In our house there is a divide between stews and casseroles – half of us love a slow-cooked, sticky oxtail packed with carrots and bay leaves, and the other half love a good Irish stew, which is generally less rich and the flavours lie more in the thin broth-like gravy made with lamb neck, carrots, onion, white pepper and, of course, a bay leaf.
Despite these differences, we all love dumplings with our stew, whether they’re fluffy cheese dumplings made with Parmesan and herbs or the old-fashioned ones made with suet (beef or mutton fat) that I grew up on, bobbing on top of a beef stew, soaking up all the yumminess.
I recently had dumplings called dombolo at a shebeen restaurant and immediately understood why they are Madiba’s favourite accompaniment to oxtail or tripe.
They’re made by placing a simple bread dough in a cleaned and greased plastic shopping bag (a Woolies one will do fine), letting it rise and then rolling it into balls to make dumplings.
You can also use the dough to make a loaf of bread. The plastic bag is sealed very tightly and placed in a metal vegetable steamer in a pot, half-filled with water, and steamed for an hour with the lid on. Serve it with chakalaka, spinach and a samp-and-meat stew.
I decided to make a loaf of dombolo last weekend for a Saturday lunch snack, but I couldn’t find my steamer. I improvised by making a trivet out of kebab sticks and placed it in the bottom of a large saucepan before plonking the bag of dough on top. It worked just fine!
The dombolo came out perfectly and we ate thick, hot slices of it with lashings of butter and the most delicious home-made apricot jam that I recently bought from a farm stall on the side of the road in the Cradle of Mankind.
Here’s my easy dombolo recipe, that can be used to make individual dumplings popped onto your stew, or one large steamed loaf.
If you want to make dombolo dumplings for your stew, simply roll the dough into small balls and dot them on top of your oxtail, chicken casserole or lamb stew. They’ll take about half an hour to steam.
• For something different, try adding a cup of drained canned corn kernels.
• I make my dombolo dumplings using half mealie meal and half cake flour as I like the texture, but you can use only flour.