Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Menu for a cold winter's night

The weather forecast was for a top of 11 degrees, with rain and possible hail and thunderstorms. It's the sort of day that makes you want to stay indoors and dream of stew. I find stew and casseroles such comforting winter food. At the first sign of frost, I start thinking of chunks of beef or lamb, slowly simmered in a sauce of stock, red wine and tomatoes and flavoured with roast vegetables, served with a big mound of mash or polenta, or thick vegetable and lentil stews, or soups, or puddings - the sort of comfort food that warms you up from the inside out.

A perennial favourite in our household is my grandmother's beef casserole with parsley dumplings. Adam loves this dish so much that he requests it every year for his birthday, despite the fact that it falls in February and stew is often the last thing I feel like on a hot summer day! This casserole is easy to make and fills the house with warm, comforting aromas while it cooks. The parsley dumplings add a homey touch and elevate the casserole to a higher level. I serve this with greens on the side, as there's no need to have potatoes, rice or polenta as well as the dumplings.

Issue 32 of Donna Hay magazine featured maple pear tarte tatin on the front cover, the caramelised pear slices glistening on a bed of puff pastry. I've never been a huge fan of pears but this recipe looked delicious and easy to make, so I decided to give it a go. I'm now a pear convert! The pear slices are softly caramelised and contrast beautifully with the crunch of the pastry. It's a soft and sweet, but not overpowering, finish to a meal.


750g stewing steak (such as gravy beef)
3 tablespoons plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 1/4 cups beef stock
1 dessertspoon worcestershire sauce


1 cup SR flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
30g butter
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Cut meat into cubes. Mix flour in a freezer bag with mustard, salt and pepper. Add the meat cubes and shake to coat. Melt the butter in a large, ovenproof casserole. Brown the meat in batches and remove (you may need to add more butter). Saute the onion until translucent, then add the carrot and cook a little longer. Stir in any remaining flour (if you don't have any left over, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons) and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock and worcestershire sauce, and stir until it thickens and boils. Return the meat to the casserole dish. Cover and cook in a moderate oven (180 degrees) for 1 1/2 hours. (Check every half hour, as you may need to add some extra water or stock if it's drying out). Place the dumplings on top, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

To make dumplings, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat the egg in a separate bowl and add the milk and the parsley. Make a well in the flour and stir in the liquid to make a soft dough. Scoop out and drop on top of the bubbling casserole.

You can substitute lamb for the beef and make dumplings with two teaspoons of chopped mint instead of the parsley.


30g butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 pear, sliced
1 sheet of puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Melt the butter in a non-stick ovenproof pan (should not have plastic handles). Add the sliced pear and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until the pear is soft. Take off heat and fit the pastry sheet snugly over the pears. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Stand for 1 minute, then tip out onto a plate and serve with cream or ice-cream.

Based on a recipe in issue 32 of Donna Hay magazine


Truffle said...

Both recipes sound delicious. That casserole would be my ideal winter comfort food!

Lucy said...

Great pear tart.

Maple syrup. Delicious stuff.

Melinda said...

My family has been making this casserole for years and it never fails to satisfy.

Maple syrup was a beautiful combination with the pears - just a hint of sweetness but not too sweet or cloying.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else find the original Donna Hay recipe for the tarte tatin to be way off?
My little pan was overflowing with liquid while it only took about 10 minutes for the puff pastry to be ready.