#228 Spiced Salt Beef

This is a posh recipe; this cured beef is produced by Harrods by the wheelbarrow-load every Christmas. It’s an old recipe that was revived by Elizabeth David and Griggers helpfully imparts it to us. Good girl. This uses a dry cure mix rather than brine like I’ve done before (see this post). It’s a lot easier than a wet cure as there’s no messing about making the brine itself, so if you’re thinking about curing your own meat, this is good place to start. It’s a good idea to use good quality sea salt, not crappy table salt. Good salt is not only a preservative, but also lends good flavour. Very important for this sort of thing.

You need to start by buying your beef – a piece of silverside between 2 and 6 pounds should be okay. Place the beef in a clean tub (that comes with a clean lid!) and rub 3 ounces of dark brown sugar into it. Fit the lid on tightly and leave in a cool place for 2 days. Next, make the spiced salt mixture using 4 ounces of good sea salt, a heaped teaspoon of saltpetre and an ounce each of crushed peppercorns, allspice berries and juniper berries. Use a spice grinder or coffee grinder to break up the spices if you have one, otherwise use your pestle and mortar and some elbow grease. Now rub this mixture into the beef well and leave for another nine days, rubbing the salt mix and any juices into the beef and turning it every day.

To cook the beef, rinse off any spice by running it briefly under the tap. Place the beef in a tight-fitting lid with around 8-10 fluid ounces of water. Pack shredded suet over the top surface of the beef to hep keep in the moisture as it cooks. To doubly ensure that minimal moisture is lost from the beef cover the pot with a double layer of foil before putting the lid on. Place in an oven heated to 140⁰C for 45 minutes per pound, or 50 minutes per pound if the joint is small. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for three hours before removing the lid and foil. Wrap the joint is some greaseproof paper and place a three pound weight on it and allow it press overnight. Slice it thinly and use it for sandwiches et cetera.


#228 Spiced Salt Beef. This may have been the best cured meat thus far; it was certainly the easiest. The spice-salt mixture comes across very obviously but does not take over. It keeps well in the fridge for a while if wrapped in clingfilm too. Try it in a sandwich with cucumber and horseradish sauce. Great stuff. 8.5/10.

#205 Potted Tongue

There are several recipes in English Food that involve tongue; a bit of the animal now much ignored by most, including me. It’s one of the few things I’ve never tried, so I thought I should make sure my first foray into tongue cookery a simple one. Potting is nice and easy as long as you have a food processor or blender, plus I always need sandwich fillings for work. It uses eight ounces of cooked tongue – this can be calf’s or ox tongue, pickled or fresh. The calf’s tongue that I got from Winter Tarn was exactly eight ounces in weight after it had been cooked and trimmed. However, if tongue is not your bag then you can use beef, salt beef, venison or any other game.

Chop the calf’s tongue and place in a blender or food processor – use a blender for a smooth finish, a food processor for a slightly coarse one – along with four or five ounces of clarified butter, some salt, pepper and mace (if you are potting a different meat, you could use a different spice or even a couple anchovy fillets). Blend until the right consistency and place in pots, making sure you pack them down well and leave flat surface. Pour more clarified butter over to form a seal.


#205 Potted Tongue. In Yorkshire, potted beef is still quite popular, but for me, the tongue did not work quite as well as I’d hoped. The tongue tasted okay when it had been cooked, but perhaps stronger tasting cured ox tongue would have been more appropriate. Oh well, never mind – you can’t win ‘em all. 4/10.

#202 Pressed Beef

A quickie this one.

I wanted to do a recipe from the cured meats section of the book as I haven’t done many of them and I didn’t want to start getting behind. This one appealed to me because it was similar to the salt beef recipe I had already done and I knew that the cold, pressed beef would keep me in sandwiches and snacks for the week, plus the cooking process would produce a nice stock which could be turned into a lovely soup. I also thought that you don’t really see salt beef these days in supermarkets etc, and then by total coincidence my workmates and I went to the very good café in the Whitworth Art Gallery (which makes up part of Manchester University’s campus) and what was on the menu? Salt beef sarnies! I may be some kind of soothsayer.

