Mom’s Beef Stew and Dough Boys

I never really knew my grandmother on my mom’s side of the family. I have a hard time even calling her my grandmother, a term so precious because of my relationship with my dad’s mom. The name holds meaning: something I never derived from my relationship with Mom’s mom. She had Alzheimer’s and barely recognized who my sister and I on the rare occasions we went to visit her.

I only have one memory of her, and for the longest time I thought it was just a dream. I’m sure my parents explained who she was, but to my seven year-old self, she was just some strange lady sitting in a nursing home bed talking to my mother. I remember she gave me and my sister a wooden lap desk. It had ducks or loons embroidered on the cushion, and the flat desk side was white. I treasured it the way kids do with things they know are meant for adults but are given to them anyway, as if somehow I was supposed to keep it safe until I was old enough to appreciate its use. I never saw her after that one visit.

A couple years later my mom went away for several days. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was at her mother’s bedside, watching her die. I didn’t really understand the concept of dying, nor did I understand that the woman who had died was my grandmother.

Growing up, my mom would always make beef stew with dough boys. It was my favourite, but she only made it once or twice a month. When I moved out and started cooking for myself, the first recipe I asked for was Mom’s beef stew. I’ve been making it for over a year now, but I had never bothered to ask my mom where the recipe came from. As it turns out, the recipe was passed down to my mom from her mother. Her mother never liked to cook, she said, but every couple of weeks she would make this beef stew, and like me, it was my mom’s favourite. My mom started making the beef stew when she was first living on her own. She made it the very first time my dad came over to her house, before they started dating.

Food brings people together; not just in body, but in spirit too. I always wondered about my mom’s mother, about what kind of woman she was and if she would have liked me. And even though I was never given the chance to find out, knowing that it’s her beef stew I’m making helps fill that gap, if even just a bit.


large pot or dutch oven
two small mixing bowls
cutting board
large knife
wooden spoon
medium bowl


1 package stewing beef
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon cooking oil
4 packets beef stock
4 cups water
1 tablespoon summer savory
1 bay leaf
one carrot, peeled and whole
one clove garlic
six potatoes
one onion
six carrots

Dough Boys
1 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
one egg


In mixing bowl, stir together flour, salt and pepper. Rinse thawed beef chunks under cold water and roll in flour mixture until coated. In large pot or dutch oven, bring oil to a simmer. Add floured beef chunks, stirring until lightly browned. In the other mixing bowl, stir together beef stock and water. Add to pot and stir. Add finely chopped onions, bay leaf, summer savory and peeled and whole carrot. Crush garlic with side of knife and add to pot.

Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for two hours. After two hours, peel and chop potatoes and carrots and add to stew. Add more water to cover vegetables. Simmer 40 minutes to an hour, or until vegetables are tender.

Five minutes before serving, stir flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Add water and egg at once, then stir until combined. Drop by the spoonful into stew, leaving room for them to rise. Cover and cook for three to five minutes, turning dough boys at the half way mark.