Hearty, Italian Beef Stew with Herb Dumplings


Hearty, Italian Beef Stew with Herb Dumplings

Like many European countries of the world, Winter is the time to enjoy a hearty, comforting stew be it made with beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish or game. Spezzatino di Manzo is the Italian version of a beef stew, it is extremely rich and flavoursome due to its use of strong, robust herbs (rosemary and sage), pancetta (streaky bacon) and capers.

Although, I prepare this stew in the traditional Italian way, I am often forced to give it an extra twist by Adam by the addition of dumplings (a reminder o his childhood).

Italian Beef Stew

Makes – 6 servings

Ingredients – stew

1½ kg beef chuck steak – diced into largish pieces (5 cm x 5 cm)
½ cup plain flour
100 grams pancetta – roughly chopped
1 onion – sliced
2 or 3 garlic cloves – minced
2 carrots – finely diced
2 sticks celery – finely diced
200 grams mushrooms – sliced (optional)
1 cup dry white wine
1 large can diced tomatoes (400 grams approximately)
1½ cups beef stock
1 beef stock cube
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary – finely chopped
1 small bunch of fresh sage – finely chopped
2 tablespoons of capers – finely chopped (if salted, then rinse first)
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley – finely chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil for browning meat (3 or 4 tablespoons)

Ingredients – dumplings

1½ cups self-raising flour
170 grams butter – cut into cubes and allowed to soften
½ – ¾ cup of stock or water
½ cup fresh herbs (parsley, basil, sage) – roughly chopped
pinch of salt and pepper

Italian Beef Stew

Preparation

1. Place the flour, a good pinch of salt and pepper into a bowl and dunk the beef pieces (a few at a time) in the flour so they are coated before dusting them off. Place aside and repeat for remaining beef pieces.
2. Heat a large heavy based frypan or pot on medium to high heat and add some oil. Brown off all the flour coated beef on all sides doing it in batches so the pan does not become overcrowded. Add oil as and when needed during the browning process. Set the browned beef aside on a plate or in a bowl as you cook.
3. Once all the beef is browned, place the pancetta into the pan and brown (add oil if needed) before adding onion and garlic and allow to soften (2 – 3 minutes).
4. Next add the carrot and celery (and if used, the mushrooms) and allow to cook for 5 minutes.
5. Then add the wine and using a spatula or spoon soften any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan before adding the browned beef as well as the remaining ingredients – diced tomatoes, stock, stock cube, rosemary and sage.
6. Bring to a boil, before placing a lid on the frypan/pot and turning it down to a simmer. Cook for 1½ hours, stirring periodically.

Hint
If the stew becomes too dry during the cooking process, you can add some extra water – this generally only occurs if the heat is too high.

7. After the initial cooking time add capers and half the parsley and stir through, then allow to cook for a further ½ hour.
8. At this point the stew is cooked and could be served as is with some crusty bread, some pasta or even polenta. Simply add the remaining parsley, stir through and dish out.

To Make and Cook the Dumplings

Making Herb Dumplings

9. Place the flour and butter into a bowl and gradually rub the butter into the flour so it is totally incorporated.
10. Once combined, add the salt, pepper, herbs and some of the stock/water (start with ½ a cup). Mix together and see if ALL the flour is absorbed, if not continue adding stock/water until a pliable ball of dough is created with little or no excess flour.

Hint
Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes before commencing to create the dumplings.

11. To form the dumplings, take small amounts of dough (the size of a golf ball approximately) and roll them in your hands to create smooth, round balls.
12. Position the formed balls on the surface of the stew and recover the pot with its lid. Cook over a low to medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes.