I’m not going to sell dumplings as a health food, but at the time of the year when the nights are long and dark and the weather is cold and damp, a bit of comfort food is in order. These dumplings really hit the spot for some cheering winter fare, and they are lower fat than most suet dumpling recipes as well as incorporating wholemeal flour and oatmeal which I think gives them a more complex flavour than just plain white flour. They are also great fun to cook – quick and easy to whip up and they puff up in a very satisfying way once you drop them into the pan. In this recipe they sit proudly on top of a hearty red wine stew packed with mushrooms and pulses, which is a nice way to get some extra vegetables into your diet. I have added some culinary lavender to this recipe (which I get from The Spicery) as I think it adds a lovely delicate fragrance to balance the earthy mushrooms, but if you can’t find any lavender just add a little more rosemary.
Red wine and mushroom stew
Cooking time: 10 minutes preparation and 15 extra minutes cooking in advance, 5 minutes preparation and 20 minutes cooking on the night
Dietary info: vegan
- 2 onions, sliced
- 1 tsp corn flour
- 400g mushrooms, sliced
- 1 can kidney beans (about 235g drained)
- 1 beef stock cube (or vegetable for the veggie version)
- ½ a bottle of red wine
- 200ml water
- 1 tsp lavender (optional)
- 1 sprig rosemary, stripped and finely chopped, or 2 tsp dried rosemary
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 20g vegetable suet
- 15g oatmeal
- 35g self-raising flour
- 40g wholemeal flour
- 1 heaped tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp rosemary (fresh chopped or dried)
- ½ tsp lavender (optional)
- ½ tsp salt
- 100ml water
- Put the onion in a saucepan with enough water to cover and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are soft (about 10 minutes).
- Sprinkle the cornflour over the onions and stir until the cornflour is evenly distributed.
- Add all of the other ingredients, except the lemon juice, and cover.
- Simmer, for 5 minutes then take of the lid and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for a further 5-15 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked through and the sauce is thickening, then stir in the lemon juice.
- Combine all the dumpling ingredients, except for the water, in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- Add the water to the dumpling ingredients and mix to make a sticky dough. Add more flour or water as necessary.
- Drop small tablespoon scoops of the dumpling dough on top of the stew then replace the lid to let them steam for about 20 minutes. You can remove the lid for the last 5 minutes if you want to reduce the sauce for the stew or want the top of your dumplings a little drier. Serve with steamed green vegetables, and some of the homemade brown sauce below, if you like.
A few tips to prep ahead:
- The stew can be made in advance and kept in a sealed container in the fridge (this can actually help the flavours develop).
- All the dumpling ingredients, except for the water can be combined and kept in a covered bowl at room temperature.
- The brown sauce (below) can be made in advance and kept in a sealed container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
- Then on the night all you need to do is heat up the stew, mix the water into the dumplings and cook the dumplings.
- If you are really pushed for time you can actually make the whole stew (including the dumplings) ahead of time and just reheat it all in the microwave or on the stove (though it may be difficult to transfer the stew and dumplings from a container into a saucepan and still keep the dumplings on top). This extra time in the stew means that the dumplings will absorb more of the flavour from the sauce.
Some tasty little twists and extras…
- If you want a meat dish, replace the kidney beans with 300-400g diced venison or beef and increase the cooking time to 40-60 minutes, or until the meat is tender.
- I just used standard closed cup mushrooms, but you could make it more interesting by trying a variety of mushrooms: chestnut, button, Portobello, oyster, shiitake etc.
- To make this dish lighter (and quicker) leave out the dumplings and just serve with steamed vegetables.
- This stew would also go well with steamed, baked or roast potatoes instead of dumplings, and you could add some shredded green cabbage to increase the amount of vegetables in the dish.
This homemade brown sauce makes a good, tangy accompaniment to this, and many other winter stews. To be honest, it isn’t exactly like brown sauce from a bottle, but it is brown and a sauce (and both get their tang from tamarind) so I hope I can justify the name!
Homemade brown sauce
- 1 tsp tamarind powder (or 2 tsp tamarind paste mixed with 1/2 tsp cornflour)
- 1/2 tsp amchur powder (I find that this is most readily available from Indian shops, if you can’t find it just leave it out or substitute for 1 tsp lemon juice)
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 – 1 tsp sweetener (such as Stevia) or sugar (to taste)
- 100ml water
- Combine all of the ingredients, except the water, in a small saucepan and gradually add the water, mixing to make a smooth sauce.
- Gently heat the sauce, stirring, until it comes to the boil, then bubble for 1-2 minutes until it thickens to the consistency of double cream.