Take 2lb (about a kilo) of a cheaper cut of beef – skirt or shin. Cut it into largish chunks and fry in very hot olive oil until browned. Unless you have a large pot you may well have to do this in two or three batches – if you overcrowd the pan the temperature will drop and the meat will boil instead of fry.
Remove the browned meat from the pan and add one or two large onions finely chopped and one clove of garlic also finely chopped. Reduce the heat and sweat these until the onion is translucent.
If you like an all-in method you can now add several large carrots roughly chopped. Add your meat back in and add about 3 pints of stock – you can use beef stock, a good robust red wine or a nice traditional beer or even water. You can even use a combination of beef stock and beer or beefstock and wine. Add three or four bayleaves, fresh thyme and some freshly ground or crushed black pepper to taste. Don’t add salt at this stage: leave that until the stew is cooked and ready for the dumplings.
Bring the stew to the boil, cover and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 hours or until the pieces of beef break easily with a fork. Taste and salt to your own preference.
When you reach this stage make your dumpling mix – using about 1lb of self raising flour, half the weight of suet, i.e. 8oz a pich of salt and some ground pepper some chopped fresh or dry herbs and enough water to make a sticky dough. Drop egg sized pieces of the mixture into the stew and replace the lid. Leave the lid in place for at least 25 minutes to ensure the dumplings are fully cooked.
Serve with a hearty green winter vegetable such as sliced spring green or savoy cabbage.
If you are watching your cholesterol you can use vegetarian reduced fat suet and it works just as well.