Piling on to the tube for a trek across London to the East End, pushing through the crowds on Petticoat Lane. Finally ending up in Whitechapel High street and the trailing queue for Blooms, was a treat I discovered in my early teens.
Blooms was the home of Jewish food. More chopped liver and gefilte fish than falafel and hummus. An Ashkenazi restaurant as famous for it’s hot salt beef sandwiches as it’s surly waiting staff. Sadly this bastion of the community, both Jewish and gentile, passed from retro to rundown and closed in 1996 after forty three years. I still remember sinking my teeth into soft rye bread stuffed with warm salt beef, crisp sweet pickles and oozing with sharp mustard. At the time this was a treat unavailable elsewhere in London and well worth the hike.
I always vowed I’d learn how to cure the brisket, It takes ten days to cure but it’s fairly straightforward, and such a treat to have the wonderful aromatic beef at home. It’s best served warm and kept in the liquor that it’s cooked in, to stop it drying out, serve it with mustard and pickles, of course. Perfect!
- 2kg Deboned beef brisket
- 350g Sea salt
- 300g Soft light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Juniper berries (lightly crushed)
- 4 Fresh bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons Black pepper corns
- 1 tablespoon Corriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons Allspice berries
- 50g Saltpetre (Optional (preserves the colour of the beef))
- 3l Cold water
- 1 large carrot (chopped in 4)
- 1 Onion (quartered)
- 1 Celery stick cut in 4
- Put all the ingredients except the beef, vegetables and 2 of the bay leaves into a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes ensuring that the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
- Pierce the beef all over with a skewer. Place the liquid and the beef into a plastic box, large sealable plastic bag or preserving pan. Ensure that the beef is totally immersed in the liquid and weigh down with a plate with tins on top if necessary. Leave in the fridge or a cold place for 10 days turning daily if you use a plastic bag.
- After 10 days remove from the liquid and rinse under the cold tap. Roll up and tie with string (not essential, it just makes carving easier). Place in a large pan of water with the vegetable and the remaining 2 bay leaves. Ensure the meat is covered in water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2½ hours until very tender. Serve in thick slices, warm from the liquid or leave to cool in the liquid and serve at room temperature.
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