Classic Corned Beef - Back to Basics 28
Corned beef, or silverside. MMMMMM! One of my most favourite winter meals. Well, spring is most definitely upon us here in the Adelaide Hills, as the weather warms, our tastes change, and that is the way it should be. I have two more gorgeous winter warmers for you and then we shall begin to explore the lighter side of warm weather cooking.
Let me say right up front, I love this meal, some people don’t, Mr T was away recently and the place he was staying at served this up for dinner and he said some of the young lads were very scathing, calling it a ‘grandpa meal’, well, all I can say is, lucky grandpa! And my two young cookie house pups love it too, so it is not just for the elderly.
One of the things I love most about this is I pop it on my wood burning stove and just leave it ticking over all day, by the time my day is done, my meat and the foundation for my sauce is done and all I need to do is mash some spuds and steam whatever veg I am going to put with it and it is done.
1 corned beef or silverside from the butcher or supermarket
two sticks celery
one large brown onion
small handful of fresh herbs, I used two bay leaves, rosemary and marjoram
10 whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon vinegar
tapioca starch or cornflour
1 tablespoon baby capers, or big capers chopped
Whatever side dish you are going to have
Okay, firstly, don’t be alarmed by the size of this lump of meat, it will be the easiest cut you have ever cooked. Ready? So you buy it like this -
When you get it out of its packet it will be all slimy and gross, don’t freak out, that is the juice it is ‘corning’ (sort of pickling) in. Pop it into a big bowl and cover it with water, let it sit for a couple of minutes, drain the water away, cover it again, let it sit for five minutes, this will leach a bit of the salt out of it, drain and Stuart’s your Uncle, you are ready to go.
Choose your pot carefully, you need a pot big enough for the meat, carrot, celery and onion, deep enough to cover the lot with water, but not so big that everything is rattling around. One of the things we want to do with this dish is keep it simmering for quite a few hours, but we will keep topping up the water, we don’t want it rattling like a pea in a bucket though or our sauce, which the pot is simmering at the same time, will be weak and tasteless. Here, let me show you, like this-
Toss in your meat, veg, herbs, vinegar and peppercorns, cover with water, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for at least three hours, just check on it from time to time, if it does this -
Flip the meat over, top up with water and keep on cooking. I have simmered this for three hours, on wood cutting day I have simmered it for seven hours, it makes little difference, the sheer size of the meat means it will hold its shape, and because it is cooking in its own sauce you are not going to lose any flavour.
Right, so now it is ready. Lift the meat out and pop it on a plate, cover with foil and then with a tea towel to keep it warm and let it rest and think about life and tenderness for a few minutes while you make the sauce. Strain your cooking juice into a bowl, discard the spent veg, the chickens will love them! Return the juice to the pot, turn up the heat and boil the living daylights out of it for five minutes, have a taste, is it tasty and salty and meaty and delicious? If not, keep boiling for a few more minutes, what you are doing here is concentrating the flavour, reducing the sauce by evaporating some of the water.
When it is to your liking loosen up two tablespoons of tapioca starch or cornflour in a little water and stir it into your bubbling juice, if it becomes too thick, thin it down with a little water, not thick enough, use a little more starch, it is hard for me to give you an exact amount to use here as each of us will have a slightly different amount of juice. Stir in the chopped chives and capers and set aside.
Dish up the side dishes, slice your meat into thick, juicy slices, pour over your sauce and there you go. Yes, a peasant’s meal, but sometimes the peasants got it very right.