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Beef Stew with Capers and Cheddar Dumplings

If a cool autumn evening could talk, it would surely request (cry out for, in fact) this sumptuous stew! Best eaten out of large soup bowls with big spoons so as not to miss any of the delicious bits, this hearty combination of beef, onions, and carrots gets star treatment from the addition of Guinness, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and capers.  What’s more, tender cheddar dumplings cook atop the meaty mounds and savory sauce to make this stew irresistible. Wrap yourself up in your coziest sweater, fill your kitchen with the aroma of this wonderful stew, and get ready to celebrate autumn!

The original recipe (from Olive, a sister publication of BBC GoodFood Magazine) calls for green peppercorns in brine, but since we know that may be a difficult ingredient to find, we swapped them out for capers and were delighted with the results.

Beef Stew with Capers and Cheddar Dumplings

2 lbs. beef (we used sirloin cut into 1½-inch cubes)
2 tbs. all-purpose flour
olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)
1 lb. of small carrots (about 6 inches), peeled and halved if thick
1¾ cups beef stock
1 tbs. capers
8 fl. oz. Guinness
2 tbs. tomato paste
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce

For the dumplings:

4 tbs. butter, chilled and cut in small pieces
5 oz. all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 2 tbs.)
2 oz. grated aged cheddar cheese (1 cup, loosely packed)
1 egg, beaten
1-2 tbs. milk

Heat the oven to 375°F. Season the beef well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss it with the flour. Heat 1 tbs. of oil over a medium heat in a large, ovenproof pot or dutch oven. Working in batches, add the beef and brown on all sides. (It’s important not to crowd the meat or it will not brown, it will braise and not form a good crust.) Remove from the pan and continue, adding more oil as needed.

Heat another 2 tbs. oil in the pan and add the onions, cooking for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add the beef back to the pot along with the carrots, thyme, stock, capers, Guinness, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, cover and put in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the beef is really tender.

Put the dumpling ingredients in a bowl and stir into a soft dough. Like scones, it is important nor to over-mix, so just bring it together. If it seems dry, add a bit more milk. Pat the dumplings into discs and put on top of the stew. Leave the lid off and cook for another 20 minutes, or until the dumplings are golden, crusty, and cooked through.

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