woensdag 18 november 2009

Stew and Dumplings (with speculaas spices and ontbijtkoek)

What is easier and more satisfying than a stew in these cold and windy days? Yesterday I had meat and dumplings but it wasn't just good old British stodge, it was Dutch influenced. Not that there is anything wrong with meat and traditional English gravy but this time I looked around me for inspiration. I have heard that the Dutch sometimes use spiced cake in their (stoofpot) stews and I couldn't resist giving it a go. With 'Sinterklaas' just arriving in the country I thought I would find another use for that delicious mix of 'speculaas' spices that is so widely used in cookies and cakes at this time of year. I didn't add any vegetables apart from the onions because I was serving brussel sprouts separately but normally I would. They looked particularly festive and even the kids love them if you dress them up a bit.
Speculaas stew:
Stewing steak, beef (I used 630gr AH pure en eerlijk scharrel rundvlees)
2 red onions
koek & speculaas kruiden ( a mixture of spices, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom)
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
dried red chilies
dried chili flakes
ground cumin
paprika powder
2 cloves of garlic
extra nutmeg & cinnamon
2 slices ontbijtkoek (spiced cake)
1 sachet creamed coconut (50gr) (I used Patak)
2 tsp brown sugar
salt and pepper
boiled potatoes
100gr self raising flour (I used plain and 2 tsp baking powder)
50gr suet (if unavailable you could use butter)
desiccated coconut, about a tbsp.
salt, good pinch
cold water
fresh parsley and sage
Makes 8 small dumplings
Brussel sprouts with dried cranberries and thyme:
Handful of dried cranberries
fresh thyme
Cut meat into cubes. Place in a plastic bag with some cornflour (to absorb the moisture) and shake. In a large pan heat some oil or butter and brown the meat. Add the sliced onions, sliced garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves, nutmeg, speculaas spices, and a good shake of cumin, cinnamon & paprika powder, two slices of ontbijtkoek cubed and water (I boiled the kettle and used hot water) enough to cover the meat. Put on the lid and leave to simmer for 2 hours on the lowest burner.
Now you have time to peel some potatoes and prepare the dumplings. Put the SR flour (or plain and baking powder) in a bowl with the finely chopped herbs (parsley and sage) Stir in the coconut and add fat (suet or butter) Stir in suet or quickly rub in the butter (the less handling the better) and add enough water to make a soft dough. (about 75ml). Divide into 8 and make little balls, set aside, ideally in the fridge.
Go and relax while the food is cooking itself! Check the water level occasionally and top up as necessary and stir. (keep the meat well covered)
Boil the potatoes as you usually would.
In the last ten minutes of cooking time add the coconut cream and brown sugar to the meat, stir well and add the dumplings. Cook for about 10-15 minutes with the lid on. They will stay on top and rise in size. The gravy is lovely and rich and no need to thicken thanks to the ontbijtkoek (and cornflour). Very easy.
Preparing the sprouts:
Remove the outer leaves of the sprouts, wash and make a cut 'X' n the base (for even cooking). Cook the sprouts (about 8-12 minutes) test after 8 minutes. I like my vegetables with bite. When done drain and put back on heat to steam away excess water. Add a good knob of butter, salt, the thyme (only the leaves not the hard stalk!) and the dried cranberries, heat through. Serve with roughly broken walnuts(dry toasted for more flavour). These would be great with a bit of crispy bacon for Christmas dinner.
I sprinkled some desiccated coconut for a festive look. Roll on Christmas....

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