Monday, 5 August 2013

Salt beef bagels

One of the things I miss most about my time in the big smoke now I am a country gal is the ability to chow down on an amazing salt beef bagel whenever my stomach and heart desires it. A quick scoot down Brick lane and I would be rewarded with the finest of handheld snacks known to man, the salt beef bagel. I am particularly fond of food one can consume with the hands while standing up. Anyone who knows me will know I’m a bit of a spiller….standing vertically while eating greatly increases the chance that the food wont fall on me, but instead on the floor. This is a definite bonus.

Not one to let location get in the way of what I want I decided to make my own salt beef. The only problem, it was going to take a while. Once I’d made up my mind and written a recipe the beast was going to need a sweet and salty bath for at least a week. This was annoying for me, and each day when I opened my fridge and saw the bathing brisket I got a little more impatient. It felt like the longest food foreplay ever.

Day 1 I was mildly irritated, by day 3 the beef appeared in my dream and by day 6 I’d had to stop going to the fridge all together for fear of cutting of a raw chunk and eating it straight from the brine. This was a bad week, it felt like waiting for Christmas as a small child, where hours became days and you felt as if the fat, red suited chap was never going to appear.

Alas, day 7 had finally come…I had a fitful nights sleep that evening and had to force myself not to get out of bed at 5am. Then the food fear set it, had I built this up way too much in my head? Would it just be average? I didn’t think I could handle the disappointment however I soldiered on with an increasingly rumbling stomach. I needed to make the bagels too, but the beef was so big it was going to need a good few hours cooking so I decided to get those done in the waiting time. It would be a good distraction.

This recipe is definitely worth a go, even if you don’t like bagels (erm…what’s wrong with you?!) Roast it up and eat it as you would a joint of beef. It’s super tender and tasty from the weeklong soaking and it’s also a great value cut of meat. I paid about £15.00 for a 2kg piece, it was literally a beast, a beast I tell you!!!! It will easily go round the whole family with lots of lovely leftovers for sandwiches!The Mother even loved hers, and she "doesn't like salt beef bagels" (as if that's a real thing)....

Salt beef

About a 2kg piece of beef brisket, you’ll probably need to ask for this, you won't get in the supermarket aisle. The nice butcher man at Morrison’s sorted me out with some from out the back, so maybe go there.
350g flakey sea salt, I used Maldon sea salt
250g dark soft brown sugar
a few bay leaves
1 tbsp yellow mustards seeds
1 tbsp juniper berries, crushed
1 tbsp black peppercorns
good few springs fresh thyme
1 dried red chilli
about 2 litres of water
a can of coke (full fat, try and get the one with Lucy written on it if you can)
50g saltpeter (you don’t actually have to use this, it gives it that lovely pink colour but you have to get it online in quite a large quantity and the postman might think you’ve just received a shipment of drugs, which is never good)
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 onion (skin on) cut into quarters
1 leek, sliced into chunks
a couple of mushrooms (if you have them anyway)
handful parsley or thyme or both
2 bay leaves
head garlic, halved through the middle

1 Add all the ingredients for the brine (apart from the beef) into a large saucepan (you need a big one, don’t do that thing where you think it will fit in the smaller one, as the bigger one takes longer to wash up, then end up pouring it into the bigger one anyway…I of course didn’t do this….) Heat gently stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved then bring up to the boil and turn of. Leave until cool. You need it cool or it will start to cook the beef.

2 Stab the beef all over with a skewer so all the nice briney goodness can get all the way through. Transfer to a non-reactive container (not metal) and pour over the brine. The beef annoyingly now will stay put for a few seconds then float up to the top. You don’t want this to happen so will need to weigh it down. I used a multipack of juice drink cartons, because that’s the first thing my eye saw but use whatever works. Cover. Chill for 7 days. Watch, pine, become obsessed or just carry on with your life like a normal person would.

3 You need a big pan to cook this now, so maybe borrow one, Nan’s always seem to have giant pans, or aunties. I am an auntie so by definition I own giant pans now. So anyway put all the veg and herbs in the pan, cover with cold water. Bring up to a simmer and gently (you just want small bubbles PLEASE do not boil the beef you have looked after so lovingly) cook for about 3 hours, the meat should shred easily when tested with two forks, if not give it another 30 mins and check again.

4 EAT IT, in a lightly toasted bagel with pickles and mustard (if you like) and be happy for the whole day!!!!