Dumplings, as I have recently commented, are a traditional extra cooked as part of a warming stew and good served as an alternative to potato (or as well as if you really must). However plain dumplings, whilst being homely, are rather boring so various ingredients can be added to flavour, and improve, this useful little wintery filler. I recently posted a recipe with dumplings flavoured with caraway seeds and perfect for the traditional Hungarian dish of Goulash. I have also already posted my own Beef & Bean Casserole recipe, served with plain dumplings. Last year I found a recipe at Mother May Have for carrot dumplings, which were served with stewed beef. In that case the dumplings did not contain suet, but nonetheless an idea was born. I successfully incorporated grated carrot into the basic suet dumpling mixture and on that occasion added fresh coriander, often used to complement carrot in soup though usually in its ground form. Grated carrot and suet dumplings make a good marriage, so it makes we wonder which other root vegetables would also be good – parsnip and beetroot are two experiments I intend to try. I have other thoughts as well: different herbs or spices, cheese, citrus zest ….!
The minced lamb and lentil mixture here is one of our favourites. I have been making it for some years, initially inspired by an idea in The Complete Mince Cookbook by Bridget Jones (nothing to do with the diarist, I’m sure!) but so much adapted it has long since become my own work. The resulting stew is warm and comforting: as I have said before, I love the grainy quality of cooked red lentils and usually add pearl barley to the mixtured as well. There are always carrots and often some peas too. The quantities of the vegetables can, of course, be adjusted according to personal taste. In the past I have served the dish with rice or boiled potatoes but recently have replaced them with the carrot dumplings: a perfect winter meal in a bowl.
Lamb & Lentil Stew with Carrot & Rosemary Dumplings
1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
12ozs/375g minced Lamb
1 large leek, sliced into rings
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
400g/14oz can plum tomatoes
2ozs/60g red lentils
1oz/30g pearl barley
10fl ozs/300mls water (plus more if needed)
2 large carrots, cut in rings (or quartered lengthwise & chopped)
3ozs/100g frozen peas
Salt & ground black pepper
1-2 potatoes (optional – in small pieces or diced. See 6 below)
1 quantity Basic mixture
1 medium carrot, grated (use around 2ozs)
1 small sprig rosemary, chopped
1. Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until softened.
2. Add the minced lamb and cook until the redness is gone.
3. Chop the plum tomatoes and add to the pan with the leek, carrot, pearl barley and lentils plus the chopped rosemary and the water. Bring the the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the barley and lentils have started to soften. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
4. Meanwhile mix together the dumplings using the basic recipe. Grate the carrot and add about 2ozs to the mixture with the chopped rosemary (alternatively fresh coriander or other herb). Any extra carrot can be stirred into the panful of stew. Divide into enough balls for 2-3 per diner.
5. Add the peas and then the dumplings to the pan. Make sure there is enough liquid in the pan as the dumplings will steam so add more water if needed. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer and cover with a lid. Cook for 10-15 minutes more depending on size of dumplings.
6. Check seasoning and serve in bowls. Can be served with potatoes, or chunks of potato can be cooked into the stew (added at the same time as the carrot, or later if cut into small dice).