Saturday, December 24, 2011

Versatile Cooking - Sensational Stew

Welcome, Eat Travel Dive Readers!
I hope you had fun trying my Pumpkin Soup Recipe, and today I have a treat in store!  Today, I will be using our core ingredients (Onion, Garlic, Celery and Carrot) to make a super-easy heart healthy stew.  In my opinion, this stew should be within the arsenal of anyone who hates spending time preparing meals at the end of a hectic day at work etc.  Having my sensational stew up your sleeve will impress dinner guests, fill up your family at low expense to you, and more importantly, will be a tasty way to load you up with vitamins and minerals....which can only be a good thing.

So, thanks for coming back today to pick up where we left off.  After a short trip around our local supermarket, scouring the shelves for special offers and low budget ingredients I am happy to say I kept today's exciting meal under 15 Quid (15GBP) - which is a result considering the ingredients.
Same Ingredients, Different Dish...

I decided to use a quality wine for this meal, but keep it within your budget or do as I have done, and look for the offers that suit your needs.  I am making a Lamb Stew today, and I was after a fuller flavour that would remain for the duration of the cooking process.  I have read recently that Spanish Rioja red wine goes well in dishes with lamb.  I decided to give it a shot, and luckily our supermarket had some spectacular offers.  Rioja is a full bodied fruity red wine, with hints of plum and spices such as cinnamon and vanilla.  This means less spices to actually add to the stew, but lots of tasty flavours that combine well in the stew as it simmers.  I got our wine for £5.50 (half price) which, like I said, was a result - Christmas specials this close to the big day can be a steal!
Rioja & Diced Lamb
I was given the task of using lamb, since my sister had some lamb that she needed me to use up, so she could fill her freezer with the usual Crimbo-fair.  I needed to purchase some more lamb, but again the lamb was on special (everyone is buying turkey, duck, goose and the usual Xmas dinner suspects) - £3.60 for 300 grams of diced high grade lamb, was yet another bargain.  Today was looking to be successful from the checkout onwards!

After a quick sweep around the supermarket produce section, we were done.  Here's the recipe and method we are using today.

Recipe - Stew
2 Medium Onions
2 Celery Sticks
2 Carrots
2 Garlic Cloves
Olive Oil
1 Heaped Tbs Plain Flour
400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
500g Diced Lamb
500ml Rioja*
3 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
Salt & Pepper
1 tsp Paprika
Recipe - Dumplings
250g Self Raising Flour
125g Freezer Chilled Unsalted Butter
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
Salt & Pepper
Small Quantity of really cold water

Method - Stew
This stew is pretty straight forward.  Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (Gas Mark 6).  Trim the ends off of your celery, then slice.  Peel the carrots, and onions, then chop them up - I like to chop the carrots into small carrot batons, whilst roughly chopping the onions to give a more "country rustic" stew texture later on.  Peel and finely slice up your garlic.  Remove the rosemary leaves from the stalks - just lightly grasp the bunch of leaves and slide them down the stalk to remove in seconds.  Next finely chop your herb so its a lovely dust of rosemary.  
Did you know... Rosemary is packed full of vitamin B6, Calcium and Iron.  It is beneficial to liver, gall bladder and digestive function - perfect for pre and post Christmas digestive detoxing!
Next, take your diced lamb and remove any excess fatty bits.  If you decide to use lamb steaks or similar, dice your lamb into 2cm cubes removing any fat that you can.  At this point you're close to being prepared to cook.  Take your large saucepan/pot/casserole dish (this should be the sort you can use on hob, on flame and that can be put into the oven) and a good lug of olive oil.  I like to warm the oil on a low flame, then use the warm oil to grease the base and sides of the pot - you'll thank me later when it comes to washing up.

Prepped up and ready to go!
Chuck your onions, garlic and rosemary into the pot and lighly fry over a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes.  Add the celery, then the carrots and mix and keep on the heat for about 3 minutes.  During this time I keep half an eye on the pot and get myself organised.  I pile up my washing up, clean my benches and get my meat, flour, tomatoes and wine ready to go.  
Who said men can't multitask!  Check this out, baby! 
Now you throw in your lamb, then give it a good mix up so your meat is socialising well with your veggies.  Then just for a moment take the pot and move off of the heat.  Add your tablspoon of plain flour and mix it in really well.  Don't be afraid to add flour, it is never a problem if you add it to dry ingredients, its a little trickier when adding it to moist sauces etc.  Now when you're happy you're all mixed in evenly, put back on the flame and add your tomatoes.  After a good mix, make a well in the middle of your pot and add the gorgeous Rioja.  Now, simply mix it in and wham the flame up to high.  Bring to the boil, put your lid on and simmer on the lowest flame heat for 2-3 minutes.  At this point, using oven gloves, remove the pot from the hob and place in the oven.  Immediately turn down the heat from 200 to 180.  I set the timer on the oven, or my iPhone - sometimes even get Winnie to time it all on her stopwatch...however you decide to time it, set the clock for around 1 hour 45 minutes.  I have experimented with cooking times with this dish and I find that going past 2 hours starts to overcook the lamb.  Using the time I stated above, your meat should be nice and juicy with lots of flavour.  I like to check on the stew every 30 minutes or so to test the flavours, and monitor how fast the stew is thickening.

