I was shocked to realise, a few days ago, that it was (very) early Spring and I had yet to make a beef stew with dumplings in the slow cooker! Just goes to show what a relatively mild (albeit horrendously wet) winter we've had.
Now I absolutely adore beef stew - and a beef stew made in the slow cooker (the right way) is right up there amongst my favourites.
I can hear you all asking what I might consider to be "the right way"? Well, those of you who have been reading along all these years (well done, if that's you - and thank you!) will recall my saying that I went through a phase of getting lackadaisical with the slow cooker and expecting miracles from it - and not getting them. You see, to successfully cook in a slow cooker is all about what you put into it - and I'm not just talking the quality of your ingredients (although that does feature, but in a rather smaller way than with other situations). No, what I'm talking about here is your preparation. Meat has to be seared, or at the very least browned for additional flavour before being added. Onions need to be sweated at the least and caramelised at the most, all for additional flavour. The size of the pieces of meat and/or vegetable that you include, makes a huge difference to the flavour of the end product.