Every St. Patrick’s Day I pull out my Irish stew recipe – a beef stew simmered with stout and parsley dumplings – not because I’m Irish or necessarily nostalgic for St. Paddy’s tradition, but because it’s delicious. Since I first made it about three years ago, it pops into my head at around March each year since. Beef and onions braised in stock and stout, then simmered with new potatoes and carrots and soft dumplings plopped on top, it’s really something that should be enjoyed all winter long. But I’ll settle for the edge of spring, when everything is starting its thaw, but dinnertime is still cool and requires some comfort in a pot.
I rarely drop biscuits atop a simmering stew and then cover it to steam the biscuits, but when I do, it’s a simple and fabulous way to soak up all that flavourful gravy.
The key to any good stew is browning the chunks of meat first – this adds flavour to the finished dish. Brown beef in a heavy skillet in a drizzle of oil and then transfer it to a baking dish; ditto the onions, which will caramelize too. Pour a bit of the stock or stout into the pan to loosen up any browned bits – this is how you make gravy – so much of the flavour is there on the bottom of the pan, and you don’t want to waste it.
Irish Beef Stew with Stout & Parsley Dumplings
canola or olive oil, for cooking
2-3 lb beef stewing meat, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 bottle or can of stout beer (or a couple cups of beef stock)
2-3 cups beef stock
4 thin-skinned potatoes, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2-1 cup frozen peas
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
In a large, heavy pot, brown the meat in a drizzle of oil in batches (without crowding) over medium-high heat. Transfer to a bowl and cook the onions in the same pot. Pour in the stout or stock and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return the meat to the pot, cover and put into a 300F oven for 2 1/2-3 hours.
Remove from the oven and add the stock along with the potatoes and carrots, cover and cook on medium-high on the stovetop for another 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the dumpling dough: in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, parsley, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cream and stir just until the dough comes together.
Drop the biscuit batter by the large spoonful on top of the simmering stew, cover and cook for 15 minutes, until the biscuits are cooked through. If you like, put the pot under the broiler for a few minutes to allow them to brown. Serves 6.