This Weekend: Goldfinches and Dumplings

29 January 2021

After this week we will all be looking for some inspiration and activities to keep us busy over the coming days.  Luckily this weekend you need look no further than your own back garden to get involved in a nationwide event.


Big Garden Birdwatch

The RSPB are encouraging people to take part in a ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’, where participants can choose one hour of the day between 29th and 31st January to observe which species of birds and how many, appear in their gardens.  These results can then be submitted online to form part of a nationwide survey.

Full details of the ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ can be found here;

Some of you will already be enthusiasts and fairly familiar with the different characters that cross your bird table, but for others this might be an opportunity to settle down next to a window for a quiet hour and explore something completely new.

Our own enthusiast Mike will be joining in this weekend and he shared some of his previous experiences with us:

Working from home during the first lockdown I really missed not having a pet around the house. Thankfully though having a cat and dog free home has meant that my garden has become a haven for hungry birds as I have become increasingly obsessed trying to attract different species, particularly Goldfinches who seemed to regard my garden as a strict no fly zone for months, no matter what finch-friendly treats I left out for them. My efforts eventually paid off though and I now have at least a half dozen Goldfinches who appear to have taken up permanent residence, much to the annoyance of my colleague Angela who is convinced that I have somehow managed to lure them away from her garden!” – Mike


Recipe of the Week

This blustery weather (and lockdown) gives us the perfect excuse to light the fire, hunker down and tuck into something hearty. 

I’m not a confident cook, so was particularly impressed when this recipe card from my local supermarket (Waitrose) turned out to be an absolute triumph! 

Chef’s Note:  I do find the dumplings are rather crumbly and prefer mine a little more traditional, so feel free to use your preferred dumpling method and coat in cheese!

Beef Stew with Cheddar Dumplings

Preparation time: 25 minutes, plus standing.
Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes.

Serves: 6 - 8

Ingredients - For the stew:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 800g British beef diced braising steak
  • 300g shallots, peeled
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 250ml red wine
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 250g passata
  • 3 bay leaves

For the dumplings:

  • 125g granary bread Flour
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125g grated mature cheddar
  • 125-150ml whole milk 


1. Preheat the oven to 160 ̊C, gas mark 3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over a high heat. Season the beef and fry in 2 batches, browning on all sides (about 5 minutes per batch); set aside. Turn the heat to medium, add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the dish; fry the shallots for 5 minutes. Add the allspice and garlic; fry for 1 minute more.

2. Add the wine to the dish and simmer for 2 minutes. Dissolve the stock cubes in 400ml just-boiled water and add to the dish, along with the passata and bay leaves. Return the meat and any juices, then bring everything to a simmer, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. After 45 minutes, uncover the dish and cook for a further 45 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, for the dumplings, mix the flours, baking powder and 75g cheddar in a bowl. Stir in the milk and bring together to a rough, shaggy dough. Pat out to a thickness of about 1.5cm and use a 6cm cookie cutter to stamp out rounds (re-roll any scraps to make 12-14 in total).

4. Turn up the oven to 200 ̊C, gas mark 6. Remove the dish from the oven and arrange the dumplings on top of the stew. Scatter with the remaining 50g grated cheddar and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes until golden on top. Stand for 10 minutes before serving with steamed greens, if liked. 


Happy twitching! - Annie