Food for thought: December 2010
December 2010: Spiced Beef for Christmas
Traditional Spiced Beef was made at Christmas. A piece or brisket was used as the fat in these cuts of beef fat held the flavour of the spices. Now it is more often made with a piece of “corned beef” with the spices being added afterwards but it can be completely prepared at home if you care to take the time and a little trouble. In England the tougher cuts of pork were sometimes spiced in the same way.
I usually use my variation of a recipe from Josceline Dimbleby:. You begin by removing the bones (if any) from a piece of fresh beef flank, brisket or round, then trimming off any excess visible fat, using a piece of beef weighing 2 ½ to 3 kg and tieing it up neatly, if necessary. Put the beef into a bowl.
Ingredients for the spiced brine.
115g sea salt
175g Demerara sugar
1tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tsp whole cloves
20-25 juniper berries
4 dried bay leaves
3 sticks cinnamon
2 ½ litres hot water.
Make up a brine . Put 115g sea salt and 175g Demerara sugar into a saucepan. Roughly crush together 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 2 tsp whole cloves, 20 to 25 juniper berries, with 4 dried bay leaves. Break up 3 sticks of cinnamon. Add all these spices to the salt and sugar with 2 ½ litres of hot water. Stir well and bring to boiling point. Simmer for 5 minutes. Cover the saucepan and leave to become completely cold. Stir in 1 tsp saltpetre. Pour this mixture over the beef. Cover the bowl and set aside in a cool place (not the fridge) for 7 to 8 days just turning the beef over once a day. Drain well and rinse off any spices. Discard the brine.
For the dry spice mixture:
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp juniper berries
½ level tsp whole cloves
115g soft dar brown sugar
Using a pestle and mortar grind together 2 tbsp black peppercorns, 2 tbsp whole allspice, 1 tbsp juniper berries and ½ level tbsp whole cloves. Mix with 115g soft dark brown sugar and rub the spice mixture evenly over the surface of the beef Wrap the beef, completely covering it with foil . Put the foil-wrapped beef into a casserole into which it fits neatly, cover and set aside in a cool kitchen overnight. Add sufficient water to half-fill the casserole and cover closely. Some people like to refill the liquid half-way through the cooking time, by using a bottle of Guinness.
Cook on the middle shelf of the oven at 140*C, 275*F, Gas mark 1 for 4 ½ to 5 hours. Lift out the beef carefully, letting the hot juices pour back into the casserole.
Wrap up again in the foil, set on a deep plate, place another plate or board on top and weight this down with tins or weights for 24 hours. Remove any strings. The spiced beef can be stored in the fridge for 10 to 14 days.
When required, slice the beef thinly and serve cold with a salad or use for making sandwiches.
The Mountstewart Dry Spiced Round
6.36 kg Beef (brisket, tail-end or silverside.)
450g sea salt
350g brown sugar
115g whole allspice
115g black peppercorns
Rub the salt vigorously into the beef all over, put in a bowl and cover loosely. Set aside in a cool kitchen and leave for 24 hours.
Grind or powder the allspice and black peppercorns finely. Mix with the saltpetre and sugar and rub, a little at a time, all over the meat quite vigorously. (Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after this process – saltpetre is poisonous!)
Put the meat back in a bowl, cover and set aside, basting with the spices night and morning for a fortnight. Rinse quickly in cold water and put to cook in hot water, simmering slowly for a little over 4 hours, - 2 hours on each side - covering the saucepan or casserole closely. Finish as above.
If you prefer a short cut, Bord Bia recommends getting a piece of salt beef from your butcher You should rinse it with cold water before rubbing in your spice mixture and cooking it.
For a 2 ½ to 3 Kg piece of salt beef allow
1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cloves
3 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
2 dried bay leaves, crushed
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 small onion, finely chopped
Grind the whole spices together and mix with the brown sugar and onion Rub the spice mixture into the meat.
Put the meat into a bowl or casserole, cover and keep in the refrigerator for three or four days, rubbing the meat with the remains of the spice mixture daily.
Put the meat into a saucepan, barely cover with cold water, bring to boiling point, cover and simmer gently for 3 ½ to 4 hours, adding 250ml (½ pt) of Guinness half way through the cooking time, if desired.
Allow the spiced beef to cool in the covered saucepan, then drain well and wrap in foil and store in the fridge until needed. (Spiced beef does not improve if frozen but it will keep safely in the fridge for 7 to 10 days.) Serve thinly sliced.
Links of Interest
Not the full Irish - Katy McGuinness explores the true origins of 'Irish' foods.
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