They seem to have gone out of fashion, and when you do see them, they are often either made from a packet mix, containing vegetable suet (with palm oil), or no suet at all – which means they are savoury scones (or, in the US, biscuits).
My dumplings contain beef suet, and I make no apologies for that.
As with all slow cooker dishes, use cheap cuts of meat. This dish does not require expensive steak – in fact, well worked muscles will have more flavour – chuck, skirt, leg and flank. All of these might be labelled as “braising steak” in the supermarket. Beef shin is excellent.
- Instead of chopped onions, drain a jar of pearl onions and use that instead. The onions will retain a hint of vinegar, but that compliments the richness of the beef.
- Parsnips may be added as well as carrots and leeks.
- Instead of red wine, try a large glass of stout.
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 kg (2lb 2oz) beef, cut into 4cm (1½in) chunks
- Seasoned plain flour
- 5 medium carrots, cut into 2.5cm (1in) pieces
- 2 large leeks, cut into 1cm (½in) slices
- 600 ml (1 pint) beef stock
- (Optional) A glass of red wine, or a red wine "stock pod"
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp dried basil
- Half a cup of pearl barley
- 125 gram (4oz) self-raising flour
- 60 gram (2½oz) suet
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
Turn on empty slow cooker to high setting.
Put the oil, vegetables and tomato purée into the slow cooker.
Dust beef with plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper.
(Optional) Toss beef for a couple of minutes in a hot well-oiled frying pan, until browned.
Add beef to the slow cooker together with the stock, Worcestershire sauce and red wine (if used). Also add herbs and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.
Switch cooker to low setting, give it a stir, and continue to cook for 5-6 hours.
Remove the lid, add the pearl barley, and stir in well.
Place dumplings (see below) on top of the stew, spacing apart.
Switch cooker to high setting, and continue cooking for 40 minutes, with the lid off.
Serve with fresh crusty bread.
Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the suet, parsley and salt and pepper.
Add 100ml (3½fl oz) cold water and stir to make a soft (and slightly sticky) dough.
Using lightly floured hands (or on a floured board or plate), gently roll into golf-ball sized pieces.