How to make Beef Casserole (with Beer and Dumplings!)

This casserole may take a while to cook, but it’s a real treat! It’s a little harder than my sausage casserole from last year (link), so you might want to check you’re familiar with the different techniques, which are all linked in the recipe below.

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • an oven-proof dish
  • a measuring jug
  • a kettle
  • an oven
  • oven gloves
  • a mixing bowl
  • a couple of spoons

and the ingredients (for four people):

  • 1lb/500g beef (something like braising steak)
  • dried sage
  • garlic powder
  • 4 medium carrots (about the length of your hand)
  • 1 big leek
  • 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 1 parsnip
  • frozen spinach
  • 1 pint/500ml beer or beef stock
  • 4oz/100g self-raising flour (or plain flour and baking powder)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1tsp dried sage
  • 2oz/50g suet

 

Start by turning on your oven to Gas Mark 3, 160°C.

Chop your beef into cubes about 2 inches (2.5cm) on each side. If you like your meat browned, dry fry the beef with a sprinkle of dried sage & garlic.

Photograph of dark red cubes of meat, with a sprinkle of dried herbs & spices, in a casserole dish

Using clean hands and utensils, chop your carrots into chunks (link). Add your carrots and beer (or stock) to the oven-proof dish. (I love the flavour of beer in this casserole, but not quite all of the alcohol evaporates during cooking. So if for whatever reason you prefer not to use alcohol, use stock instead.)

Photograph of a casserole dish filled with chunks of carrot and meat, and beer

Put your dish into the oven. (Don’t forget the lid!) It will take about three hours to cook from this point.

While your meat and carrots are cooking, chop your leeks (link), sweet potato (link), and parsnip (link) into chunks. After an hour and a half, add them to the casserole.

40 Beef casserole (3)

While the casserole continues to cook, make your dumplings. I wrote a detailed method last week (which you can find here), but basically mix together flour, salt, dried sage, and suet, then add water to form a smooth dough that comes away from the bowl easily. Shape this dough into eight round dumplings.

Half an hour before serving, add your frozen spinach (if using) and your dumplings.

Photograph of a casserole dish filled with chunks of meat and vegetables, topped with balls of frozen spinach, and dumplings

Once the dumplings are cooked, the casserole is ready to serve!

Photograph of a brown bowl filled with beef casserole, topped with two dumplings

This beef casserole is definitely not an everyday dish, but if you’re after a warming dish on a rainy day you can’t really do much better! You can of course use potatoes instead of dumplings if you like (add them at the beginning), or any other root veg you fancy! And for a veggie version, try using red kidney beans instead of beef.

If you make beef casserole with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to make Leek & Potato Soup

A lot of you really liked my Vegetable Soup post from last month (link), so I thought you might like another soup recipe. Leek & potato is a classic, and deliciously warm and filling on a cold day!

You will need:

  • a sharp knife
  • a chopping board
  • a large saucepan
  • a measuring jug
  • a kettle

and the ingredients (for four servings):

  • A little oil
  • one large leek
  • herbs and spices
  • four medium potatoes (about the size of your fist)
  • 2 pints/1 litre stock (link) or 2 stock cubes

 

Start by placing your saucepan on a gentle heat. Add a little oil (less than a teaspoon is fine), and chop your leek. (For soup that cooks quickly slice your leek, but for slow-cooking chunks are quicker. You can find both techniques in last week’s post here.)

Add your leek to the pan, along with any dried herbs or spices you want to use. A little garlic helps to bring out the flavour of the leek, and both thyme and rosemary go great with potatoes.

Photograph of a saucepan containing sliced leeks & dried herbs

Gently fry your leeks until they’re soft and slightly see-through. Then add your stock.

Photograph of a saucepan containing sliced leeks in stock

Chop your potatoes into chunks (you can find my chopping tutorial here) and add them to the soup. If you don’t have a food processor, you might find it worth your time to peel your potatoes, but if you’re going to blend your soup at the end it makes little difference.

Photograph of a saucepan containing sliced leek and chunks of potato in stock

Put on the lid and bring your pan to a gentle bubble. Boil your soup for 20-30 minutes. I like this soup best when the potatoes are soft enough to blend into the sauce. If you don’t have a blender, you’ll need to boil the soup until the potatoes are really soft. In fact, using leftover potatoes is a great way to do this.

Don’t forget to taste your soup before serving – I find that potatoes like quite a lot of salt, though this will of course depend how much salt is in your stock.

Photograph of a white bowl filled with green soup, topped with grated cheese and thyme
A sprinkle of grated cheese and fresh thyme makes a simple bowl of soup look fancy!

You can of course add other ingredients to leek & potato soup. Green vegetables like spinach or celery are great because they complement the earthy taste of the potatoes and the green of the leeks. Root vegetables like celeriac, parsnip, or beetroot would be great winter additions too!

If you make leek & potato soup with this recipe, I’d love to see a picture of your finished dish!

How to Chop a Leek

If you haven’t already, please make sure you’re familiar with basic knife safety before starting this tutorial. (link)

Like onions, leeks are a type of allium. In fact, they taste rather like a soft, mild, onion. And they look like a giant, tough, spring onion! So if you’re already familiar with chopping spring onions (tutorial here), chopping leeks is quite easy.

Now it’s a step I’ve been known to skip with a lot of veggies, but it is important to wash your leeks. The reason is that the structure of leeks is exceptionally good at trapping small amounts of dirt. Because of this, you may find it easier to rinse leeks after chopping them.

Hand drawing of a green and white leek

To start chopping your leek, first remove about 1cm off the root end. Also remove the dried out ends of the leaves, and any dried out whole leaves. (Some people recommend removing all the dark green parts – while these are slightly tougher they soften when cooked, especially when slow-cooked.)

Hand drawing of a green and white leek with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

For slow-cooking, I recommend chunks of leek. Starting from the green end of the leek, simply cut off chunks about 2cm (a little under an inch) long. These chunks are perfect for roasts and casseroles, and they take about an hour to cook at Gas Mark 4 (180°, or 160° fan).

Hand drawing of a trimmed green and white leek with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

For faster cooking, slice your leek instead. Just like with chunks of leek, start from the green end of the leek. (This helps the leek stay together while you cut.) For most uses, I recommend slices about ½ cm thick, which you can pan-fry in 10-15 minutes. Thinner slices will cook faster.

Hand drawing of a trimmed green and white leek with cutting guidelines (grey dotted lines)

When cooked, leeks become soft and translucent, just like onions do.

Leeks are great for giving a milder, sweeter, onion-y taste to dishes. They’re especially good with potatoes – why not try frying some sliced leeks in butter, and mixing them in with mashed potatoes? They’re also great in casseroles!