Happy November! The cold weather is definitely here. I turned on the electric heater in our livingroom on for half an hour today to take the chill out of the air. And as I sit here typing, I'm wearing a warm hat.
This morning I read a November poem with the children, from Around the Year--
Grey is November
cold as cold.
wind and rain.
No glittering sun.
Grey is November,
by the bright fire
with a story,
a cushion for the cat,
the dark shut outside
the light in the flames
where mysteries lie
Indeed, November is a good time to start spending more time indoors, taking comfort from the warmth there. We don't have a fireplace in our home like the children in the book, but can still warm ourselves on chilly days with good, hot, homecooked meals.
A few nights ago I made beef stew and dumplings, and I decided to take some pictures so that I could do another cooking tutorial post, for those poor souls out there who have never enjoyed a pot of hot, bubbling stew on a cold November evening.
Stew is one of my favourite meals to make because not only is it warm and good, it's nutritious with all the vegetables in it. Also, it's really quite easy, although it does take a while to chop everything up beforehand.
Beef Stew and Dumplings.
This recipe makes enough for 6 to 8 servings. It's easy to cut in half if you need to.
First, assemble your ingredients for the stew:
2 lbs stewing beef
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter or vegetable oil
1 large (900mL) carton of beef broth, or about 1 L homemade broth
1 large onion (I used 3 small ones)
2 large carrots
1 smallish turnip
3 smallish potatoes, or 2 medium ones
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/4 cup barley
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
First, cut up half the stewing beef into bite size pieces (I find the chunks it comes in from the store are way too big for children to manage). Dredge these small chunks in 1 tbsp of the flour. An easy way to do this is to shake them up with the flour in a ziploc bag.
Put the floured beef into a dutch oven or other heavy pot, along with 1 tbsp of butter, oil, or bacon grease. While the first half of the beef is browning up, chop up the second half of the meat and dredge it in the other tbsp of flour.
When the first batch of beef is browned, remove it to a bowl and brown the second batch. Meanwhile, chop up the onions, turnip, parsnips and carrots. Don't chop up the potatoes, yet.
Once the second batch of beef is nicely browned (and don't worry if the bottom of the pot gets pretty dark looking, as long as it doesn't smell burned it's okay) add the other beef back and pour in the beef broth. Add all the chopped vegetables (minus the potatoes and peas), a few bay leaves, the thyme and barley.
You should have a mixture that looks something like this:
Now put the lid on, turn the burner down to low and let it simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. (Barley takes about 45 minutes to cook, so I say an hour just to be sure it's done.)
Okay, at this point you can peel and chop the potatoes and add them in. Also, season with salt and pepper the way you like it.
Put the lid back on for a few minutes while you mix up the dumplings.
Mix together 2 cups flour, 4 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp salt. Then mix separately 1 cup of milk and 4 tbsp oil or melted butter, and add to the flour mixture. Stir it up quickly. Don't stir it too long or the dumplings will be tough. You may have to add some extra liquid--I always do.
Take the dumpling batter and drop it onto the bubbling stew, one spoonful at a time. It's that easy! It should look something like this:
After 15 minutes is up, it's done.
Enjoy your warm, homecooked meal. If you like, pretend you are pioneers on the frontier and you cooked your stew in a cast iron pot hanging over the fireplace. (Other people pretend things like that too, right?)