#1 – 48 Recipe Challenge: Recipe 43 – Beef Cobbler, the way my Mum makes it
This month’s recipe is a load of cobblers! Beef cobbler, to be exact. My Mum makes an amazing beef cobbler and it was one of my favourite dinners when I was a child. Yet, strangely, I’ve never made one myself. Perhaps because it’s traditional, good, solid English-style food and funnily enough I don’t cook a lot of that. Meat and two veg dishes are not my forte, and I really struggle with a roast. I like dishes which all go in one pot – but actually, that means a cobbler is ideal. Why have I never made one before?
Cobblers can be sweet or savoury, consisting of either fruit or a stew topped with little dumplings or scones. The origins of the name seem to have been lost in the mists of time, but it may be because the topping resembles cobblestones. All the recipes I found for beef cobbler, whether online or in some of the older cookbooks I have, used scones as toppings, but my Mum always makes her cobbler top with dumplings, so that’s what I did too.
In my view, this is the best way to have dumplings. I don’t like them when they’re fully immersed in the stew and go all slimy. But in a cobbler you get the best of both worlds: dumplings which are soft underneath because they’ve soaked up the gravy, yet browned and crisp on top. Making dumplings instead of scones to top the cobbler also gave me the opportunity to cook with suet, a rather old-fashioned ingredient which I haven’t used before.
For this retro recipe, I combined Mum’s advice with the trusty 1970s Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook (I’m sure every home had one), which has lots of recipes for dishes involving dumplings and simply made up some dumplings using self-raising flour, suet, a pinch of salt, some chopped parsley and cold water.
The dumplings were quick and easy to put together, and cooked by just popping them onto the stew base once that had had sufficient cooking time. It works because the liquid in the stew steams and makes the topping rise. The dumplings themselves only need about 15-20 minutes cooking time – the last five minutes with the lid off to ensure they brown and crisp up nicely on top.
The great thing about cobbler is that it can be used to top any stew – just make sure there’s a fair bit of liquid as you need that to steam the dumplings and ensure a good rise. I used a Beef in Beer recipe (another 70s classic) which I love, but you could use any type of stew you like; lamb, beef, chicken, vegetable…
My Beef Cobbler was very tasty and as stodgy comfort food was just perfect for the chillier evenings at this time of year. I shall do it again.
As my recipe was somewhat ‘cobbled together’ (groan!) I can’t share it exactly with you, but here are links to a couple of relevant recipes so you can cobble together a cobbler as well.
A beef cobbler with scones recipe so you can see how a cobbler works: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/beef_cobbler_with_79871
A stew and dumplings recipe so you can make the dumplings (although to be honest there is likely to be a recipe on the side of the suet packet): http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/537500/james-martin-s-beef-stew-with-dumplings
Alternatively, just dig out a 1970s recipe book, or ask your Mum!
Scores for this one are:
Healthiness – 7/10 (a good solid meal – not especially healthy but not unhealthy either. Replace the beef suet with vegetable suet if you prefer, or make scones instead)
Ease of prep – 7/10 (It takes a little while to assemble the stew base but the dumplings are not difficult to make)
Flavour/taste – 10/10 (especially if you use a casserole recipe you love as the base)