Beef and Ale Stew with Yorkshire Puddings and Herby Dumplings

As you’ve probably realised by now, I am a Birmingham Medical School graduate. As a student we all had one fear; being placed at Hereford. This meant that for 18 weeks you were isolated from your friends, girlfriend, and a decent Calzone. It did however mean you got amazing teaching, opportunities which were only comparable to the old school training days (find me another 5th year that can put in central lines and do an open appendicectomy – quids in they went to Hereford as well ). It also allowed some long-lasting relationships to form.
Now, I can’t claim to have made any long-term romances, but I did discover something amazing………..

Llanthony, a ruined Abbey just across the border in Wales.

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The Priory was founded in 1100 and, following the dissolution of the monasteries, has laid dormant for centuries. Luckily, in the late 19th century, someone converted the remaining tower and cellar into a bed and breakfast which still remains. The rooms are cosy, the perfect place to bring a lover for a secret weekend away, and the bar serves good honest food. It inspired this recipe in fact, a hearty beef casserole slowly cooked in local Stout with herby dumplings and Yorkshire puddings; what’s not to love. The lads certainly did on our recent walking trip.

Beef Stew

For this recipe you either need an Aga or a slow cooker

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Ingredients 

  • 4lb Chunk Steak
  • 2lbs Onions (ideally small)
  • 2 bottles of Stout
  • 4 Carrots
  • 1 Head of celery
  • 1 Parsnip
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Thyme, sage, salt, pepper 
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Flour and oil

Start by taking your beef and removing all the obvious fat, tendons and membranes. What you should be left with is delicious meat, some marbling but none of the chewy fat. I’m using beef from Coates butchers – they are great!!

Toss the beef in seasoned flour and then brown off in a Le Creuset – I’m using Bertha, a pan I bought in Hereford years ago. Alternatively you can cook it in a frying pan and transfer to the slow cooker.


Take the browned meat out and then saute the carrot, onion and celery (finely dice these first). I’ve used Grans ridged cutter here for the carrots – rumour is it was made from the old air raid shelter.


Now for the fun part – deglaze the pan with the beer. You can use lots of different types of beer, stout is best and I’m using one from the local brewery, Derventio brewery.

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With the beef, carrots, onion, celery and beer combined in the Le Creuset, add the thyme, sage and some tomato puree/soup (it helps tenderise the beef). Finally add the garlic. A little goes a long way.

Leave to cook overnight in a low oven till the meat is tender. At this point you can add in some small onions to go with the diced up ones. Pickling onions are perfect. Return to the slow oven again. Around another 12hrs should do it.

In the mean time you can make the dumplings and Yorkshire puddings if you want to plan ahead.

Herby Dumplings

I’m a great fan of dumplings, they are a great addition to an already hearty meal. Proper dumplings are made with suet and if you don’t ask too many questions about its origin it’s great. According to mum the box hasn’t changed since she was a young girl. I’ve added some horseradish and parsley for added flavour.

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Ingredients

  • 8oz Self raising flour
  • 4oz Suet
  • 1tbs Parsley
  • 2tsp Horseradish
  • Water

Start by weighing out the flour and suet then transferring into a large mixing bowl along with the parsley.

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Add the horseradish, then add cold water, one spoon at a time.

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Bring together to form a relatively wet dough and divide into walnut sized balls. Roll them in to shape.

To cook, add the dumplings onto the top of the stew and replace the lid.

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Cook for 20mins, removing the lid in the last 5 mins to allow a bit of browning action.

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Yorkshire Puddings

Currently theatres are having a debate around Yorkshires with Christmas dinner. Unless you have beef then the answer should be no.

Ingredients 

  • 8oz Plain flour
  • 1pint Milk
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Pinch of salt

Again start by weighing out the flour and transferring to a mixing bowl as well as a pinch of salt.

Add in the wet ingredients; the milk and eggs.

Combine and beat together using a novel whisk – this one I think was used by my Victorian relatives…………… It works really well though.

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Set aside to rest in the fridge. In the mean time, heat up some fat in a red-hot oven. I’m using real beef dripping. This is not exactly heart healthy but tastes great.

When the fat is smoking hot, fill each well about 3/4 full and return to the oven.

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Cook for about 20mins, turning half way through.

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When cooked, remove and serve whilst still warm and crispy. Otherwise they can be rewarmed later.

 

Lets eat.

Right!! With your hearty stew cooked, serve with a couple of dumplings, yorkshire puddings and some veg. If you are greedy, a side of crispy potatoes mops up the gravy perfectly.

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And don’t forget the horseradish.

Infinity Project 861: Time to make beer

In the depths of winter I sat in the snug, the heavy smell of paraffin mixed with that of pie and Bass. We sat opposite a hero, talking about what we had just flown, the roar of 27L of British thunder still buzzing in our ears

My friends have accused me of being old fashioned throughout the years, however I just insist that some things can’t be improved upon. There is a pub which exemplifies this point. Located deep in Lincolnshire approx. 5miles from a ‘disused’ airfield, it was once the haunt of brave young men who fought to keep us free. A few miles have been added to the clocks of these old boys, but the pub remains the same. Lit only by oil lamps, pies kept warm in an oil fired cabinet and no lager to be seen on the taps, it became a favourite of the MMDS during my final years at school and beyond. Its mystery, unlike so much else, never faded………………..

During one of those hazy evenings, after adding a few more hours to my log book, I sat with my two closest friends, Ginger (sadly no longer with us) and Morley, and said no matter what happened we must not let these echoes of the past slip away. Afterall

“Memory is the storeroom of the mind. A dusty attic of experience filled with knowledge; sometimes useless; sometimes priceless.But once in a while we must cast aside the shades, and with our dustily relics try to recapture the past. For in there lies reason for the present and hope for the future”

Let’s face it, most men have wanted to brew their own beer. A few will have tried with homebrew kits and got varying results. So, in memory of Ginger I thought it was finally time I gave brewing a go and keep the memory of those MMDS trips alive.

Here is to hope for the future: Oil Lamps, homemade pies and beer………..

Micro Brewery

There is one undisputed king of beers, Bass! It is a very drinkable, lightly hopped English pale ale and in reality should only be drunk in half so you can keep going back for more. It’s also got the worlds first trademark, a red triangle which I learnt on a trip to the Bass museum a few weeks ago.

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Wandering around the museum, beer in hand, I stumbled upon an elderly gentleman lurking around what appeared to be bunch of barrels and a trough. Trying to work out what it was I finally asked him, he explained it was part of the BurtonUnion system once used to brew beer. These turned out to be needlessly complicated and most were scrapped in the 50s, but as the elderly gentleman told me, beer tastes better brewed in them (I know the science but don’t ask)………….

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One thing the MMDS members realised is don’t get me drunk and let me loose near something mechanical, I can revise engineer it in minutes. So, I did!!!! And thus with the use of meccano, tubing, an old ban Marie and a couple of 5L mini kegs, a Miniature Burton Union was made as well as a mash tun and sparging equipment…………..

Homemade Bass

Beer is made using malt, hops, water and yeast. It’s then left to ferment and after about 2 weeks you transfer into casks to condition for another 2 weeks. You can buy good malt extracts but I wanted to keep mine as close to the original as possible so I am using malt. The yeast is one I managed to propagate from a pint of Bass from my local as well to make it even more authentic.

Ingredience

  •  4oz Crystal malt
  • 3lb Pale malt
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • 7oz Brewers sugar
  • 0.4oz + 0.16oz + 0.1oz Goulding hops
  • 0.8oz Fugggles hops
  • Irish moss
  • Fining

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Start by allowing the malt to mash in approx 7L of water. This should be kept at a steady 66c and the malt being agitated from time to time to allow full exposure to the water. This can be done by sealing the malt in a cloth bag and steeping it like a giant tea bag. Or if you have a lot of spare meccano you can build a system to suspend the malt in to baskets which then pump the water constantly over it. This needs to continue for 1.5hrs to allow full extraction.

After 1.5hrs have passed (and you’ve repaired the pump a few times), you need to drain the liquid into a pan of boiler for the next step. But you haven’t finished with the malt just yet. This is still covered in lots of natural sugar which are removed in a process called sparging. Basically you pass warm water over the malt and collect this for boiling. I again used the recycling system to spare the grain. You need approx 3L in total.

You should have now collected approx 10L of liquid which is known as wort. This contains the sugars which will be converted into alcohol by the yeast. This needs to be flavoured and the bitterness added by hops. This occurs in 2 steps. Firstly the Fuggles hops and the first batch of Golding hops are added  and the wort boiled for 1.5hr along with the Irish moss. The helps keep the beer clear.

 

Then, just at the end more flavouring aromatic  Golding hops are added and the liquid allowed to steep for 10-15mins.

The wort now needs to be cooled rapidly to stop the high temperature degrading the delicate flavour of the hops. This can be done by passing the wort through a length of tubing submersed in a sink of ice cold water. The aim is to reduce it down to 20-25, so it can take a few passes. Sugar can then be added to reach a target specific cavity of 1.045.

 

Once cooled, the yeast can be added and then the mixture transferred to the Union.
The idea of a Burton Union is that as the yeast ferments it produces gas, alcohol, but also a foam on the top. This is forced up the copper swan pipe and into a trough at the top. This trough collects yeast and fermenting beer which is then returned to the Union Barrells. This not only allows you to not waste beer (a sin) but also allows the yeast strains to be uniform throughout all the barrels.

Now it’s just a case of waiting.

After 2 weeks the Unions will slow down their production and the Specific gravity will have fallen to around 1.020. Now you have technically got beer but it’s very young and needs to be conditioned. More barrels to the rescue. Transfer the beer via siphon to the aging casks avoiding transferring all the sediment which will have collected at the base. To the beer, add a priming liquid of water and sugar and more Golding hops (I had some spare pellet type so used them-not a great fan). Also you can add the finings at this point to aid in clearing.

Again wait- 2 weeks till you can drink.

So after 2 weeks,the beer is ready for tapping. Ideally you should keep in a cool room or cupboard and leave a day for it to settle if you move it. Remove the cap and plug the hole with a breathable material, like soft wood. Recap if you finish drinking but not done finishing the barrel.

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The big question is what to drink it with………. Memories oh dearest memories – Steak and Ale pie I think 😉