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Slow cooker beef and ale stew with dumplings

In my determination to get out of my boring food rut, while at the same time focusing on weeknight dinners that can be served up within 30 minutes, I’ve invested in a slow cooker. (Read more about my Healthier Mummy challenge here: Do you have mealtime déjà vu?)

I’ve never had one of these kitchen workhorses before and I’m now evangelical about their benefits. I can’t believe it’s taken me three children to discover their joys.Healthier Mummy food challenge

I love the way a slow cooker takes advantage of your body’s natural rhythms. It feels much more constructive to be preparing ingredients when you’ve got more energy (early in the morning) or are not starving (just before you go to bed), than when you’re frazzled and demented with hunger after the kids’ bedtime.

You might think that a slow cooker meal – which could take 10 hours to cook – defeats the point of my 30-minute challenge. But I think it still counts. This is because it never takes longer than 30 minutes to chop the veg and prepare the ingredients, and often less. I just get up a bit earlier on a slow cooker day to do the preparation.

And crucially, in the evening, it takes zero minutes as it’s already ready. You only need to spend time preparing if you want something else to go with it, like couscous or vegetables.

slow cooker

If you’re adding dumplings in the evening, as in the recipe below, I’ve discovered that it saves a lot of time later if you weigh out the suet, flour and any other ingredients that morning or the night before. Leave in a covered mixing bowl until you need them.

It then takes precisely one minute to add water, stir and shape the mixture into dumplings, and pop them into the slow cooker. I can do this just before taking the kids up to bed, so that by the time I’ve finished reading stories, oh joy, the dinner is ready.

The result?

Cooking using a slow cooker has banished some of my evening stress and tension, and so made me more patient with the kids: there’s a certain warm, comforting glow from knowing that the food is ready and you just have to ladle it out.

Then you can put any leftovers in the freezer for those nights when you would like a home-cooked meal but are too tired, or take them to work for lunch the next day (my lunchtime bagel is almost a thing of the past).  All hail to the slow cooker.

 

Recipe for slow cooker beef and stout stew with dumplings

slow cooker beef and stout stew with dumplings

So far this is one of my favourites for a rainy, wintry day. It’s a healthier adaptation of a recipe from Hamlyn’s 200 Slow Cooker Recipes, cutting back on the oil and amount of beef, and adding extra veg (swede) to ramp up the vitamin content. The dumplings are a cold day treat, and mean that you don’t need to bother preparing any other carbohydrates to serve with it.

I also cut out a couple of steps by adding all the veg at the beginning to make it less complicated for busy cooks.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon oil
600g (1.3lb) braising beef, cubed and any fat discarded
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp plain flour
300ml (½ pint) Guinness or stout
300ml (½ pint) beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato purée
2 bay leaves
3 carrots
Half a small swede
1 large leek
Salt and pepper to season

For the dumplings
150g (5oz) self-raising flour
75g (3oz) shredded vegetable suet
5 to 7 tablespoons water
Seasoning
(You can also add 3 tablespoons wholegrain mustard here but I didn’t because I was serving it to the kids too, and they’re a bit funny about mustard.)

Method

Preheat the slow cooker if necessary, according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the beef, a few cubes at a time, until all the pieces have been added to the pan. Fry over a high heat until just beginning to brown, then add the onion and fry, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and flour, and then gradually mix in the stout and stock. Add the tomato purée and bay leaves, and season. Bring to the boil, and transfer the mixture to the slow cooker pot. Add the carrots and leeks. Press the meat below the surface of the liquid. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Make the dumplings. Mix the flour, suet and mustard if using, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir with enough water to make a soft but not sticky dough. With floured hands, shape into 12 balls.

Stir the stew and add the dumplings onto the top. Replace the lid and cook for 30 to 45 minutes on high, or until the dumplings are light and fluffy. Enjoy!

