Beef in Homebrew with Horseradish and Chestnut Dumplings

Today my Chestnut flour finally got its first outing.

It is very precious so I wanted to use it for something special.  While furtling about in my freezer yesterday I found some organic stewing steak I had forgotten about and decided this would be the perfect partner for my flour.  Using John Wright’s recipe as a base, I tweaked and adapted the stew to suit my ingredients while remaining faithful to the dumplings.

It was incredibly satisfying to use so many of our own produce.  The carrots could not have been fresher as I pulled them up only minutes before using them.  The onions were also grown by the Captain as were the herbs and horseradish root.  Digging up the latter proved to be every bit as tricky as all my foraging books promised and preparing it was a nightmare.  Next time I think I shall dig out a pair of discarded swimming goggles from the long gone days of children’s swimming lessons.  Whether this will help remains to be seen but for those of you who have not had the unique pleasure that is grating fresh horseradish root, all I can say is, think of chopping the worst onions in the world and then multiply by one hundred.

Obviously, the beer I used was the Captain’s homebrew.  I suppose any old beer would do, but it will not be the same.  Clearly 🙂

Anyway.  Whether I am just biased after concocting such a home produced meal complete with foraged ingredients, but I have to say that the results were rather splendid.

Beef in Homebrew with Horseradish and Chestnut Dumplings

Serves 4 with dumplings and enough stew for freezing

25g butter

250g onions, chopped

275g streaky bacon, chopped

1250g stewing steak, cubed

25g plain flour

25g chestnut flour

1litre homebrew bitter

2 tbsp tomato purée

4 bay leaves

several sprigs of fresh thyme

1 heaped tbsp cornflour

For the dumplings:

  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 25g chestnut flour
  • pinch of baking powder
  • 50g freshly grated horseradish
  • 50g shredded suet
  • about 75ml water
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a large/deep frying pan and cook the onions with the bacon, until the onions are soft and the bacon beginning to brown.  Transfer to slow cooker using a slotted spoon.  Brown the beef in batches and transfer to plate.  Return to pan and sprinkle with flours stirring well to mix and thicken the juices.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Pour homebrew into pan, gradually, stirring well to mix in all the sediment.  Add tomato purée, herbs and salt and pepper.  Bring to boil stirring in cornflour mixed with a little water then pour over meat in slow cooker.  Leave for several hours to cook until tender.

One and half hours before serving make the dumplings.  Mix all the ingredients except the water in a bowl.  Gradually add the water, kneading lightly into a soft dough.  Shape into small balls of about 3cms in diameter.  Remove the lid of the slow cooker and sit the balls on top of the stew.  Replace the lid and leave.  Serve when dumplings cooked.


Gathering from the garden

For me, as a totally incompetent gardener, foraging starts the minute I step outside of my door.  That may lead me onto a canal towpath.  Not straight away.  I do not live on a canal.  Alas.  Unless we are aboard Wand’ring Bark and then I do not always have to even disembark as I outlined before when describing my Standing on the Roof of your Narrowboat method.  This, it has to be said, is my preferred option for wild food gathering.  But that is because I am inherently lazy.  However, this post is not about towpath foraging.  It is about back garden foraging.

I will grant you that foraging in the back garden does not have the thrill of discovery that foraging in the wild provides.  The buzz of surprise is not there as generally I know what to expect from my garden.  However, there is shock that it has grown.  This is bad of me because as I said before, I am not a gardener.  It is the Captain who gardens in our household.  So it should not surprise me when things grow, because he is quite good at it.

This year he is having tremendous success with cauliflowers, courgettes, carrots and red cabbage while I hesitantly bought a chilli plant and placed it on my window sill.  There it looked peeky and sad until the Captain whisked it off to the greenhouse and did some jiggery pokery to it.  It is now thriving and happy in its new home.  All this bounty has led to me being a little swamped and consequently, I have been doing ‘things’ with the assorted produce.

I am not a piccalilli fan, but after twenty-three years of marriage (it is our anniversary tomorrow.  What can I say?  I was a child bride … 😉 ) I have just discovered that the Captain is.  In order to use the various garden offerings I have adapted and in part re-written the recipe available in Pam Corbin’s Preserves to create something that I think is a bit new and a bit different.

I am not entirely sure if it has worked as it needs to mature for a few weeks before tasting.  But I am hopeful.  I would be very interested in your thoughts if you try it.  And so, without further ado, may I present:


A version of traditional Piccalilli with a little more va va vhoom!

1kg thoroughly washed vegetables made up from: cauliflower, courgettes, green tomatoes and carrot thinnings

1 hot chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely

50g fine salt

30g cornflour

10g ground turmeric

10g English mustard powder

15g yellow mustard seeds

1 tsp crushed cumin seeds

1 tsp crushed coriander seeds

1 tsp crushed dried chilli flakes

600ml cider vinegar

150g granulated sugar

50g honey

Cut the vegetables into small even bite-sized pieces.  Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Mix well, cover with at tea towel and leave in a cool place for 24 hours, then rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly.

Blend the cornflour, turmeric, mustard powder, mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and chilli flakes to a smooth paste with a little of the vinegar.  Put the rest in a pan with sugar and honey.  Bring to the boil.  Pour a little of the hot vinegar over the blended spice mix, stir well, then return to the pan.  Bring gently to the boil, and simmer for 3-4 minutes to allow the spices to release their flavours into the thickening sauce.

Remove pan from the heat and carefully fold in the well-drained vegetables into the hot, spicy sauce.  Pack the pickle into warm, sterilised jars and seal.  Leave to mature for 4-6 weeks before opening.  Use within 1 year.