. Bring to the boil, then partially cover, turn down the heat, and simmer gently for two hours.
3. Add the carrots and turnips, and simmer for about another hour, until the meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Leave to cool, overnight if possible, and then lift the solidified fat off the top and bring to a simmer.
4. Meanwhile, make the dumplings by sifting the flour into a bowl and adding the rest of the ingredients and just enough cold water to bring it together into a dough. Roll it into 6 dumplings and add these to the stew. Partially cover and simmer for 25 minutes, then check the seasoning of the gravy, and serve with steamed greens.
Is there anything to touch stew and dumplings for sheer nostalgic cockle-warming, and can the British version hold its head high in the face of international competition? If not – seriously, what's better?