Pop all of the stew ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Keep the meat in one piece as you want to be able to easily retrieve it to when it's fall apart tender to shred.
Fish out the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and discard.
Remove the meat from the stock and when cool enough to handle, shred into tiny pieces. Remove the veins of melted gristle if you want to, although I would recommend leaving at least a little.
Pile the meat back into the slow cooker, along with a knob of butter and pinch of salt, whilst you make the dumplings. You may like to top your slow cooker up at this point with boiling water or more chicken stock. This will give it more of a soupy consistency, and make it feed a lot more people.
Bring a small pan of water to the boil. Plunge the nettles in and let cook briefly - no more than a minute, or until full wilted. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and let drain.
When cool enough to handle, squeeze the excess water out of the nettles and chop them very finely.
In a mixing bowl combine the flour, suet and salt. Add in the nettles and stir well.
Add in cold water one tablespoon at a time, mixing well, until you have a firm but pliable dough. You will need around 4 or 5 tablespoons of water.
Divide the dough into 8. Dust your hands with flour and roll each piece into a ball.
You can pop the dumplings on top of the stew in the slow cooker and they will cook perfectly well in around 30 minutes (on high setting).
However if you want an extra level of flavour, *pop the stew into a hot oven with the lid off and the dumplings will lightly caramelise and crisp on top. YUM!
*please note that not all slow cooker bowls are over proof - mine's not. If you don't mind the extra washing up, decant the stew into an overproof dish. Pop the dumplings gently on top and bake in an oven preheated to 180 for 20-30 minutes.
Sprinkle the stew with parsley just before serving.
Please enjoy my recipe! Jane | hedgecombers.com