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Recipes Section

Corned beef - A versatile cut

No-one can say when corned beef began to appear on the menu but we do know it was available in Medieval times in Europe. It was the mainstay for the New World colonies, the slaves and sailors sailing into uncharted waters of the unexplored world. Once it was the scorned as the meat for the poor but today it is luxury in many homes. Corned beef is often ruined, boiled tasteless because few people know how

In Medieval Europe, the cold winters and snows meant there was no grazing for farm animals. Grass was stored as hay or silage in summer for the few animals that were kept over winter to restart the next season's herds. Before refrigeration, the only ways to preserve meat for the long lean winters were drying thin strips, smoking or salting. Food during winter could be scarce and often in a state of decay before Spring returned.

A typical farmhouse in the middle ages:
(1) Accommodation for farm animals during winter.
(2)Living area - a single room
(3) Kitchen - a separate room separate from the main house because of the fire risk.

Spices were a valuable way of disguising the taste and rancid smell of "off" meat. Salt either mined or extracted by evaporating sea water, was so valuable in Roman times, that soldiers were actually paid in salt, hence the term for monthly wages, "salary" - from the Latin "salare" or salt. For an army on the move, salt was more useful for trade than gold. A lowly farmer had no use for gold but salt meant he could preserve meat for the cold bitter winter. The large salt crystals or "corns" were ground into powder and sprinklied between layers of meat in a tub or barrel. Because the bacteria that decompose meat require a wet environment, the salt drew the moisture out of the meat, slowing down bacterial decomoposition. Soon the meat was immersed in a slimy brine as the moisture from the meat dissolved the salt. The meat was now "corned", a term we still use today for meat treated with brine, like corned beef.

Herds had to be reduced long before winter to allow the grazing to grow tall enough to seed and create hay - grass that could be stored over winter to feed the animals that would start next year's herd. This created a problem; how to store the meat until the winter snows would preserve it?

Meat decomposes due to bacterial action. The bacteria require a moist environment to thrive. The salt drew the water out of the meat. Before long the dry salt became a slimy liquid that covered the meat as it settled into the tub and slowed down bacterial action. In this way the meat was preserved for the cold winter months.Unfortunately this slowed bacterial growth but did not stop it. Also the salt imparted a strange greyish green tinge to the joints. Thus it was termed "green" to denote it was well and truely corned and cured. The best cuts were then removed from the corning vats and rubbed with salt to dry off any moisture. They were then hung high over the winter fire pit in the smoke and became exposed to the creastoes from the smoke, to become filches of bacon and legs of ham. Creasote is a vatural disfectant and it coated the outer layer of the meat.

Corned beef, mustard sauce and vegetables

Here's a recipe from a 14th Century Herbal for cooking corned beef. 600 years later, I reckon it still makes the best corned beef I have ever eaten.


  • Piece of corned beef

  • 1 dessert spoon of molassis (Golden Syrup will do).

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar

  • 6 to 10 fennel seeds

  • Enough water to almost cover the meat

A nice piece of corned silverside

Corned Silverside ready to eat.


  1. Use a large pot. Grind up fennel seeds and add to vinegar and corned beef.

  2. Top up with hot water to almost cover the meat (easier to dissolve the golden syrup off the spoon and takes less time to bring to the boil).

  3. Bring to the boil and turn back the heat, so it's simmering and leave for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the block of meat.

  4. Turn off the heat and leave meat to stand in the liquid over night. If you want some now, dut it off the meat and return the meat to the liquid to cool.

  5. Use a cup or two of the liquid to make mustard sauce.

  6. When the meat is cold, remove it, wrap in aluminium foil and keep in the fridge. It will keep for 5 days.

Coconut Palms

Indonesia's Lethal Food
Did you know that at least 1000 people die in Indonesia every year from falling coconuts? Worldwide, they are more lethal than sharks. A coconut can weigh 5kg and a coconut palm can be up to 30 metres tall.

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Bar - Gold bar with Granny Smith Apple

Choosing the best cut

It doesn't matter how well you cook a piece of meat, if it is cut wrong, it will be tough. The secret is to understand the grain of the meat and always cut across the grain. This applies to all cuts.

A piece of raw corned silverside showing the grain

A peice of raw corned silverside with arrows showing the grain.
Cutting side A will be tender.
Cutting side B will be tough.

Traditional Mustard Sauce

Traditionally corned beef is served with mustard sauce - thats not the nappy-ooze you buy in a squeeze bottle at the supermarket. This sauce has taste!

This makes enough to serve 4.

  • Take a cup of the liquor from the corned beef once it has cooked. Place this in a small pot.

  • Add a teaspoon of mustard powder mixed to a paste in some water or Hot English Mustard paste. Whisk it until it has dissolved.

  • Bring to the boil and taste. Add salt to taste. The sauce should not be too spicy hot just piquant and tangy.

  • Mix two very heaped teaspoons of cornflour in some cold water, to a thin past and add to the boiling sauce, stirring until it thickens.

  • Pour over your slices of corned beef and serve. A sprig of parsly makes a strikingly attractive garnish for the absolute gourmet touch.

If you wznt to freeze cooked coened beef, freeze it in the mustard sauce. It prevents it drying out. I freeze mine in small single serve plastic containers. 2 minutes in the microwave and I have a gourmet serving ready to eat.

Bar - Gold bar with Granny Smith Apple

Basket of Fresh herbs

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