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.

Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree

As you will have gathered from our cider making foray at the weekend, I am recovering well from my latest operation.  It is a frustratingly slow old business, but given that I have had four operations, numerous infections and almost continuous courses of antibiotics I suppose it is not surprise that it is taking me a while to get back to what passes for normal.  I am particularly irritated as I cannot keep up with my head which is gallivanting around all over the place.  Apart from when I have exhausted myself.  Which is quite frequently now I come to think about it.

Anyway.  I have been very keen to be out enjoying the beautiful weather we have been having.  It has been Autumn at her very best.  All golden light from the ‘maturing sun’ and ‘fruit with ripeness to the core’.  Forgive me, but did you really expect me to write about Autumn and NOT quote John Keats?  I am not to be trusted out alone at present.  Some may say this should be a permanent thing.  However, the current excuse is my vision.  My double vision is sufficiently bad that I really do need to have someone with me.  Just in case.  On Sunday I persuaded the Captain to take me for a walk.  Today I pressed the incredibly soon to be eighteen year old into service.  This may have been a mistake.  Having realised he had no option, he stood in the hall, while I had gone to fetch my bag, and yelled, “Walkies!”

Still, on both occasions we had a lovely time.  My aim was to gather chestnuts.  I do not know if it is just where we live, but there are a great many Sweet Chestnut trees in my locality.

This pleases me a great deal.  My local Tesco sells them for £6.99 per kilo but my local park literally is carpeted in them.

On each of my walks I have come back with a bag groaning with nuts.

Apparently the traditional way to get to the nuts is to tread on the spiky cases and make them pop out but I have not been able to master this technique.  I suspect it is because the chestnut trees are part of a coppice of several other trees including pine and oak so the ground is soft and mulchy.

When I went with the Captain I forgot the first rule of foraging: always take gloves.  And so scratched my hands to pieces because I could not have left the chestnuts on the ground.  Obviously.  Today I was better equipped.  But I was banned from taking my basket.  Birthday boy drew the line at that insisting that his street cred could barely cope with taking his mother for a walk.  It would not recover from being seen with her carrying a basket.  Apparently.  Whether his legs will recover from being spiked by the chestnut shells that poked through the bag remains to be seen.  But at least he carried it.

I shelled Sunday’s gatherings and spread them on my laundry airer as it hangs out of the way.  It’s perfect for drying things and I suspect will be used far more for drying flowers and nuts than ever it was for clothes.  I read somewhere that once dried for a couple of days, the nuts kept well until ready for using. I do not actually intend to dry the nuts, partly because I have since failed to find this piece of advice, but mainly because I think I will be making flour with my harvest tomorrow.  I shall let you know how I get on.