A rustic winter picnic

‘Tis the season for a hearty stew with dumplings – accompanied by perfect mashed potatoes.

Rug up warmly and tuck in

Venison stew with dumplings

No one seems to make dumplings these days – a great shame considering the extra deliciousness and substance they add!


600g venison (or you can substitute chuck or casserole-grade beef steak, lamb, pork shoulder or chicken thigh meat)
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 large onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs thyme
1 bottle Guinness
Approximately 1 litre beef or chicken stock or water
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
Approx 1/2 cup flour
Oil for frying
Salt to season


150g flour
75g butter (or suet if you can find it), chilled
Finely chopped fresh rosemary, sage or thyme (can substitute with dried)
Water to mix

Serves 4-6

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Chop the meat into chunks and roll in the flour and salt.

Add oil to a large, heavy casserole dish and heat on the stove top until smoking. Quickly brown the meat in small batches, removing it to a plate as it’s done. Reduce the heat and add the beer, onions, carrots, garlic and other herbs and toss until the beer is reduced by half. Then add everything else, including the browned meat, and enough liquid to cover the contents.

Place the casserole in the oven for several hours, stirring occasionally until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened.

To make the dumplings, first place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Grate in the butter or suet. Add the herbs and enough cold water to make a dough that can easily be formed into balls (ensure the dough is moist – if it’s too dry your dumplings won’t be plump). Flour your hands and shape the dough into approximately six balls. Drop them on top of the casserole and return it to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Serve with mashed potatoes (see below) and steamed winter greens.  

Perfect mashed potato

Approximately 1 kilo potatoes
50g butter, softened
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
Salt to season

Serves 4

First you need a floury potato variety – agrias, especially the new season’s, are best. Wash and place each clean potato in a basin of cold water so they don’t go yellow. Then cut them into large chunks, place in a pot, cover with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer so the potatoes don’t break up. Continue simmering until you can pierce them easily with a knife.

Strain the potatoes, place in a large roasting pan and put in the oven at 180°C for approximately 15 minutes to remove excess moisture.

When dry, push them through a moulie or a potato ricer (an inexpensive but handy device that resembles a giant garlic crusher – great for making gnocchi as well), or push them through a large mesh sieve. If you have neither of these implements a masher will suffice, but make sure you mash until the potatoes are completely smooth.

Stir through the butter, cream and milk. Salt to taste.


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