Dumplings are an old-fashioned starch that have fallen out of favour somewhat, but they’re a great alternative to potatoes in casseroles and stews. This is a slightly more advanced recipe than a lot of those here on How to Chop a Carrot, but once you’ve got the hang of them dumplings are a great addition to your repertoire!
Although I’ve given the weights in the ingredients, you don’t need any scales for this recipe! I’ll explain how to measure everything using just a couple of spoons!
You will need:
- a mixing bowl
- a tablespoon
- a teaspoon
and the ingredients (for four servings):
- 4oz/100g self-raising flour (or plain flour and baking powder)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1tsp dried herbs
- 2oz/50g suet
Suet is a very important ingredient for dumplings. Suet is basically small lumps of hard fat, coated in flour. So, if you don’t have any, you can make a suet substitute by grating a hard, white fat (like lard) into flour. Make sure that the fat is well chilled before and after grating – it needs to melt as the dumplings cook, not before.
To make your dumplings, start by measuring your flour. Heap as much flour as you can on a tablespoon. This is approximately one ounce (oz) of flour, and you need four of these. If you’re using baking powder, add a heaped teaspoon to the flour.
Next, add your seasonings to your flour. A quarter teaspoon of salt, and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Stir the dry ingredients together, making sure there are no lumps.
Now measure your suet. A rounded tablespoon (where the mound above the spoon is roughly the same as the bowl underneath) is roughly an ounce of suet. Add two to your flour mix.
Gently stir your suet into the flour. Don’t stir too hard or fast, or you’ll squish the suet.
Now we’re going to add the water. To get the right consistency, I recommend mixing with your hands. The exact amount of water you need can vary depending on a lot of different factors, so it’s best to add it a little at a time. You want just enough water to make your ingredients stick together. In fact, when you get it right, the dough should form a neat ball, leaving your mixing bowl and hands pretty clean. If your dough is too crumbly, it needs more water; and if it’s too sticky it needs more flour.
To shape the dumplings, start by cutting your dough into eight pieces. (I find the easiest way to do this is by halving three times.) As quickly and gently as you can, roll each one into a ball, and flatten it slightly. Unless your dumplings are going in the oven straight away, pop them in the fridge to chill.
Dumplings are steamed, so to cook your dumplings gently float them on top of your casserole or stew. They take about half an hour to cook at Gas Mark 3 or 4 (150-180°C). To make sure they rise properly, don’t open the oven door or take the lid off your stew for 20 minutes after you’ve put them in. After this, you can take the lid off to brown the tops of the dumplings.
When dumplings cook, they should roughly double in size. And once they’re cooked, they will sound hollow if you tap them gently.
Dumplings are wonderfully warming on chilly days!
The trick to fluffy dumplings is to make them as quickly as you can, and give them time to chill before they go in the oven. (It also helps if your hands are cold!) And to make them perfectly match every casserole you make, simply change which herb you use. Some of my favourites are sage dumplings for beef casserole, and parsley dumplings for chicken.