The weather’s still dire, although the rain may have eased up a little bit……. for a few days at least. It seems the only thing that makes me feel better (if I can’t find someone to give me a big hug) is good food. A decent casserole is one of those dishes which is warming and perfect for winter and never fails to give a comforting foodie cuddle. It is a meal which naturally shouts ‘love’ without any sense of pretence and when you feed it to your family, it is most definitely food from the heart……
But one thing makes it even better……… dumplings! Light, fluffy dough balls………. popped on the top of the casserole during its final stage of cooking so that they gently expand and cook in the simmering, steamy heat. They add a soft, filling accompaniment to the main casserole, soaking up the gravy as you eat them, leaving your tummy with a big smile.
Dumplings for casseroles are traditionally made with flour and with suet, the commercial brands of which contain wheat, so are not gluten free. To be honest, in my old gluten-eating days, I found suet-dumplings to be quite heavy and stodgy, so I am more than happy to have a non-suet version which doesn’t leave you feeling over-stuffed.
I made my dumplings with plain gluten free flour mix and a little added gluten free oat flour, which gives them a slightly more wholesome, creamy, oaty texture. I also added some parmesan and oregano to the mix for an extra flavour hit. Rather than rub the butter into the flour, I froze and grated it into the mix, as I read somewhere that the little pieces of fat help the dumplings to rise. Whether this helped or not I have no idea, but the dumplings rose perfectly and they turned into little clouds of scrumptiousness.
The casserole is also delicious…….. lots of chunky vegetables and some tender braising steak all gently simmered in flavoursome tomato stock until tender. The recipe has been adapted from one I found in a Sainsbury’s Winter Recipe Collection. I substituted the suggested swede for butternut squash, added some broccoli, altered the quantities slightly and changed the seasoning, mainly to re-balance towards family preference. I think (like most casseroles) it is pretty adaptable to your favourite veg.
I am sharing this recipe with February’s Four Season’s Food Challenge, the theme for the month being ‘Food From The Heart’. Hosted by Anneli at Delicieux (shared with Louisa from Eat Your Veg), they have challenged us to make food which makes the people we love happy. This casserole definitely gives warmth and comfort and I was so delighted to be able to share dumplings for the first with my gluten free girl…………….. She was thrilled with them!
Beef Casserole with Gluten Free Dumplings
Ingredients – Dumplings (gluten free)
- Mix the dry ingredients (flours, oats, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, herbs, salt and pepper) in a large bowl, making sure any lumps are broken down.
- Grate the frozen butter into the flour a little at a time, stirring through as you go.
- Add the parmesan and vinegar, stirring well.
- Add the water a little at a time and using your hands, gradually bring the mixture together to form a smooth dough. The dough should stick together as you squeeze it, but not be ‘sticky’.
- Pull off small pieces of dough and roll into balls about 3 cm across.
- Cover and place in the fridge until you are ready to use.
Ingredients – Beef Casserole (adapted from the Winter Recipe Collection – Sainsbury’s)
- Heat the oil in a large casserole.
- Lightly dust the steak chunks with the flour and fry with the shallots and garlic for about 5 minutes until browning.
- Add the carrots and butternut squash and fry for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes, stock, marmite and oregano. Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil.
- Reduce to a simmer, cover with the lid and leave to cook for about 30 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and parsley and stir.
- Add the dumplings, gently pushing onto the top of the casserole liquid and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the broccoli, so that the stalks are submerged and the tops stick out of the top (allowing to steam). Simmer for a further 20 minutes.