Read more:

Tested: three 30-minute meals for weeknights 

7 tips for a better work-life balance


Comments (41)

  • Avatar

    Mammasaurus

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    Ah this looks perfect warming food – great for this time of the year – so hungry now!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I’ll save you some for next time!

  • Avatar

    MummyNeverSleeps

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    Oh wow, total comfort food right there!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      And it was tasty too.

  • Avatar

    Charlotte

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    Fab & perfect for winter! Love my slow cooker! x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      You’re right – you can’t beat a stew on a cold day.

  • Avatar

    Pinkoddy

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    Yum this is one of our favourite slow cooked meals too – thanks for the tips about the dumplings.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for dumplings.

  • Avatar

    Jen aka The Mad House

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    We do this and I do double the mix and make a pie with what is left. Delicious

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good idea. Thanks for the tip.

  • Avatar

    Kate Thompson

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    I know everyone is raving about these but until I find a way to just put it all in without the pre cooking I consider it a false economy time-wise. I have a massive oven-proof pan which I do the above pre cooking in, then bung it in the oven for an hour. Still only takes half an hour’s preparation, uses even less electricity and doesn’t run the risk of leaving something electrical running whilst/if I am out of the house. I am yet to be converted!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I take your point except that big stews take three hours of cooking in the oven, and I’ve always fallen asleep by the end! I prefer to have it cooking all day.

  • Avatar

    Kate Thompson

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    but – have to say I LOVE the layout/look of your Blog, really striking.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thanks so much for telling me. It’s lovely to know that readers like the look of my blog.

  • Avatar

    natalie

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    I have just eaten dinner but that look delish and is making me hungry AGAIN!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Me too!

  • Avatar

    Jenny

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    I have a slow cooker but never use it. I must dust it off!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Yes, do. I think it’s particularly useful at this time of year.

  • Avatar

    Globalmouse

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    I really want a slow cooker – perfect for these cold winter days. And I absolutely LOVE dumplings!! Yum.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Me too – I have a bit of a weakness for dumplings.

  • Avatar

    Jenni

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    We were just talking about getting a slow cooker this week. We’ve been trying to decide if we would use it enough. Seems like it could be a good buy, this looks delicious.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I think it’s a worthy investment. I love the way I now always have something in the freezer for when I’m too tired to cook.

  • Avatar

    Lauren

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    I have a rarely used slow cooker, so this one has been bookmarked! Thankyou!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Hope you enjoy it.

  • Avatar

    Vicky (@aroundandupsidedown)

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    Mmmm…this looks scrum! Will have to see if can steal a Guinness off the FIL and have a go at this – you just don’t get the richness without it.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I also love red wine for a rich taste too.

  • Avatar

    Steph (@imcountingufoz)

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    You have summed up all the reasons I love my slow cooker. I don’t use it nearly enough though. And your stew looks so so good!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Hope you use yours again. I’m really loving my slow cooker.

  • Avatar

    kara

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    this look yummy – added to my pinterest meal planning board

  • Avatar

    Cass@frugalfamily

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    I couldn’t be without my slow cooker – there’s a chilli in it right now x

  • Avatar

    Aly

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    Mmmm… ale…. I need to try a veggie version using ale some time.Have you joined the ‘All Things Slow Cooking’ community on G+? It would be great if you could add this there.

  • Avatar

    Agata Pokutycka

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    This looks great!
    We do not have a slow cooker, but it is on our “Want” list :-)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I definitely recommend it.

  • Avatar

    Em @ snowingindoors

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    Looks gorgeous, we all love stew with dumplings in our house :)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      You can’t go wrong with a dumpling really, can you?

  • Avatar

    Emily (@amummytoo)

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    Brilliant recipe. Great use for the slow cooker. Pinned to try soon.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thanks, Emily. Hope you enjoy it.

  • Avatar

    Lee @lifeonbalance

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    That looks delicious! Really must use my slow cooker more

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      So glad you like it!

Comments are closed