Extremely Simple Beef and Ale Casserole

I can’t bear this cold weather again. I keep thinking we are heading for some warmer day’s but yet again – today is a chilly one. I have just raided the freezer and seen I have some stewing beef needing to be used, so tonight we will be having my failsafe casserole for dinner. It’s from my In the Mood for Food book, under the Comfort food chapter – and that’s exactly what it is. A hug in the form of a casserole.


The best thing about this casserole is that there is virtually nothing to do. Fry a few onions, add the rest of the casserole ingredients and let it cook while you get on with your jobs, or simply do absolutely nothing! The only bit of effort required is to throw together the fluffy dumplings. Tuck into the casserole either just as it is or with some buttery cabbage or curly kale.

takes 2 hours to cook

in the mood for a drink? a pale ale is ideal

serves four

for the casserole
2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
2 large onions, thickly sliced
750g braising steak, cut into 2–3cm cubes
3 tablespoons plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sticks of celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato purée
500ml ale

for the dumplings

75g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
75g fresh white breadcrumbs
75g butter, cubed
1 tbsp hot horseradish sauce
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/fan 140ºC/gas 2–3.

Heat the oil in a large casserole and add the onion. Cook until they are starting to colour.

Toss the beef in the flour and season well with salt and pepper. This can either be done in a bowl or, to make the job really easy, toss together in a large freezer bag. Add to the casserole with all of the remaining casserole ingredients. Stir to mix everything together, and then bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 11/2 hours.

When the casserole is close to the end of the cooking time, you can make the dumplings. Place the flour, breadcrumbs and butter in a food processor and blitz to a crumb consistency. Add the horseradish, thyme, egg and seasoning. Briefly blitz until the mixture forms a fairly moist dough. Using floured hands, shape the dough into eight balls.

After 11/2 hours, remove the casserole from the oven and sit the dumplings on top of the meat. Sprinkle their tops with a few flakes of salt and return the casserole to the oven for a further 30 minutes, without the lid this time.

Serve the casserole just as it is or with some lovely buttery cabbage or curly kale.


You don’t have to make the dumplings to go with the casserole, mash or baked potatoes are a great accompaniment. Alternatively, if you want to transform the casserole into a pie, bake for 11/2 hours, transfer to a pie dish and top with ready-rolled puff or shortcrust pastry. Brush with a little milk or egg yolk and bake at 200ºC/fan 180ºC/gas 6 for 25 to 30 minutes until golden.

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