To make your own pressed beef you need a joint of silverside – go for somewhere between 2 and 3 ½ pounds in weight, I reckon. You can use either fresh or salted for this. If you want to do pressed salted beef, you can buy it from your butchers, but it is much better if you make your own. I did – follow the instructions on brining on this earlier post if you want to have a go. Next, you need to boil the beef joint – follow the instructions on this post here for how to do that (I love how the blog is becoming self-referential!) you can follow the same recipe if you’re using fresh beef too. Leave the beef to cool in the broth for a couple of hours before removing and wrapping well in cling-film or foil. It now needs to be pressed overnight; either use a tongue press or place it under some very heavy weights. I used an upturned loose-bottomed cake tin so I could precariously balance a cast-iron griddle pan, an earthenware jug and some tins of food on it with at least some attention to health and safety.


Next day, you can slice the beef as you need it. Make sandwiches using rye bread, pickled gherkins and horseradish sauce (I also added some mayonnaise). Alternatively serve with an avocado salad.

#202 Pressed Beef. This is absolutely delicious. So much more tasty and such better quality than any supermarket pre-sliced nonsense. I would really recommend trying the curing, cooking and pressing yourself, it’s doesn’t take much effort at all and the pay-off is great. The beef is firm and deliciously sweet and salty. The spices – particularly the mace – come through beautifully and compliment the beef so well without drowning out its flavour. 8.5/10.

#161 Boiled Salt Beef and Dumplings

After the reasonable success of the ham I cured, I was keen to try something else so I went for salt beef. You can of course just buy your beef already salted, but if you want to have a go at your own, follow this link. My friend Evelyn had also made a request for it a while back, and although beef and dumplings are in no way summery I thought I’d do it anyway.

Put your beef – silverside or brisket – in a large pot and pour in enough water to just cover it. Bring it slowly to a simmer – taste the water after 10 minutes, if it’s salty change the water and start again. Add 2 unpeeled onions that have been studded with four cloves each, a small piece of nutmeg, two blades of mace and a generous seasoning of black pepper. Once the beef is simmering turn it down to the lowest heat possible so that the tiniest amount of bubbling occurs. Now cover and leave to simmer – the time depends upon the weight of the meat, to calculate it use the same method as on this entry, but a 3 pound piece of beef will take 3 ½ hours in total.

Toward the end of the cooking time, make your dumpling mixture: sift 4 ounces of plain flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt into a bowl and stir in 2 ounces of shredded suet (i.e. packet suet). Add just enough water to make a slightly stick dough and with floured hands make little balls of the dough (about ten, I’d say). Add a little grated horseradish in their centres. Alternatively use a cube of fried bread or mix chopped parsley into the dough.

When the beef is cooked, remove it and let it rest. Add the dumplings and let them poach for 10-15 minutes.

Serve it with gravy made using some of the cooking liquor and glazed carrots, says Lady Griggers. I did peas too and some horseradish sauce.

#161 Boiled Salt Beef and Dumplings – 8/10. Really delicious and definitely the best of the cured meat thus far. The beef was flaky and pink with the saltiness perfectly balanced with the aromatic herbs, spices and sugars from the brine cure and stock. I’ve never bought salt beef, so I’ve nothing to compare it to, but I shall be definitely doing this one again, but perhaps during wintertime! The dumplings were okay – they could have been fluffier, however, they were cooking for longer than 10 minutes as I lost track of time getting everything else ready. Oopsey!

Sorry there’s no photo – I took one, but for some reason it’s no longer on my camera’s memory! Double oopsey!!

#150 How to Cure Meat in Brine

Well here we are – 150 recipes in. I didn’t realise I was at this milestone until yesterday – unfortunately it’s not some magnificent feast, in fact it’s really a recipe as such, and I can’t really give it a rating (at least not yet).

Jane Grigson has quite a few recipes that require salting and brining, so I thought I’d better start to get to grips with this completely ignored section of the book, by making roast ham from start to finish as the best way for me to get started, though I’ll discuss that in a separate post – this one is just concerned with brining generally.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading on the subject of brining and it seems a bit of a lost art – there’s not much information about the history of it or how to do your own curing by the method. Obviously it’s gone out of favour to some degree because it is a method of preservation first and foremost, and now with frozen and refrigerated meats on tap these days we don’t have to do such things. However, brining also lends good flavour – we all like good ham, gammon or salt beef – so you would think it popular (seeing as it’s easy too). The thing is that it is time-consuming, and we can all just pick some up ready brined or ready roasted meat, but one thing I read was that for many wet-cured meats, the wet-cure part of the process is missed out! These days they are cured with nitrating bacteria – nitrates help preserve things – resulting a lack of flavour. I’m certainly not insinuating that this method is ubiquitous, but I reckon most supermarkets (and many butchers) use it.

