Dumplings – A National Treasure

This entry is filed under Baking Recipes.


Puff Balls Of Pleasure On Your Plate

Call me nostalgic, but besides jelly and ice cream and Birds Angel Delight, I can’t think of another food to conjure up childhood memories quite like dumplings do.

My Grandma always managed without fail to create light, fluffy dumplings to accompany her gloriously rich, thick stews. 

I’m guessing the cold snap and heavy snow we’ve been having lately were to blame for setting me off yearning for stew and dumplings. It didn’t matter that the thermostat was turned right up and I was warm as toast, I longed for some ‘proper grub’ – good old fashioned, rib sticking food to keep out the cold even though I had no intention of going outside.

So I gave into my cravings and made a sauce-rich stew with lashings of sticky, glossy, gelatinous gravy, plus the longed for fluffy white dumplings to sop it all up with. It was, I have to say, the ultimate in comfort food and a soothing, restorative end to a busy day.

The great thing about dumplings is they add interest to soups and stews and subtly stretch a meal to make it go further at virtually no expense.

A light, airy texture is key though. 

The finished result should be little puff balls of pleasure on your plate, not inedible dense, heavy bullets! 

I’ve found the trick to making dumplings soft and fluffy every time, is to add a handful of fresh breadcrumbs into the mix. Just blitz 2-3 slices from a loaf – it makes all the difference.

You can use either a light vegetable suet, (it keeps ages and doesn’t need refrigerating) or frozen, grated butter in the mix (which isn’t dissimilar to scones) and opt to bake or steam them. But be aware opposite rules apply here:

Baked In The Oven – cook without a lid
Steamed On The Stove – cook with a lid  

So if you want your dumplings to fluff and puff make sure you use a tight fitting lid and whatever you do, don’t remove it during steaming. Other points to remember are these, follow them and you won’t go wrong…

1) Measure the ingredients – accuracy is important here
2) Don’t be heavy handed, work quickly with a light touch
3) Add sufficient water so the dough is soft and elastic, not sticky
4) Leave space between each dumpling allowing them to double in size
5) Cook the dumplings in gently simmering, not rapidly boiling liquid

Dumplings In Progress…

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Stew and Dumplings  – when you  need  a comfortingly substantial meal

And Now For The Recipe…Makes: 8 Dumplings
Preparation & Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Effort Level: easy
Shelf Life: eat immediately


75g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
50g Atora light vegetable suet
75ml water approx
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Here’s What You Do:
Tip all the dry ingredients in a bowl including any seasonings and lightly mix together with your finger tips or a fork.

Make a well in the centre of the bowl and pour in the cold water bit by bit. Draw the dry ingredients into the liquid and lightly mix them both together until a soft pliable dough is formed that comes away cleanly from the bowl.

Lightly flour your hands and divide the dough into eight small pieces, then roll into little balls the size of walnuts.

Lower the dough balls into the gently bubbling stew, cover with a tight fitting lid and leave to cook for 15-20 minutes.

Alternatively if you’re baking the dumplings, increase the oven temperature to 200°C Gas 6. Arrange the dumplings in the stew then slide the casserole onto the top oven shelf. Bake without a lid for roughly 25 minutes and the dumplings are a deep golden colour.

Added Flavourings :-
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp English mustard powder
1 tbsp hot creamy horseradish
1 tbsp finely chopped spring onion
1½ tbsp grated parmesan
1½ tbsp caramelised onions
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs – parsley or chives work best


10 Responses to “Dumplings – A National Treasure”

  1. Sean says:

    I’ve gotta tell you, you are right on. I love dumplings. My Mum used to make them all the time when we were growning up.

  2. Uma says:

    Really? What a shame.

    I’ve never have had a problem and I’ve been cooking with suet for years. Maybe it was stored somewhere too warm or had passed its sell by date?

    The shelf life on the box gives a sell by date that’s at least 10 months ahead and I’d be very surprised with all the rules and regs these days, they’d be allowed to state that if it wasn’t a fact.

  3. Choclette says:

    Thanks for these great tips on the dumplings. Not sure about the keeping properties of vegetable suet though after my mother making us a special “treacle pudding” only to find after our first excited mouthful that we had to quickly spit it out as the suet had gone rancid – how disappointing was that!

  4. Ginger says:

    Oh that would definitely work Uma! Not only that, I’ve now got designs on doing the gnocchi’s soon as well…

    I love the idea of sage, or the horseradish…or the mustard in the dumplings! Especially when it’s just a veggie stew. I also grow chives for the flowers as well as the table, so when the winter is over I’ll have those to add. =)

  5. Karen says:

    I’ll give em a go! Thanks Uma!

  6. Pippa says:

    Oh Dumplings Yum!
    I can’t wait to try them, maybe at the weekend. I remember having them when I was growing up. Thanks for the memory!

  7. Uma says:

    Don’t be awkward Julian, there’s a good boy. Otherwise you can’t get down from the table!

  8. Julian says:

    It would never be thought of now but I can remember when I was a child how Mum would produce a Suet Pudding on Mondays. Mondays were always left-overs from Sunday dinner days and if there wasn’t too much left for her to use the Suet Pudding and gravy was there to ensure we left the table having had enough to eat. Strangely, I loved the suet puddings but never was a fan of dumplings !! Work that one out!

  9. Uma says:

    Thanks Ginger!

    You could try adding parmesan into the mix and serving with a rustic tomato sauce. If you don’t have a tom recipe to hand, see March’s Gnocchi recipe in the veggie section

  10. Ginger says:

    Mmmmmm, I am definitely going to try this one! I have loved dumplings forever & when I became a vegetarian all those years back, I experimented to find a dish I could include dumplings in…& eventually I did. It’s pretty much a beef stew without the beef using vegetable broth instead of meat stock, but the dumplings work well in it & help to thicken the broth a little as well. And now I have an ‘Uma’ recipe for the dumplings! How can I go wrong?

    Thanks Uma!

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