Smoked Fish & Lentil Stew with Dumplings

First of all, I hope you’re all doing okay. We’re all in a really weird place right now – some of us are on the front lines, others are working from home, and some are struggling to fill time where work once sat. Whatever your situation, stay safe, and do what you have to in order to get through it with the shredded vestiges of your sanity clutched in your fists.

(Also, whatever you’re doing is enough, even if it’s eating beans on toast in front of your third season of your chosen Netflix binge series.)

Anyway. The lovely weather of late has made this recipe seem a bit unseasonal, but there isn’t a month of the year when dumplings aren’t freaking delicious – and since vegetable suet is readily available most of the time (current circumstances notwithstanding), this is something that can be enjoyed by pescatarians too. Hoorah!

I have a lot of love for lentils. They’re a great source of protein, and come in a range of varieties – the spice of life, I am led to believe (variety, not lentils). I use tinned green lentils like they’re going out of style, and if you ever look in my cupboard and don’t see at least one large bag of red split lentils, please assume I have been replaced by a pod person. A pod person with an aversion to lentils.

The ingredients in this recipe can be easily switched out for whatever alternatives you have in your cupboards, which is kind of what we all need to hear right now. Case in point — I ran out of white self-raising flour and had to sub in some wholemeal flour for the dumpling recipe. They turned out great! Which is good, because that is now the only flour I have in the house…

Onwards and lentil-wards, friends.

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(Do you like this photo? I hope so because it is literally the only decent photo I managed to get of such an unapologetically beige meal, and we’ve finally finished the last of it off so… no further photo ops. Goodbye, my delicious muddy friend.)

Smoked Fish & Lentil Stew with Dumplings (Pescatarian)

Serves 6 (greedy portions)
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Equipment

A large, oven safe pot with a lid*; chopping board and knife; mixing bowl; cheese grater; fine mesh sieve. That is all, friends.

Ingredients

For the stew

  • 2 spilling handfuls of red split lentils (yes, I know that’s not a measurement, but most people have a pair of hands readily accessible in the kitchen)
  • 1 tin green lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tin butter beans, drained and rinsed (you could also use cannellini beans, or really any kind of tinned bean that you prefer/have available)
  • 100g mushrooms
  • 4 small onions (I used two red and two white)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon or wholegrain mustard
  • 3 fillets smoked fish (I used haddock, skin on but all the scales removed)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1.25-1.5litres water
  • Splash of oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 50ml double cream (optional)
  • 50g hard cheese, grated (optional)

For the dumplings

  • 200g self-raising flour (plain, wholemeal, or a mixture)
  • 100g vegetable suet
  • 100ml water
  • 50g cheese, finely grated (this is going to sound middle-class and completely nuts, but we had a little Gouda with truffles kicking about, so we used that. I have done these with Parmesan before – make sure you’re using a veggie alternative if you are strict about animal rennet – but would also be lush with mature cheddar or any other strongly flavoured cheese)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C and get the kettle boiling. Pop your chosen pot onto the hob and crank the heat up to medium, then leave that to do its thing while you chop up some vegetables. Peel and slice your onions – either into half moons or a fine dice (I did half and half) – and do the same with your mushrooms and garlic. This is going to be cooking for about an hour so the garlic will mellow quite a bit – DO NOT FEAR IT.
  2. Sauté the onions for around 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, while you deal with your pulses and whatnot.
  3. Drain and rinse the tinned lentils and beans, then add to the pan once the onions, etc. have been cooking for around 10 minutes total. Roughly measure in your handfuls of the red lentils, then crumble over the stock cube and add around 1.25 litres of boiled water. Stir in the mustard and a good grind of pepper and put the lid on the pot, turning the heat down a little bit to avoid anything sticking to the bottom of the pan. Leave it to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the red lentils have taken on much of the water and your stew is thickening nicely.
  4. While this happens, prep your dumpling dough! Simply add the flour and suet to a mixing bowl, then pour over the water. Mix everything together (I use my hands because it’s satisfying, but you can use a spoon if you prefer) until almost combined, then add the grated cheese, some salt & pepper, and mix completely to form a dough. If it’s too dry, add a splash of water, or a bit more flour if it’s too wet. Once you’ve got the dough, it’s time to form your dumplings. This mixture makes 8-10 reasonably sized dumplings (bear in mind they swell up hugely in the oven), but you could do 6 larger or 12 smaller ones if you’d like the division into six portions to be a bit neater! I form the dough into a ball and then use a sharp knife to cut the dough into equal slices, like a pizza, before rolling each one into a ball. Your dumplings are done!
  5. After the cooking time is up, stir in the cream (if using) and a generous pinch of salt, then put the fish fillets in whole, and make sure they’re fully submerged. If you think your stew is a bit TOO thick, add a little more water now. Arrange the dumplings on top, giving them some room to puff up, sprinkle over some extra cheese if you fancy, then put the lid on. Put the whole thing into the oven for around 25 minutes, while you clean up the inevitable mess you’ve made with the flour.
  6. Carefully remove the stew from the oven and take off the lid. Admire your work. Look at those chunky dumplings! Incidentally, this is what I call my thighs. Remove the dumplings carefully and set aside, then break up the fish so that it’s properly distributed throughout the stew. If you don’t want the skin in there, you can remove the fillets and take the skin off, then flake the fish back in. Serve the stew in large bowls topped with a dumpling or two.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, especially if your name is Maggie and you live in America with your diabetic cat.

As I said before, guys – stay safe. Be kind to each other. Eat your tinned legumes. Don’t stockpile anything. Don’t be a butt.

Hattie x

P.S. Here is a picture of me delightedly piling leftovers into the fridge:

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*Think cast iron — if you don’t have anything like this, either use foil instead of a lid on your lidless oven-safe pot, or transfer the stew to a large baking dish before you add the dumplings, cover it and put it in the oven. Hot tip: I got a truly beautiful specimen from TK Maxx in the reduced section for £30. It was an absolute bargain, and doubles up as the perfect environment for Dutch oven bread baking.

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