EATING well is one of the foundation stones for good health, especially in later life. If you can enjoy a wholesome balanced diet, with a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, you’ll have more energy, find it easier to maintain a healthy weight and generally feel better all round.
One of the best ways to know exactly what you’re eating, and avoid many of the additives, preservatives or high levels of salt and sugars in pre-prepared foods, is to cook plenty of your own meals at home. Many healthy and nutritious meals are quick and simple to prepare, and taste delicious.
This recipe for tasty beef stew with fluffy dumplings is from the NHS’s Change 4 Life website, which has lots of ideas for healthy and nutritious meals. It takes just 20 minutes to prepare, serves four people and will fill your home with a wonderful aroma for the two hours it is cooking, whetting your appetite for when it’s time to eat.
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 280g lean braising steak, cut into chunks
- 450ml reduced-salt vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 carrots, cut into chunks or thick slices
- 2 celery sticks, sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 250g closed cup mushrooms, cut in half
- 100g self-raising flour
- 2tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 50g reduced fat spread
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large flameproof casserole dish or saucepan. Add the beef a handful at a time and cook over a high heat for about two to three minutes until it is sealed and browned. Ensure the meat is thoroughly browned (but not burnt) as this will impart a good flavour to the stew.
- Pour the stock into the pan then add the chopped onions, crushed garlic carrots, celery, bay leaf and mushrooms. Bring the pot to the boil then reduce the heat so it simmers gently. Cover and cook over a low heat for 90 minutes, occasionally checking the liquid level and topping up with a little water if necessary.
- To make the dumplings, sift the flour into a bowl and add the chopped parsley and pinch of black pepper. Add the reduced-fat spread and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Now add just enough water (about 2 tbsp) to make a soft dough. Knead it lightly and briefly then roll into a dozen small dumplings.
- Add the dumplings to the stew, letting them sit on the surface. Cover and cook for another 25 to 30 minutes until the dumplings are soft and fluffy, then serve, remembering to remove the bay leaf. You could use a little more parsley for garnish as a finishing touch.
Tip: If you’re using a casserole dish, once the stew has been brought to the boil (in step 2) you could transfer it to the oven pre-heated to Gas Mark 4 / 180°C / fan oven 160°C. Oven bake for 90 minutes before adding the dumplings then return to the oven for a further 25 to 30 minutes.
You could serve the casserole with crusty wholemeal bread or other fresh or frozen vegetables such as broccoli or peas. If you’re not going to eat all the stew and dumplings at one sitting, the leftovers should be left to cool then stored in the fridge until the following day, or frozen. When reheating, make sure the casserole is hot all the way through before serving and never reheat food more than once.
• Each serving of this recipe contains: Energy 1284kj/307kcal; protein 21g; carbohydrate 31g, of which sugars 10g; fat 11.5g, of which saturates 3.5g; fibre 5g; sodium 427mg, equivalent to 1g salt.