While I was growing up, Sunday night always meant something special in my household. It was the night when no one had soccer, Girl Guides, meetings, work, or school, and my Mom, Dad, sister, and myself would all sit down together for a family meal. Being the foodie that I am, I looked forward to these meals all week. My Mom cooks good food every night, but there are few dishes that inspire such feelings of comfort and delight like those Sunday night meals: perfectly roasted chicken with buttery peas and mashed potatoes, juicy roast beef with horseradish and Yorkshire puddings, pork roast with cranberry and peppercorn gravy and roasted potatoes, and, sometimes, beef stew with thyme dumplings. They were all my favorites, but now that I have actually made all of these myself, I have to say that beef stew is the easiest to get just right.
First, you want to start with the best ingredients, of course. I got some amazing organic stewing beef from Whole Foods, and it wasn’t too expensive since stewing meat is one of the cheaper cuts. You only need a few more ingredients: onions, carrots, peas, garlic, thyme, a bay leaf, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, flour, salt, and pepper.Next, put the beef into a paper bag with the flour, salt, and pepper and shake it up to coat the meat.
Then, your meat goes into the bottom of a casserole dish.All the vegetables except for the peas go over that.In a separate bowl, combine the water, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf, and then pour it over the meat and vegetables in the casserole.
Cover it all up, and stick it in the oven for two hours at 350 F.About halfway through, take it out and give it a stir. How good does that look?
Meanwhile, you can get going on your dumplings. Actually, about ten minutes before the two hours is up, you can get going on your dumplings. They’re not exactly complicated. You’ll need flour, baking powder, dried thyme (rosemary works too), salt, egg, and milk.
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, and the wet ingredients in another, and then stir the wet into the dry.
After the two hours are up, stir in the frozen peas, and then drop the dumpling batter by rounded tablespoons onto the stew.Cover it up and bake another 20 minutes. Pull it out, and it should look like this:
Serve the stew in shallow bowls with a of couple dumplings on top.
Take a bite and you’ll be transported back to the warmest kitchen you’ve ever visited, the most loving dinner table you’ve ever sat at, and the most welcoming company you’ve ever been surrounded by.
Oven-Baked Stew with Dumplings
From my Mom--Serves 6
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into 1" cubes
3-4 medium carrots, cut into 2 " strips
4 small onions, quartered
2 cups water
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1 10 oz. package frozen peas
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (you can use rosemary also)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a paper or plastic bag combine flour, salt, and pepper. Add cubes of beef 1/4 at a time, and shake to coat. Place beef in a 2 1/2 to 3-quart baking dish. Add carrots and onions. In a bowl, combine water, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Pour over meat. Cover and bake for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, combine the first four ingredients of the dumplings in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat egg and milk. Stir egg mixture into the flour mixture until just blended.
When the two hours are up, remove the stew from the oven and stir in the frozen peas. Drop the dumplings by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the stew. Cover and bake another 15-20 minutes, until the dumplings are done.