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3 posts from October 2011

24 October 2011

Salt beef

UPDATE: At long last I've got a recipe I'm happy with. Please use the new recipe, rather than the method below.

Better salt beef should be more widely available.  It is a cheap cut of meat ooh how age of austerity, that doesn't take much hard work, ideal because I just don't have any time to cook and yet current offerings are pretty mediocre.

True, hope might be on the horizon, West One Deli for those that keep kosher (and assuming they get round to opening, there have been interminable delays) and Mishkin's from the irrepresable team behind Polpo et al for those that don't.  

So limited supply has left me trying to perfect my salt beef recipe for sometime and I think I've now done it.  Using the recipe below, I ended up with some of the most delicious salt beef I've ever had the privilege to taste.  It is a bit saltier than commercial salt beef but far from too salty - it gives a pleasant tang, helped no doubt by the aromatics.

I feel heretical saying it, but my efforts were no thanks to two of my heroes.  My first attempt was a salty disaster - the only time that the now veggie Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has let me down.  I then read Claudia Roden's seminal work on Jewish cookery, but was uninspired by her recipe, especially the rather amorphous 'pickling spices' she proposes. 

I moved on to Fergus Henderson at the suggestion of a commenter on the blog.  I blithely followed him, until I received another comment on the blog saying his brine was far too salty.  Pah, I thought, what does this naif though compared to Henderson.  

I then re-read Henderson and realised he was recommending the same concentration of cure for a chicken as for salt beef.  This seemed a bit wrong and perhaps Nick Loman was worth listening to.

So I pimped Henderson's recipe, or rather I wimped out and watered it down.  For 4 days I had a 15% cure and for 1 day I had a 7.5% cure.  I suppose you could make life easier by just going for a 13.5% cure or 540g of salt to 4l of water.  (These percentages refer to the quantity of salt to water in the cure, where water is 100%.)

I didn't use salt-petre and didn't think it was any the worse for it.  The reason for using salt-petre is to ensure the beef doesn't lose its pink colour as a result of the brining process.  I didn't find the colour a problem.  The inside was brown, a bit like the centre of smoked brisket - rather delicious actually.

So here's what I did.

Please note that in total this recipe takes 5 days to brine and is cooked on the 6th day - although most of that time a lump of meat is sitting in some salty water and does not require much work from you. Just don't try to make it a few hours before guests arrive.

You will need a large non-metallic container to cure the meat in.

3.5kg brisket - make sure your butcher leaves some of the fat on it.

4 day brine

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 600g sea salt
  • 12 juniper berries
  • 12 cloves
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4l water

5th day brine

  • 4l water

Cooking the beef

  • 2 bay leaves
  • Bunch of thyme
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic

Bring all the ingredients for the brine to the boil.  Then allow to cool thoroughly.

Once cooled, pour the brine over the beef.  Make sure the beef is fully submerged, you may well need to weigh it down.

Leave it for 4 days.

On the 5th day, add a further 4l of water.

A note on curing & refrigeration: I don't refrigerate mine whilst it's curing because this is a preserving process afterall.  I leave it in a nice cool part of the house.  If you do refrigerate, bear in mind it will slow the curing process down, so for the same flavour you'll need to make it more concentrated or brine for longer.

On the 6th day - cooking day - remove the beef from the brine and rinse well under running water.

Put the beef in a pot with herbs and vegetables and cover with fresh water.  Cook it for about 3-3.5 hours.  You want it to be a rolling boil and by that I mean: the water's gently bubbling rather than furiously splashing for most of the cooking time.

07 October 2011

Onions roasted in chicken soup aka Orbs of Joy

However mature we are, a recipe called 'Orbs of Joy' is always going to get a snigger. I imagine it will also generate some interesting traffic from Google.

That aside, it is one of the simplest recipes for a delicious side-dish and comes from Fergus Henderson's Beyond Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking: Part II.  I used it recently as a side-dish to a bollito misto.

I have tweaked his recipe slightly.  He uses chicken stock, but I went for a more intense flavour and used chicken soup - it also happened to be what I had to hand.  However, to compensate, I use less liquid than he recommends.

You'll end up with a sweet, caramelised, soft onion.  I imagine that whole fresh cloves of garlic would be pretty special cooked in the same way, or perhaps turnips.  The world is your oyster etc etc.

So prepare yourself for this recipe, it's a toughy.  Or not.

Reckon on 1 red onion per person.

  • Red onions
  • Chicken soup

Peel the onions and place in an oven proof dish.

Pour over the chicken soup.  I did it to about one-third to a half the depth of the onion.  In his recipe, Henderson, using chicken stock, suggests almost covering the onions in stock.

Braise them in a medium oven for about half an hour or until they are nice and gooey.

03 October 2011

The kosher sausage collective

Do you want to buy some kosher sausage casings with me?

I ask because I do again and the quantities I need to buy them in are enormous, much more than I can use.

The hardest part it seems of making kosher sausages is sourcing the cases.  Until earlier this year, Devro manufactured the only kosher sausage casings that I've ever been able to get hold of.  However, they no longer make them because they cannot source the hides they need to make the collagen casings.

I've been able to track down a caddy of these casings and rather than see three quarters going to waste, I'd like to split them with other like minded cooks, who want to make sausages.  

If you are interested, then reply in the comments below or email or tweet me.

A final thought, what on earth are butchers going to do when the casings finally run out?  I rang four suppliers that, according to a helpful gentleman at Devro, might still have some stock.  Only two still had any casings in and both of those pointed out there wasn't much stock left. 

With a sausage shortage looming, the winter surely only days away, the only answer must be for us to make our own.  Away to your mincers.