Us Irish do not do well with moderation. Dry January seems to be getting bigger each year and a lot of people seem to be having a meat-free month after all that Christmas indulgence. I myself like to drink booze year round but I’m happy to promote flexitarianism. I got this idea from Smitten Kitchen and really agree with what she has to say about vegetarian entrees – so many people think that meat-free mains are boring, but that’s just because they pay more attention to cooking meat. If you give vegetables the same respect, you’ll be amazed at how hearty and satisfying they can be.
Rachel Khoo gave me the dumpling idea. They are one of my favourite discoveries of recent years – such a delicious way to combat food waste, and would go nicely with many dishes – roast chicken, lentil and chorizo stew, basically anywhere you need a carb. One day in work I melted some cheese over a few dumplings and ate them with a tossed green salad and it was a very satisfying meal. Whenever I have a few of those small, awkward slices at the end of a loaf I put them in the freezer, and when there is enough for a batch I make dumplings.
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 bottle red wine
750g mixed mushrooms
1 medium pumpkin or squash, cut into small pieces
200g stale bread
250ml full fat milk
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 handful each of flat leaf parsley and basil, finely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, finely chopped
salt, pepper, thyme, chili flakes
Make the dumplings. Heat the milk with the garlic until it is nearly simmering, or shivering. Tear the bread into small pieces and pour the hot milk over. Leave to rest while you do other things so the bread has time to absorb the milk. Sprinkle over the flour, crack the eggs and use your hands to mix it together into a thick, dough-like consistency. Add the herbs and capers, and set aside. I find it is easier to form balls if it has been refrigerated – you could even do this the day before.
For the bourguignon heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and add the finely sliced onion. Stir frequently and cook until caramelised, about 15 – 20 minutes. When they have reduced and turned dark and sticky, add the tomato puree. Cook for a further 10 minutes to eliminate the raw tomato taste and then add the red wine, followed by the stock. Leave to simmer and reduce while you do everything else.
Finely slice the mushrooms and fry off in small batches, seasoning well with salt, pepper and maybe some thyme. (The movie Julie and Julia taught me the importance of small batches – they’ll steam if you crowd them.) Set aside on a baking tray.
De-stalk the kale and rip into bite sized pieces.
Chop the pumpkin into bite sized pieces, cover with oil, season with salt, pepper and chili flakes and roast at 180c for about 15 minutes.
Return to your red wine sauce. Is it thick enough for your liking? If not, add some cornflour (according to packet instructions).
Time to fry your dumplings. Scoop the dough into golf-ball sized amounts, and use your hands to roll them into balls. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and fry in batches for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
When you’re ready to serve add the mushrooms and kale and squash into the bourguignon sauce and cook until hot and the kale is wilted. Serve with 3 or 4 dumplings per portion.