RV Cuisine

Beautiful Hills Beef Stew

On a rather cool, rainy day, RVer Jim Prentice is about to start putting together the evening meal of beef stew and dumplings

by Jim Prentice
This delicious beef stew was made in Manitoba's Beautiful Hills Campground. — Jim Prentice photo

Today we are camped in a little-known boondocking park in Manitoba. There are no facilities, no fees and seldom any people. The park is actually quite small—a patch of mowed grass in a hilly, forested area along the meandering stream known as Pine Creek. The name of this little hideaway is Beautiful Hills Campground.

It is a rather cool day and looks like rain, so I am about to start putting together our evening meal of beef stew and dumplings. The ingredients are all optional, depending on your taste and the number of folks you are cooking for. Of course, a larger batch means leftovers for tomorrow so you don't have to cook.

Ingredients:

     1 lb. (454 g) stewing beef               2 potatoes
     1 cooking onion                             2 medium carrots
     olive oil                                           2 or 3 bay leaves
     salt and pepper to taste                 1 or 2 Oxo cubes to taste
     garlic (fresh or powdered)             1 small green pepper
     2 - 3 Tbsp. flour                             1 small pkg. Pillsbury biscuits
     Worcestershire sauce                    1 - 2 cups water

I like to cut the beef chunks into smaller pieces than the butcher does. For me, everything should be just a comfortable bite size.  Then I like to marinate the beef while I slice the other ingredients; this can be "Wooster" sauce or some Montreal Steak Spice, or whatever suits your fancy. Once the meat is set aside, slice the veggies into similar-sized chunks; make the carrot slices a bit thinner. The chopped onions will separate into thinner pieces as the stew is simmered and stirred. I have included salt and pepper, although I very rarely use salt.

I think the secret to a good stew is to brown the beef ahead of time—I like a frying pan and olive oil for this. Once the meat starts to brown, toss the onions in and scramble stir until they are nicely sauteed, transparent or golden brown to your preference, slightly brown or carmelized gives the best flavour.

Almost any pot will do, even a large frying pan with cover in a pinch. My favourite is an old-fashioned cast iron Dutch oven. Today I am using a Visions glass pot by Corning. Over medium to high heat, throw all the ingredients except the flour and biscuits into the pot, add water to just cover, and stir often to prevent sticking until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer, stirring often, for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Later, test the potatoes and carrots for doneness with a fork, or a taste; cook longer if required. If the stew is too thin, add flour while stirring—a spoonful at a time until it suits you.

The finishing touch

Now the tricky part: if you do not have an oven in your RV, this is where a Dutch oven really shines.

Turn the oven on to about 375 F (190 C). When it is hot, open the biscuits, separate them and place on top of the stew. If any are left you can put them on a cookie sheet and bake them per instructions on the can. Put the stew in the oven and bake until the biscuits are nicely browned. If you like, you can then add a piece of processed cheese to each biscuit and return to the oven until it is melted. Serve on plates or in bowls with a biscuit on the side.

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