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Hearty Beef Stew with Blue Cheese Dumplings

Wine Guy Mark Finch found this very British take on beef stew and liked it so well he wrote it up. It's not an easy recipe, and it comes from a British food writer who calls her blog Mrs. Portly’s Kitchen. I went to her website, and this lead-in made me want to try it.....

"This is a stew made rich and dark as sin with stout, but it’s the blue cheese dumplings that make it stand out. Unintentional rhyming there, but fear not, I’ll still blog when they make me poet laureate. If you think that’s delusional, you should know my first draft had me channelling Good King Wenceslas. The poetry gig is a step down from the monarchy but follow boldly in my footsteps anyway." Mrs. Portly

While I was doomscrolling on Twitter recently, I ran across a tweet about beef stew with blue cheese dumplings and felt compelled to track the recipe down and try it. It’s by a British food writer and educator named Linda Duffin, who maintains a recipe blog called Mrs. Portly’s Kitchen. I’ve Americanized this a bit; a link to the original is at the bottom of the page. —Mark Finch

Serves 4

For the stew:
3 pounds beef shank, with bones
3 red onions, sliced lengthwise
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons flour
1 bottle stout, 12 ounces - 400ml range
32 ounces beef stock
8 ounces baby Bella mushrooms, quartered
bouquet garni of bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
olive oil

For the dumplings
50 grams self-rising flour*
1 tablespoon crumbled suet
milk as needed
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
20 grams crumbled blue cheese

*If you don’t have self-rising flour, make your own by combining one cup of all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Preparation:
Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Trim the meat from the beef shank and cut it into bite-sized chunks, roughly 1” cubes. Make a few stabs in the marrow of the bones with a slender knife and set them aside.

On your stovetop, heat a few glugs of olive oil in a five-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, brown the meat in batches and set it aside on a plate or bowl.

When the meat is all browned, put the sliced onions in the pot and sprinkle some salt over them. Add another glug or two of olive oil and cook until they just start to caramelize, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, about two minutes.

Make a little hole in the onions so the bottom of the pot is exposed and add the tomato paste. Let it cook for maybe a minute, then stir it into the onions until it is evenly distributed. Add the vinegar using the same technique.

Return the meat and its juices to the pot and stir it into the onions. Add the flour one tablespoon at a time, mixing thoroughly after each one. Pour in the stout and the beef stock, give the mixture a good stir, and add salt and pepper to taste. Submerge the bones and the bouquet garni, cover with the lid, and put it into the oven for two hours.

While the stew is in the oven, prepare the mushrooms by brushing any dirt off of them and cutting them into quarters. Put a knob of butter and a glug of oil into a skillet and brown them on all sides over medium-low heat.

When the stew has finished cooking, remove the bones, making sure to scrape out any remaining marrow and stir it into the mix. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. Stir in the mushrooms, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

At this point, you ideally should put the lid back on the pot and put it in a cool place until you’re ready to eat the following evening. Then all you’ll have to do to make dinner is to reheat the stew (again in the oven at 350°F) and make the dumplings as follows.

Mix the flour, a pinch each of salt and pepper and the suet (you could probably use butter or shortening instead of suet, but it’s cheap, and you can put what you don’t use in your bird feeder). Add just enough milk to make a stiff dough, then work in the parsley and blue cheese. With floured hands, form the dough into four balls and nestle them into the hot stew. Replace the lid and return to the oven for 20 minutes or so. Serve by ladling a portion onto a plate or bowl and topping with a dumpling.

This stew could be accompanied by mashed potatoes, broccoli, and a robust red wine such as the Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre, or alternatively with a thick slice of brown bread slathered with butter and a glass of stout or porter. Any leftovers can be reheated and served in a bowl for breakfast with some poached eggs nestled in the center.

Note: This recipe can be made on the stovetop, but cooking it in an oven reduces the chances of having burned bits adhered to the bottom of the pot.

For the original recipe, head on over to https://mrsportlyskitchen.com/2021/01/15/beef-stew-with-cheesy-dumplings/