Thursday, 2 January 2014

Slow Cooker Beef in Beer

OH bought some shin of beef before Christmas, but with the realisation of all the food we had in for the festive period, it got put in the freezer until his return to work today.

I love the look of shin of beef.  It is a rich ruby red, just what good hearty beef should look like.  It needs long slow cooking, but my attempts in the past have surprisingly watery and lacking in flavour.  So stumbling across Felicity Cloake's article 'How to cook the perfect beef stew' was a godsend, having done all the trial and error stuff for me.

A few tweaks to adapt this to a slow cooker, discovering I dislike stewed vegetables but do like dumplings, and here is my resulting recipe.

Serves 4 – 6
800g shin of beef
2 tbsp flour
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
6 shallots (or 2 onions)
300ml just boiled water
1 beef stock cube
300ml stout or ale
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme

100g self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
50g suet
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or dried herbs
5-6 tbsp water

If not already cubed by your butcher, cube the beef into largish chunks cutting off any white connecting tissue from the outside.  In a large bowl, toss the beef in the plain flour together with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil and brown the floured beef in batches, transferring the browned beef to the slow cooker heating on high, and adding more oil for each batch as needed.  In a large frying pan I found it took three batches.  I have to say I usually skip the browning stage, but I didn't today and now realise that this browning is probably key to adding the depth of flavour my previous stews have lacked.

Whilst the beef is browning, peel the shallots and halve.  Brown these for a few minutes after browning all the beef and add to the slow cooker.  Pour enough of the measured out stock into the frying pan to cover the base and scrape off the flour and meat that has stuck to the bottom of the pan as the water begins to simmer. Once all scraped off, add the beef stock cube and stir it around to dissolve then add the rest of the water and beer. Once boiling, add to the slow cooker together with the bayleaf and thyme.  Poke all the meat under the liquid as best you can and leave to cook on high for 4-6 hours.

As you can see from my photo, I added carrot and swede.  I added these towards the end of the cooking time but realise now that it diluted the lovely rich meaty flavour the stew had up until then.  I will be cooking and serving them separately next time.

I hadn't intended to make dumplings, but then worked out we were in for back to back potato based dinners for the rest of this week and into the weekend if I didn't.  My slow cooker recipe leaflet included a recipe for beef stew with dumplings made out of self raising flour so I used that as that is all the flour I have left in the house.

45 minutes before the end of the cooking time mix together all the dry ingredients for the dumplings and 5 tbsp of water in a large bowl.  The mixture should form a dryish dough. Add more water a teaspoon at a time if needed.  Squash into a fat sausage and divide into 8.  Roll each portion lightly into a loose ball and poke into the stew and leave to cook.  Serve with boiled potatoes, or double the dumpling quantity if preferred to have enough to fill you up.

The resulting stew was full of flavour with an ever so tasty gravy, only slighty spoilt in my opinion by the stewed vegetables.  Dumplings were a pleasant surprise too, light and herby, although all but one of the kids took against on principle.  I look forward to trying this again, saving all the dumplings for us and Princess.

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