Brine contains three magic ingredients that help preserve meat: salt, sugar and saltpetre. The first two do so because they are in huge quantities in the brine, and can affect the normal osmotic pressures of cells – both animal and microbe. Salts and sugar enter the cells, and water rushes out in an attempt to equal the concentrations inside and outside of the cells. This results in the death of the microbes and the preservation of the meat. Saltpetre (or potassium nitrate) is antibacterial and also gives the meat a pleasing pink colour (it is what makes corned beef so pink, for example). Aside from these three ingredients there are several herbs and spices that improve the flavour of the meat.

FYI: In days of yore, saltpetre was produced by pouring stale urine to huge haystacks where it would drain and crystallise. Yum!!

To make the brine, start off by cleaning a tub or bucket with a close-fitting lid and a plate that will comfortably fit inside with soda crystals. I used a six litre Tupperware tub with a handle. Do not use a metal tub as it may react with the salt or saltpetre. Allow them to drip dry. Whilst you’re waiting for that, make the brine: To a large stockpot or similar add 5 pints of water, 12 ounces each of sea salt and brown sugar and an ounce of saltpetre. This is the basic mixture, but now you need some aromatics (all of which are optional): 1 level teaspoon of juniper berries, a small piece of grated nutmeg, a bay leaf, 3 sprigs of thyme, a level teaspoon of black peppercorns and 4 cloves, Grigson says, but anything you like in that goes with the meat you are brining. Bring to a rapid boil and skim off any scum should there be any. Allow to cool in the pot. Once cool, strain it into your cleaned tub. Place in the joint of meat and keep it submerged in the brine with the plate you washed earlier. Place in a cool cupboard or pantry – though don’t allow it to go below 4°C. The length of time it sits there now depends upon the type of meat and the reason you are brining it (see your recipe, or below, for guidelines). When it is done remove with some clean tongs.

The brine won’t last indefinitely – it may grow mould on it’s surface, which some people say just to skim off. The reason is; the amount of salt depletes every time you use it. For a corrective dose, boil 1 ¾ pints of water with 7 ounces each of salt and sugar and a heaped dessertspoon of juniper berries. Let it cool and add it to the skimmed brine. You could of course just make more from scratch.

Pork leg joint magically being tranfomed into ham

Brining times:
To convert shoulder or leg of pork into ham, or for pork loin: 3 to 10 days
Pig trotters and halved heads: 24 hours
Small tongues (e.g. pig): 36-48 hours
Large tongues (e.g. ox): 5 days
Duck (minus giblets): 36-48 hours
Beef silverside or brisket: 7-10 days
Lamb or mutton shoulder, leg and loin: 7-10 days.

The meat needs to be cooked by boiling – check the cooking water is not too salty after about 5 minutes cooking. If it is change the water and start again. If it’s okay, then add your stock vegetables or whatever the recipe requires.

However, if you are making a roast joint for Sunday lunch, try popping the joint in brine overnight to season it.

So there you have it – hopefully all works out and it doesn’t taste completely foul. My fingers are crossed that it ends up being worth the effort.

A New Venture?

Well, well, well, it HAS been a while hasn’t it!? I cannot apologise enough readers, but I have had what can only be described as ‘personal problems’ of late and therefore not been blogging, or indeed cooking. Neil Cooks Grigson is not the place to talk about them however, sufficed to stay I shall be doing many more meals for one…

Anyway, in order to do some of the more interesting and challenging dishes in the book, I have decided on a new venture: The Grigson Kitchen. The idea being I make a nice two or three course meal for a few friends at least once a month and we all go Dutch on the bill. What do we think readers? A good idea? I’m going to start with Lee, Evelyn and her chap Ed. Evelyn is, however, extremely picky about her food, but had kindly picked out several recipes she likes the sound of. I think I am going to start off by doing some salt beef from scratch – I managed to find a seller of saltpetre on ebay which is probably cut with rat poison or something, but we’ll see. It does, however, take a month to pickle/brine/cure/whatever the right adjective is, so I need to do something else in the mean time.

One of the meals, I think, should be offal-based. So if you are in Manchester and fancy a meal that is slightly bizarre drop me a message; I’m hardly going to roast marrow bones for myself now am I?