Saturday, August 25, 2007

Irish Spiced Beef

A couple of months ago my boss ( see flapper pie, cheesecake cookies, and let's not forget the birthday cake incident) asked me to do him a favor. Sure, I said. He whipped out some photocopied pages from cookbooks and a handwritten letter and asked me if I would make him an Irish Spiced Beef.
"It's roast beef that you rub with sugar and spices and then boil. It's delicious!"
He'd had it when he was in his 20's, he told me, when he was dating a girl whose Grandmother would make it on a monthly basis. When he and the girl broke up, no more spiced beef. Another girlfriend had found him some recipes for spiced beef a few years ago and while cleaning up some old boxes at his house he came across them.
"I remember how wonderful the spiced beef was. Please, will you make it for me? I'll pay for all the ingredients. And share the roast with you too."
We sat down and looked at all the recipes and notes he had. He pointed out things he thought I should do from certain recipes, and things he didn't think I should follow in others. We talked about ingredients - what he remembered was in it and pointed out spices he didn't want used. I promised to take everything home and see what I could cobble together.

And I forgot all about it. But then when I was cleaning some papers off my desk at home, I found all his notes and decided to give it a try. Why not? I wouldn't be out of pocket for anything, and it would be fun to blog about. Which is the yardstick for my life. So I sat down with his papers and came up with a recipe for what I hoped would taste good in the end.

Day 1 - I went shopping and got all my ingredients. Since it wasn't my money I was spending I went to the butchers and got a beautiful 6 lb organic beef roast. That night after dinner the roast was untied and washed, then dried and placed in a large bowl. I mixed together all my rub ingredients - 1 POUND of salt; 1 oz sodium nitrate; 1/2 tsp each of ground cloves, ground allspice, and whole peppercorns; 1/4 tsp each of ground ginger and ground mace; 3 dried bay leaves, crumbled; 1/4 cup diced onions; and 1 1/2 cups brown sugar - and rubbed the mixture all over the beef. The house smelled like Christmas.

The bowl was covered very very well with plastic wrap and put in the fridge, where it would live for the next 15 days.

Day 2 - I am going to turn and rub the roast every day. I pull it out of the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and am horrified by what I see. The roast is visibly smaller and is surrounded by.....juices.

I knew that the salt would be pulling out the liquid from the meat, but I didn't expect quite so much. Also, the texture of the roast has changed in just one day; it's hard. Even Scott is a little grossed out by it. We don't know what to do; do we leave the liquid in there, or should we drain it off? I carefully read all the recipes and notes again. None of them say anything about liquid. We quickly rub and turn the roast and put it back in the fridge. My boss has gone on a holiday and I don't really think I want to call him to ask his opinion about it. What am I going to do? I think about it as I wash my hands for 20 minutes.

Day 3 - I Google "Irish Spiced Beef" and am put at ease right away. The first 3 results all mention liquid and say to not discard it. I still think it's pretty gross though. We take the bowl out of the fridge, turn the beef, and scoop up the spices from the bottom of the bowl to rub all over the meat.

And so it goes.

Day 15 - time to finish up! I take the beef out of the fridge.

Mmmm. So.....appetizing? The beef is washed and dried. For fun we measure how much liquid has ... come out ... of the beef.

Just under 4 cups. (!!!)
The beef is very poorly tied by me, then placed in a large pot. An onion cut in half, 2 carrots, and a celery stick are added. Pour in water to cover, and bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer very gently, covered, for 2 1/2 hours.

Remove the beef, wrap well in aluminum foil and let sit at room temperature until cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Unwrap and thinly slice the meat. Traditionally Irish Spiced Beef is served cold.
This was very salty. I mean, how could it not be, with a pound of salt! But still, it was very borderline edible for me. Scott liked it, and my boss said that it was very similar to what he remembered, which was good. The roast was very tender too, but I wouldn't make this again. Too much meat, too much time, too much salt. It was interesting to try though, and I am glad I did, if only to share it here with you.

Have you ever had Spiced Beef? Is it/was it a tradition in your family?


Deborah said...

I've never had this before, but I'm guessing that I would be in the same boat as you - probably too salty for me. What an experiment, though! I've never made anything that has ever taken me over a day or two!

Mike said...

Ever get the feeling your boss is out to get you? Asking the reluctant meat-eater to fondle a salty roast for fifteen days is just plain mean! I, on the other hand, have only dreamed of such a task and may have to try it.

TNelson said...

Sounds kind of like saurbraten which is rosted not boiled but has similar spices. Authentic saurbraten also marinates but for only about 5-7 days I think and it is sooooooooo delicious!

Lau said...

Wow. That's all I can say. I usually love salt and beef but this looks nuts! Never heard of Irish spiced beef and don't think I'll ever need to think about it again now that you've tackled it. :-)

Baking Soda said...

My! It lived for 15 days in your fridge and it didn't walk out by itself? Must have been the salt.
Applaud you for trying and the beef looks amazingly yum!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'd have been excited to try this with somebody else paying the bill too! I love trying new things but it's so easy to skip something like this. Having somebody ask you to do it would be fun.

Peabody said...

Nope, never had it. But I am marking this for when my dad comes...espcially because the man loves his beef and always extra salts things.

Lis said...

Holy cow.. he should have given you a bonus in your paycheck for taking this on!

I don't think the salt would bother me as much as the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and mace. Those are spices that I do not like with beef so I probably wouldn't have even tried it.

Did he thank you properly, I hope? Did he pay you back, I hope more? heeehehee


Deborah Dowd said...

This sounds interesting. I wonder if it needs to be served in very thin slices much like country-style ham. Thanks for sharing even if it did not turn out like you hoped. It is helpful to hear both the good and bad of food experiments!

The Cookbook Junkie said...

I've never even heard of this. I did a quick Google and the recipe I found used only 1/2 cup of salt.

Valli said...

So much for experiments in the name of cuisine. Could this be a recipe for corned beef??Or is that different? I think it is prepared in the same way, but maybe the spices are different?Corned beef sandwiches with lots of sauerkraut and Swiss cheese are good!!!

Shaun said...

Sara - I love the tenderness of meat that has sat in a brine. You are really sweet to have done this for your boss. Even if you didn't like it so well, at least you know what the process involves. I think I might have added less salt and more of each of the spices - I think a house should smell like Christmas year-round.

The Cooking Ninja said...

What a great opportunity to try out new recipe on your boss' account. :) Glad your boss likes it :)

Alisha said...

I have never heard of this but from the look of it I don't think I'd like it. Good for you for taking it on, though. At least you can say you've done it! :-)

Anonymous said...

this recipe is a traditional Irish dish- (actualy it is localised to Cork in the South of Ireland) its a christmas tradition, the good thing over here is that you can buy the beef preprepared.(only at christmas time) all you have to do is boil it for a few hours.don't know how good it is for the coronary arteries though

Anonymous said...

REAL CORK SPICED BEEF IS DELICIOUS! You should've asked a cork granny how to make it.

justine said...

I used to cook this every year when I lived in Ireland, having now moved to the UK I eventually found a butcher who now spices the beef for me and gives it to me vaccum packed - sooo much easier!
Then what I do is make little holes in the plastic and boil it in cider for the specified time. take it out, let it cool, job done!
Gorgeous (*_*)