18 February 2011

Shin of Beef : a hearty stew with parsley dumplings

I want to make a steak and kidney pie.

There, I’ve said it.  Owned up to it, so I’ll have to do it now, instead of shying away from it like a pony scared by a flapping leaf.

With that in mind – you see, I’ve been working up to this moment – I thought I’d better suss out the beef from our local butcher.  We’d had a fabulous piece of rib of beef at Christmas, but that was all and I wanted to get some cheaper cut just to see whether I was capable of cooking it in the manner that would get the best out of it.  So, when we visited the butcher this week, I picked up 600kg of Shin with a view to doing a properly hearty beef stew with dumplings.

Now, remember I’ve got two fat-phobic boys in the family here.  They can’t bear it if any of their meat is “wobbly” (their description).  This is why I approached the Shin with caution, as I was very aware of their requirements and didn’t really want to spend hours trimming every little bit of fat from the meat – and so lose a lot of the flavour.  But sometimes you have to experiment in order to discover.

As such, I wasn’t too particular over trimming the meat.  Obvious strings of gristle were removed, as well as thick pieces of fat, but otherwise I left it in the hope that the 4hrs cooking that was ahead of it would do the trick and render what little fat was left.

I found that the 600g of Shin was the perfect quantity for 4 of us.  Yes, I know there are only 3, but you’ve just got to have second helpings of this one!

I started the cooking at around 2pm, by cooking all the ingredients that were going to add flavour to the gravy and then adding the meat.  When we came back from collecting Son and heir from school, the whole flat smelled of glorious beef stew.  I next looked at it with an hour and a half to go and added the “soft” vegetables.  Then, with just a half an hour to go, I included the dumplings.

Oh. My. God.  Honestly, if you never master any other dish – master making this one.  It truly is heaven.


Ingredients :

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 tablespoons of plain flour
salt & pepper
600g Shin of Beef, cubed
1 fat clove of garlic, grated
1 leek, sliced
2 sticks celery, de-stringed and chopped
half a red pepper, seeds removed and cut into cubes
2 beef oxo cubes
1 litre plus of boiling water
1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon of creamed horseradish
1 large teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon of Bovril
a shake or two of Worcestershire Sauce
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5cm pieces
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3 mushrooms, cleaned and each cut into 6
a handful of peas or broad beans

For the dumplings :

150g self-raising flour
50g suet (I used vegetable suet)
salt & pepper
fresh chopped parsley to taste – if you don’t have fresh, make plain dumplings
small quantity of milk to bind

Method :

1.  Turn your oven on at 160deg (fan) to pre-heat.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a deep pan or casserole – one that will go from the top to the oven.  Cook the onions very slowly until transparent and beginning to colour – approx 5-10 mins.  Remove and keep warm.

2.  Put the flour onto a large dished plate (or one with a lip) and season it well, then mix lightly with your fingers.  Toss the shin of beef in the flour until it is coated.  In the meantime, heat 1 more tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the coated beef.  If your pan isn’t big enough, you might need to fry the beef in two batches.  Make sure it fries and browns – don’t let it stew!

3.  Remove the beef and keep warm.

4.  Add the leek, garlic, celery and red pepper and cook until it begins to soften.

5.  Then return the onions to the pan and add the remaining flour, mixing well to ensure it amalgamates and cooks for 2-3 minutes.

6.  Add enough boiling water to just above the contents, mixing well with a whisk to ensure no lumps form from the flour.  Add the tomato ketchup, horseradish, mustard, Bovril and Worcestershire Sauce.  Return the beef to the pan and stir to combine.  Add a little more water, if the beef isn’t submerged.

7.  Cover with a lid and place into the oven for a minimum of 1½ hours – whatever suits you. A longer time would be fine, but a shorter time is not good.

8.  Remove the lid and give the contents a stir.  Taste, so that you know where the gravy is headed.

9.  Add the potatoes, parsnip, carrot and mushrooms, stir to combine, replace the lid and place the whole lot back in the oven for up to another 2 hours.

10.  Remove the lid, stir the contents and taste for seasoning.  Add more seasoning if you think it is required.  Add the peas or broad beans (or both if you’re feeling rash!), replace the lid and return to the oven.

11.  Make the dumplings.

12.  Place the flour and suet into a bowl and season.  Add the parsley and mix to combine.  Add a little milk and mix to combine.  The dumpling mixture should stick a little to the spoon, but not be fluid in any way.  If your mixture is too fluid, add a little more flour.  Too dry – add a little more milk.  The mixture should make eight dumplings.

13.  Remove the stew pan from the oven, remove the lid and carefully add spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture to the stew.  Allow them to sit where you dropped them, then replace the lid and back in the oven they go, for 20-30 minutes, depending on how big your dumplings are.

Once the dumplings are cooked (you can insert a knife into one, which will show you whether they are still sticky or not), serve into warmed bowls or warmed dished plates.



  1. Oh my Jenny! This sounds lovely.
    I want to make a steak and kidney pie, too! I've done steak, but not added kidneys. I'm a wee bit chicken.
    Mind telling an American a bit more about Bovril?

  2. Bovril is marvellous stuff. :) It's basically beef stock that has been reduced to the consistency of treacle. It comes in a little jar like a Marmite jar (if you know what that is!) and most people of my generation can remember having mugfuls of steaming Bovril (watered down with boiling water), instead of soup, when we were kids. It makes a beefy thing incredibly beefy!

  3. Wow....This looks really great, love my stews, can't remember the last time l had dumplings, in a stew that is.... :) Don't seem to bother with them really, Silly Willie......!
    Well, l just finished a third lot of curry, last night, one l made last Sunday, as l always do. And, boy was it hot....Pheeew! The longer you keep a curry the better it gets. And, HOT....I was really sweat'in, no, perspire'in, no, glow'in.....There, l've covered ALL genders, don't want to upset anyone.
    :). Roll on tomorrow, hope there's cheap diced meat at Morrisons. Away go again. So, the three packs of diced meat l bought last week for £3. gave my three meals this week. AND, l love 'MY' currys.
    Well, must get on, second cup of lemon tea comm'in up, off to Wimborne, have a pose round the shops, coffee at Costa. Then home. Been invited out from lunch tomorrow, carvery, so, look'in forward to that. :0)

  4. Jenny, I love this kind of meal, and this recipe is great - and I love the attention to detail that if you don't have fresh parsley, don't bother with the dried stuff! The more that people discover (re-discover) the cheaper, but very tasty, cuts of meat the better, IMHO; the more that people like us bang on about it, the less (hopefully) people will buy low-quality chicken, un-hung beef, shed-reared pork etc just because they are "cheap" in the wrong way.

  5. Willie : for us, one of the big joys of having a stew is the dumplings! Often, the only reason I've made a stew is because we've been yearning for dumplings. lol You'll have to try my parsley dumplings in your next stew - and see the difference they make! So, how did you get on at Morrisons this week? Any good bargains?

    Guerilla Griller : I suppose I could have said that if you didn't have parsley, you could always put some other herb of your choice in there! Fresh chives would be good. Dried herbs just wouldn't have the same effect. It'd be like eating sawdust dumplings, I suspect. Oh, I agree totally as regards what you say about the cheaper and tasty cuts of meat. There's so much waste in this world that if we can encourage people to use what would otherwise be thrown away (not only food-wise!) then it can't be a bad thing.


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