In honour of St. Patrick's Day, Guinness Beef Stew
#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 65: Beef-and-beer stew to get your Irish up


Guinness Beef Stew with Cheddar Dumplings


As a child, I was the fussy eater in a family of eight children. I didn’t like spaghetti (the texture was too much like worms). I disliked homemade soup (slippery onions, nasty celery). And I hated stew.

I have a vivid memory of the Night of the Great Stew Showdown. I was pushing the food around my plate, hoping for pity and a PBJ sandwich, and I guess my folks just had enough of my shenanigans.

You’re eating that stew, I was told. And you have 10 minutes.

The oven timer was set and I was a mess. Sobbing, gacking, retching, I chewed and swallowed the mushy carrots, slimy onions and all. It was a long and traumatic 10 minutes.

There was no long term damage and no hard feelings, though as a grown-up, I did not make stew. Ever.

But in the last 65 days, I have started to warm up to meat-and-veggies-in-a-pot. It also helped that Road Wordy’s beef bourguignon adventure included two bottles of wine: one for the stew and one for me dinner.

We used the dark O'Hara's Irish Stout in our version of the Guinness Beef Stew.
We used the dark O’Hara’s Irish Stout in our version of the Guinness Beef Stew.

It was in that frame of mind that I stumbled on a recipe for Guinness stew with cheddar dumplings, which involves a bottle of stout beer in the cooking liquid. With tomorrow being St. Patrick’s Day, what better way to time to tackle another stew?

Stew is not an Irish invention, but after cauldrons were introduced in the 7th century the method of cooking became predominant one in ancient Ireland, ovens being virtually unknown. A hanging pot, an open fire and a few simple, easy-to-get ingredients — mutton, potatoes, onions — could help feed even the poorest families.

The Irish stew we made incorporates a few more root vegetables — carrots, turnips and parsnips — along with some fancier items like fresh herbs, bacon and imported beer. The stew is delicious; the dumplings (which I’ve never made before) are out of this world.

So, stew. Who knew?

Kitchen Castoff Used

Shoot. I got so carried away with my childhood traumatic memories, I guess I forgot to use one.

A bowl of dumpling-topped Guinness Beef Stew served, appropriately, with an Irish stout beer.
A bowl of dumpling-topped Guinness Beef Stew served, appropriately, with an Irish stout beer.

This is how we did it

A few tips and thoughts. First, searing the meat is vital to a good stew. It is time consuming and messy and the smoke alarm will go off, but without a good sear you will be just boiling beef. Ugh. Second, timing is everything, as in don’t rush things. The meat needs to break down, the root vegetables need to be tender. If you are using softer vegetables, put them in at the end so they don’t turn to mush. Finally, the hostthetoast.com recipe we used didn’t include any potatoes but we substituted one potato for one of the turnips. (Dan felt very confident that he would not like turnips.) Not sure I would bother with potatoes again; Dan could barely tell the difference once cooked, but I found turnips were so much sweeter.

Ingredients

For the Stew

  • 2 lb stew beef (cheapest cuts are recommended, such as chuck steak)
  • ¼ lb bacon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 turnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 12 oz Guinness or any extra stout beer
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • ½ lb mushrooms, sliced

For the dumplings

  • 1 ½ cups self-rising flour
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ cup shortening or butter
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (or 1 – 2 tsp dried). Any savoury herb will work, such as thyme, oregano, rosemary or basil. I used rosemary.

Method
Cook the bacon slowly in a deep Dutch oven. Set aside but leave the oil in the pot. Season the beef chunks with a bit of salt and pepper. With the heat at medium-high, sear the beef chunks on all sides. Do this in batches, removing seared beef to a side plate.

Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pot and let them cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are becoming translucent. You may need to add a little extra oil. Add the garlic and let cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in the the tomato paste.

Add the beer and Worcestershire sauce to the pot, stirring and scraping up the brown bits from the bottom as it comes to a simmer. Return the beef to the bottom, along with the beef stock, the bay leaf and the thyme. Get it back up to a simmer, then reduce the heat, cover and let it cook for about 90 minutes or so.

After that, add the turnips and parsnips (and / or potatoes if you are using them). Stir them in so everything is in the liquid, then cover and keep simmering for another 30 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. You may want to add in more beef stock. Finally, add the mushrooms and the bacon back to the stew and let it cook for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, you can get the dumpling mix ready. Put the flour in a bowl, then cut in the shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in the cheese and the herbs. Stir in the milk until everything is moistened. Make small balls with the batter (they will expand as they cook) and place them on top of the stew.

Cover and let the steam cook them for about 25 minutes into full dumpling glory.


Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.

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