I did fabulously well at Christmas – Santa was extremely kind to me. While I got the worm farm I’d been after (no more veggie waste in this house), my favourite present had to be this cast iron Dutch Oven that Sarah bought me. It was apparently massively reduced during the year, so she’s been driving around with it in the boot of her car for months. Aside from being a thoughtful gift (and a piece of kitchen kit I’ve been coveting for some time), it’s in the same empire red as my Kitchenaid stand mixer and other appliances – not that it looks the same colour in this photo, but hey ho.
Naturally I had to use it immediately, but it’s summer here so what to make?
It might be summer, but we’ve had a lot of grey, rainy days over the Christmas break – and we had to self-isolate for five of them as a member of the household we spent Christmas Day with woke on Boxing Day with a scratchy throat and covid symptoms. We isolated until her test results (which took five days) came back…negative. Anyways, this is a rambling way of saying I ended up making a slow-cooked beef and beer stew as my first outing in this little beauty.
And it just so happens that I took this stew out for a test run in my new novel. So, rather than me telling you more about it, I’ll let Philly Barker, an antique dealer at Chipwell Barn Antiques, do the honours and talk you through how to put it together. This is, however, an extract from my first draft, so firstly, apologies for any grammatical issues and secondly, I don’t even know if it will make the final cut after edits.
Also, This recipe serves 4-6 people and we were only 3 so I made half the dumpling recipe. While there was plenty of stew leftover for the freezer, dumplings are only good on the day they’re made.
The recipe is from James Martin’s Islands to Highlands and you’ll find it here. It mightn’t be the most photogenic dish, but it sure hits the spot.
Over to you, Philly…
When I found myself jumping up from my chair in response to a noise in the garden, I gave myself a good talking to. For a start, there was no way anyone would attempt to break in here during the day and secondly, Mrs W now believed the painting was at The Barn. The only reason I would be in danger is if she somehow found out that I’d already found the photo and the birth certificate. I was confident Ginny wouldn’t tell anyone and if she did, she’d only tell Bell. As for Robbie, he wouldn’t say anything unless it became pertinent to a case which, currently, it wasn’t.
Gazing out my kitchen window I watched Balthazar barking at a squirrel who had surprised his slumber in the weak winter sun and smiled to myself. No one would get past him without me knowing about it – although in all honesty, once they did, he’d probably lick them to death, not that any prospective burglar would know that. He had a bark that belied his size.
What I could do now though was put together the stew I’d promised Robbie and once that was done, I’d take a good look at that painting in the daylight.
Taking the beef from the fridge I cut it into cubes and tipped it into seasoned flour and tossed it around to coat. I pulled out the expensive canary yellow cast-iron casserole dish Ryan and Jordan had bought me for Christmas last year and began browning the beef in small batches in a mix of oil and foamy butter. I loved this part of the process – it was almost meditative ensuring each cube was evenly browned. That was a mistake too many people made – hurrying the process along. On the surface, stews and casseroles might sound simple, but the time you take at the beginning is repaid in the depth of flavour of the final dish. Besides, once the meat was browned, the rest really was quick – toss in some chopped onions, carrots and celery, pour in the Worcestershire sauce, beer and beef stock, pop the lid on, bring it all to a boil, and then let the oven do the rest of the heavy lifting. I’d make the herby dumplings when he was here and finish it all off. Too easy.
Linking up with Donna from Retirement Reflections and her co-host Deb The Widow Badass Blog in their #whatsonyourplateblogchallenge. Check out also contributions from my stunning bookclub buddies Sue and Deb.
Wow, that stew looks fabulous Jo. And I loved reading the extract from your book 🙂
That looks yummy! I have a big cast iron pot like that in black and so far I have only used it to make bread. I never think to use it to make soups/stews.
I haven’t used this one for bread…yet. I have an enamel one that’s my bread making pot.
I love Philly Barker, Jo and can’t wait to read all the adventures you have in store for her. The recipe sounds delicious and definitely on my list for winter. Although I agree, the weather here lately hasn’t felt like Summer at all. #whatsonyourplateblogchallenge
I can’t wait for you to meet her properly!
I know I’m going to love her! x
Jo, thanks for the excerpt from your new book, and for the delicious-looking recipe. This one looks like a keeper.
It’s a bit of a fave in our house. Have a great weekend.
Yum! Beef stew with dumplings is pure winter comfort food, for me. And yours (or should I say Philly’s?) looks to be the purest of the pure, in that department. I know what I’m picking up during my next grocery store run: stew beef!
It certainly is pure wintry comfort. With the air-conditioning on, we pretended we were in Yorkshire lol.
I find making stew in a cast iron dutch oven is much easier, particularly the browning part. I use mine for making bread mostly, but I’ll also haul it out to make stew. Love the red applianced!
I have an enamel dutch oven I use for my bread making, and am hanging for cooler weather to make more soups and stews in this little beauty.
I love my Dutch oven and love, love all the soups and stews that come out of it (in fact, I have a sausage and tortellini soup planned for tonight). Your beef and beef stew looks and sounds wonderful! And, hearing Philly Barker describe the process makes it all that more enjoyable (just like I loved Max’s newsletters).
Sausage & tortellini soup….yummo! I loved writing Max’s newsletters. It was still one of my favourite things to write.
Cheers to Sarah for picking out such a thoughtful gift! I have a Dutch Oven on my Wish List as well (but sadly, Christmas is done and its still on my list). 😀
And I loved, loved, loved the Philly Barker except. I want to read more!
I’ve trained her well. I can’t wait for you to meet Philly!
That looks really tasty!
It was. Have a great weekend.
This stew sounds and looks yummy, especially with a glass of red. I might just have to make this for tomorrow night’s dinner. I also loved the book extract.
Thanks Janine. We certainly had it with red wine. Thanks for dropping by.
Nicely done! I love beef and beer stew, and I also love dumplings … but why I’ve never put dumplings in my beef stew, I don’t know. For some reason, I make dumplings only once a year, with a soup that I make from the stock that I make from the carcass that’s leftover from Thanksgiving. It’s a sort of tradition. Looks like I need a new beef stew tradition!
Tat soup sounds yum too! Why am I suddenly craving broth with dumplings?
Great post. It was fun to read the recipe from an excerpt of your book.
That is a beautiful Dutch oven! and goes with your decor & other kitchen treasures as well … fabulously picked! (well done, Sarah!)
This is one piece of kitchen equipment I’ve never owned … many of my Singaporean friends have one though – they use it mostly to bake bread.
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