Most of us can honestly say that we don’t like hospital stays and I’m certainly no exception. Except that I must admit to liking one aspect of hospital food (I know, stop with the cringe already!).
You see, growing up in a Hungarian-Australian household, there were of course foods that weren’t on Mum’s repertoire, so I simply didn’t experience them until later in life. For instance, BBQ takeaway chook (more on that delight in a future blog); and greasy spoon potato scallops (I still remember the first time one of my older brothers brought some home, a big bundle of them wrapped in newspaper and smelling deliciously of fried batter, potato, crisp salt and vinegar). Another was good, old fashioned Corned Beef, which I didn’t experience until I was in my early twenties, even though the recipe is on page 75 of my well-thumbed 1975 “metric” edition of The Commonsense Cookery Book (A&R). Miss Ovens, our home economics teacher (true), must have skipped that page, covering Meat Loaf (page 69) and Shepherd’s Pie (page 71) instead.
From memory, my first ever plate of Corned Beef arrived after I’d endured nil by mouth and the caesarean birth of baby number one. So there was something hugely comforting by the mushy-mash, overcooked carrots and broccoli, and slabs of deliciously soft beef enveloped in a smooth, slightly bland white sauce. This was to be followed by green jelly and custard, another foreign treat for my tastebuds, but perfect for the convalescent me.
A few years have passed and Corned Beef features as a favourite on the winter menu at our place. It's a great welcome home meal for the man who has been working in warmer climes for a week or more. I use only the best quality, low sodium corned beef and fresh bay leaves, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, orange rind and cloves in my recipe. I don’t, however, use a knuckle of veal … garnished with hard-boiled eggs and lettuce or parsley, per The Coronation Cookery Book (CWA, December 1941).
CORNED BEEF MY WAY
1.5-2kg piece of corned beef, salt reduced
1 tablespoon Malt vinegar
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 large brown onion, whole
2 cloves garlic, whole
1 stick celery, whole
2 large carrots, peeled, whole
2 freshly picked bay leaves
strip of fresh orange rind
Wash the beef to remove the brine. Place it into a large pot and cover it with warm water and add the Malt vinegar. Bring gently to the boil and skim away any of the foamy scum that may form. Add the sugar, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, peppercorns, bay leaves, orange rind and cloves; then pop the lid on and allow to simmer for an hour or more. The carrots, onion and celery add flavour to the stock, the carrot can also be served sliced as a side. Most recipes will tell you to cook the meat for an hour, however a rather well known butcher once told me that the beef should be cooked until a metal skewer is easily inserted and easily pulled out (meaning that this is when the meat is really tender). Slice and serve with mashed potatoes, plenty of greens and the white sauce or mustard of your choice. If serving the beef cold, allow it to cool down in the cooking stock. Serves 6-8 (or 4-6 for hungry diners).
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.