It takes time to caramelise onions properly, but you will be well rewarded for your patience! Start with this long (30 – 40 minutes) step, and get everything else ready as the onions cook. Dumplings are so simple and cheery, adding heft to this warming one pot wonder. Double the quantities to serve 6 or so.
Caramelised onion and carrot casserole with sage dumplings
For 2 – 3
1 hour cooking
For the dumplings
40g suet (veggie or ordinary)
1 level tsp baking powder
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
Onion and carrot stew
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large or 3 medium onions, chopped
1 heaped tsp tomato paste
1 tsp each coriander, cumin, mustard, carvi seeds
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 branch celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into small chunks
1 small bottle brown beer (250ml or so)
½ tsp sugar
½ tin cooked white beans
Heat the oil in a heavy based casserole dish with a lid – don’t scrimp on the quantities, you will need it all! – and gently caramelise the onions, stirring often.
While they are cooking, prepare the dumpling mix, the rest of the vegetables and toast and grind the spices.
When the onions are deep, luscious brown, add the garlic, chilli, spices and tomato paste, stir well and cook for three to four minutes. Add the celery and carrots, stir and cook for three to four minutes to infuse with the flavour.
Heat the oven to 170C. Pour in the beer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to catch all the deliciousness. Add a little water if needs be and bring to a simmer on the hob.
Pour very cold water into the dumpling mix – about 3 tablespoons – and form 5 or 6 dumplings. Add more flour or water to adjust the texture. Stir the cooked beans into the stew and set the dumplings on top, only slightly emerged into the cooking liquid.
Put the lid on the pot and cook in the oven for 20 minutes or so, until the dumplings are fluffed up and slightly browned on top. Serve piping hot with some nice crusty bread. This dish is vegetarian – even vegan if you choose suitable beer and suet – but this January is NOT the time to give up carbs even if you are cutting down on meat!
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