I first made this at my friend’s house over Christmas and, as I tend to, I just made it up as I went along without taking any notes. It turned out to be a real success so I’ve tried my best to remember what I did. Winter Storm Pax has seen fit to anoint us with around a foot of snow so if it weren’t for Mr Colonial Craving’s stirling work with the snow shovel we’d be pretty much snowed in. He’s definitely worked up an appetite.
I think it makes a really nice, less stodgy, alternative to comfort foods like cottage pie or stew and dumplings. The cobbler topping is surprisingly light and fluffy and turns any sort of casserole into a real one-pot feast. When I made the veggie version for myself the first time I used vegetarian sausages which was really good. I would imagine that the topping would work for almost any type of ‘pie’ or casserole so don’t feel obliged to use my stew recipe. For me it’s really the topping that’s the star of the show anyway.
2 medium carrots
150g cherry tomatoes
400g stewing steak (cubed)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp tomato puree
200ml red wine
salt, pepper, chili flakes, few sprigs of thyme
80g really strong cheddar (grated)
120g cold butter
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp chopped parsley
240g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pre-heat the oven to 170°c.
Peel the shallots but keep them whole. Fry them in the butter until the outsides are beautifully caramelised. Peel the carrots and chop them into chunky pieces before adding to the pan and frying for a few minutes more.
Remove the veg from the pan but try to leave as much of the buttery residue as you can. Coat the beef in the flour and fry in batches to seal and caramelise the outsides.
Add the wine to the pan, a little at a time to de-glaze it. Be sure to stir it really well between each addition to ensure that there are no lumps of flour in the sauce.
Stir in the tomato puree. Mince the garlic and cut the tomatoes in half. Return the vegetables to the pan along with these. Add 150ml of water (give or take depending on how thick you like your gravy). Season to taste with salt, pepper and chili.
Tip the whole lot into a lidded casserole dish, tossing the sprigs of thyme into the mix to. Cover and pop it into the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours (depending on how tender you want the beef to be.)
To make the topping simply mix together the flour and baking powder and rub in the butter. Mix through the grated cheddar (keep a little back to sprinkle on top) and the chopped parsley.
Lightly beat together the eggs, mustard and milk. Use a fork to combine this with the flour mix until it forms a wet sticky dough.
Drop large blobs of this onto the stew to cover it. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Increase the oven temperature to 190°c and bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until the topping has puffed up and is golden brown.