Lucy shares her recipe for venison stew and dumplings, because a stew without dumplings is like a plane without wings.
by Lucille Pope on March 11, 2016
Growing up in Zimbabwe, most of our meat came from my Dad’s (very humane) hunting trips.
This resulted in many a meal consisting of a game meat base and of course as you get older and get a bit more nostalgic for days gone by you try and recall those fond memories of childhood. One of my favourite things apart from his split green pea soup, was the warming, filling and ever so comforting feeling of the full belly that followed a good stew and dumplings.
Dumplings are the “worst” thing ever if you choose to believe some of the awful headlines that surround old ways of cooking. But for a hug in a meal, you can’t go far wrong with this recipe. Of course if you don’t love game then you can substitute the venison with beef, pork, chicken, and if you are veggie your favourite winter veg will suffice with a reduced cooking time to your desired firmness of vegetable.
This is usually cooked all together in an ovenproof pot with a lid on the hob and finished in the oven. If you don’t have a suitable pot, i.e. yours has plastic handles, then you can cook the stew in any old pot on the hob and transfer it to an ovenproof dish with the dumplings on top to get a bit of crunch on the topside.
For the stew
- Venison (or chosen meat)400 g
- Vegetable oil2 tbsp
- Small turnip1
- Large parsnip1
- Large white onion1
- Medium courgette1
- Garlic clove1
- Bay leaf1
- Tinned tomatoes½ tin
- Red wine250 ml
- Beef (or vegetable) stock1 l
- Salt & Pepper
For the dumplings
- Plain flour1½ cups
- Baking powder2 tsp
- Bicarbonate of soda¼ tsp
- Buttermilk (or whole milk)to bind
- Lard50 g
- English mustard powder1 tsp
- Salt & pepper
Start by giving the meat a wash in some cold water and preparing the vegetables. Peel them if you must, but for a more rustic, tastier and healthier stew leave the skins on after a good scrub. Cube the turnip and courgette, slice the parsnip, dice the onion and do whatever you feel with the garlic.
Brown the meat in the cooking oil (it may be that you fry the meat a few pieces at a time – to get the meat brown and to avoid the meat sweating and filling your pot/pan with moisture).
Once browned, remove the meat to a separate bowl. Add the garlic, thyme and onions to the pan and gently fry until golden brown.
Add the meat back into the pan with the veg and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the rest of the prepared vegetables, the half tin of tomatoes and red wine; give it a good stir!
Add the stock, cover, turn the heat down and leave everything to stew for about an hour. Check and stir about every 20 mins to make sure nothing is sticking to the base of the pot. You can add more water if you feel it is all thickening too quickly (you want the meat to be tender). Whilst this is doing its thing, you can turn your attentions to making the dumpling mix…
While you are making the dumplings, put the oven on to heat up to 180°C (350°F).
Put the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, mustard powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Give it all a quick stir. Cut the lard into pieces and rub into the dry ingredients until there are no obvious chunks.
Once everything is combined make a well in the middle and slowly add the buttermilk, stirring as you go, until you get a firm dough.
Break off bits of the dough and roll into ping pong sized balls. By now your stew should have simmered down to a meaty vegetably delight, and you can place the dumplings into the simmering stew. NOTE: They will expand a lot so leave some space in between them!
Pop the whole thing in the oven uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the dumplings are golden brown on top.
(optional) If you fancy it, sprinkle some smoked paprika over the top of the dumplings.
When ready, scoop out dumplings and stew and serve with green beans.