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.