Pretty colours

Now add the flour

Then your tomatoes

Make a well then add your wine

Bring it to the boil

Sit back and relax, dance around the kitchen or carry on with your normal chores 
Periodically taste and give a light stir
For the next ten minutes or so I wash up all of my preparation mess, clean my benches and start to organise then next phase of my cooking.   I chill a glass of water, and stick it in the freezer with my unsalted butter.  I measure out my self-raising flour and sift it so its ready for when I make dumplings.

Today I'm going to share something with you.  I experiment with my dumplings.  I am always trying to improve their consistency, flavours and tastiness.  To that end, I have decide to use up some of the remaining rosemary to create rosemary infused dumplings.  I take the leaves off of the rosemary and then I finely chop up the rosemary into fine rosemary powder.  I use a technique that Jamie Oliver taught me, to keep the herb in one place whilst I chop/dice it.  

Yummy Rosemary - Our Stew's Detoxing Herb
  1. Damp tea towel under the chopping board stops the board sliding away.
  2. Hold you knife with left hand cupped so the four fingers are on the top edge of the blade and your thumb and palm rest on the board - away from the cutting edge.
  3. Using your right hand on the hilt of your knife, move the blade up and down whilst chopping over the herb.
  4. Use the knife's blade to control where the herb is and to ensure you get a good fine powder.
  5. Don't rush this, be careful, watch your fingers and be vigilant of where the blade is at all times.  It is better to take your time and not cut yourself!
Doing your herbs.
Once you have your herb ready, add it to the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Mix the flour so that the herb and seasonings are evenly distributed through the mixture.  Retrieve your water and butter from the freezer.  Grate your butter using a coarse size cheese grater.    Add the grated butter to your flour-mix and get stuck in.  Using your hands you want to combine the flour-mix with the butter so that you have a good, even consistency similar to breadcrumbs.  When your mix has no butter lumps or dry flour patches and it's all even its time to throw in some water.  It's best to do this bit by bit so you don't over moisten the breadcrumb.  We're trying to produce a nice dough, so take your time.  Once you have the dough so it's not a water bomb, nor a sticky mess, roll it into a big ball.  Dust a chopping board or your workbench with some flour and carefully slap your dough-ball onto it.  Next knead the dough gently so it's flat, folding it through the dusted flour.  When you have kneaded the dough for just a few moments roll back into a big ball.  If you have children who are keen to get involved, get them to assist you with this next part.  It's a good interactive bit of cookery!  Tear small blobs of dough off the big dough-ball and roll in the palm of your hand to make little golf-ball sized dough-balls.  The quantities I have used makes 12 good sized dumplings.  This is enough for 3 balls each with a family of four, plus its the perfect quantity to fit into my pot!
Freezer chilled butter, grated and added to the mix

Work in the butter to get breadcrumb consistency

Working the dough

Kneading the dough

Mega Dumpling!

Little Dough-balls

12 Yummy Rosemary Dumplings waiting to be cooked...
 Half an hour before the end of your stew's cooking time, remove the pot from the oven and carefully (it's gonna be super hot now) remove the lid with oven gloves.  Place your dumplings on the surface of your stew,  I drop them in so the dumpling's base sits beneath the surface.  Carefully replace the lid and put back in the oven.  

12 Kamikaze Dumpling Dive In!
Now, some chefs will say not to put the lid back on, but through my experimentation and from watching how Asians prepare steamed dumplings, I have been doing the following:

  • 15 minutes with the lid on
  • 15 minutes with the lid off
In the first 15 minutes the dumpling will rise, and stay moist as it rises.  In the second 15 minutes the dumpling browns slightly and gets a tickle from the heat so that you get an ever so delicate crispness to the outer skin of the dumpling.  I like this, and I find them less brittle when handling them during plating up.  There's nothing worse than your dumplings breaking as you serve them.

Phat Bad Ass Dumplings threaten to take over the pot!

For this meal I decided to garnish my dish with some simple new potatoes (leftover that needed using up).  So I chucked them into a pan with some garlic, salt and pepper.  I boiled them up and served them with a knob of butter and a tiny sprinkle of fresh dill.

This dish when down a treat.  Have a go and tell me how you got on.  My advice to you all is to have fun with your cooking, even if you are on a budget.  Get your family involved and don't forget to have a go at experimentation.  Try things and have a go.  Sometimes you may even surprise yourself and your dinner guests with something new and exciting.

I can't wait to share my next meal with you, same core ingredients, different dish.  See you tomorrow and remember:

"..PLAY with your food, ENJOY every mouthful.."

Sensational Rioja & Lamb Stew with Rosemary Dumplings and New Potatoes

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