Tag Archives: evelyn rose

Diana Henry’s salt beef

Salt beef is a perfect meat for taking to a feast because it can be be prepared in advance and travels well.

It is ideal for a stress-free Christmas – no sweating over a hot stove all day.

Tender and aromatic, it can be served hot or cold with vegetables or salads. Or, traditionally, as a sandwich with mustard and pickles.

It is called salt beef because it is preserved (pickled) in salt a week before cooking. The brine is washed off so the meat is not salty. The joint is pressed, refrigerated, packs down neatly and should ideally travel in a cool box.

Carving the (pink-coloured) salt beef

Carving the salt beef

An animal lost its life to feed us so the least I can do is make sure it was well-looked after while it was alive – so the meat had to be organic.

I bought tied and rolled organic brisket from Sheepdrove Organic Farm where the animals graze on herb-rich pastures, live in family herds and express their natural behaviour.


I bought two briskets totalling 4 kilos (9lbs) in weight, and cut one in half so it would fit in my pans. This fed ten people for three meals.

I have never preserved meat before and, I won’t lie, it was nerve-wracking: would the meat go mouldy and thus ruin Christmas festivities? In the end I trusted my sense of smell to assure me nothing was amiss.

Reader, I nailed it. My 91-year-old mum said it reminded her of salt beef from her childhood, and my sister praised its subtle flavours.

Salt beef is not exclusively Jewish but “it is the Jewish community that has kept up the tradition,” says cookery writer, Xanthe Clay.

There are two main stages to salt beef: preserving in brine, then simmering in fresh water and vegetables.

The challenges to preserving:

  • Time: the raw meat is soaked for seven days in a salty solution
  • Maths: working out the right salt/sugar solution for the weight of the meat
  • Receptacles: they have to be non-metallic and deep enough to take the joint covered with water
  • Ingenuity: You have to keep the joint under water. I used bottles of oil etc (see pic below) to weigh down the meat.
Meat in brine weighed down by bottles lying sideways

Preserving the meat in brine

Salt is an ancient way of preserving food. (I have been using it to make gut-friendly sauerkraut and plum kimchi.)

The salty water (in which the food is soaked) is called brine. Salt beef traditionally uses saltpetre, too, to preserves the meat’s red/pinkness (otherwise it would be grey) and also to kill the bacteria that causes botulism.

Luckily, my sis’s boyfriend, Paul of 80s Rock Pics, had some saltpetre – nowadays hard to find – but available online.

There are health issues with nitrates but as I hardly eat bacon and other cured meat, I figure a little bit of what you fancy does you good.

Once the meat is preserved for seven days, the salty brine is washed off the meat.

The meat is then simmered in fresh water, carrots and onions for several hours. This produces a flavoursome broth. Keep the broth to heat-up the meat (if you want to serve it hot), use it as a stock or serve as a soup – it has the most amazing taste.

Meat in colanders under kitchen tap

Washing off the salt/sugar brine solution

Brisket in broth

Brisket simmering in fresh water and vegetables







After being drained, press the meat again (we used large plates with smaller bowls on top weighed down with heavy books to provide an air-tight press).

Wrap the meat well, and refrigerate. I used parchment lined-foil from Lakeland and secured it with gaffer tape.

My oracles were Evelyn Rose’s The Complete International Jewish Cookbook, that my mother gave me decades ago. Reliable and practical, it is much-used and loved.

My other main text was a recipe from Diana Henry, another favourite cookery writer.

I now hand you over to Diana Henry for her salt beef recipe.

Here is the ratio of salt/sugar to meat for the brine solution (in the preserving stage) to save you any brain-numbing calculations.

Dear reader, please also note a comment posted 3 March 2018 below with ensuing discussion:  A 2.5 kg joint of brisket only needs about 6g of saltpetre, and not the unnecessarily high 55g quoted. If in doubt use about 6g of saltpetre to 2.5kg of beef.

Ratios for brine

For each kilo/lb of beef

110g (1¾oz) of sugar

140g (2 1/4 oz) of salt

22g (1/3 oz) of saltpetre (optional).

Diana Henry’s salt beef

For the brine
275g (9¾oz) soft light-brown sugar
350g (12oz) coarse sea salt
2 tsp black peppercorns
½ tbsp juniper berries
4 cloves
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
55g (2oz) saltpetre (optional).

For the beef
2.5kg (5lb 8oz) piece of beef brisket
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 leek, cut into large chunks
1 bouquet garni
½ head of garlic

Put all the ingredients for the brine into a very large saucepan, pour in 2.5 litres (4½ pints) of water and gradually bring to the boil, stirring to help the sugar and salt dissolve. Once it comes to the boil, let it bubble away for two minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely.

Pierce the meat all over with a skewer. Put it in a large, sterilised plastic box or bucket (something non-reactive) and cover the meat with the brine; it must be totally immersed. The best thing I’ve found for weighing it down is two massive bottles of vodka. Put them in on top of the meat and it will stay below the level of the brine. Leave in a very cool place (a cellar or a room that is always freezing cold – most houses have one). Leave it for seven days.

Take the beef out of the brine and rinse it. Roll and tie the meat and put it in a pan with the vegetables, bouquet garni and garlic, adding enough cold water to cover. Bring the water to simmering point, then leave to poach gently – I mean gently – for two and a half to three hours. Cook until the meat is completely tender (check with a skewer).

Season’s greetings and a happy shiny new 2015!

Brisket being pressed

Cooked brisket being pressed by weighty tomes

Evelyn Rose’s Luscious Lemon Cake

Luscious lemon cake

We had a bit of a crisis and it was all-hands-on-deck, as friends and family came on board to support my youngest daughter, Maude.

Yael and Maude made this cake as part of Maude’s rehab.

I provided the recipe from my 30-year-old copy of The Complete International Jewish Cookbook by the late and wonderful Evelyn Rose.

It’s a great cake to make. You mix everything together in one bowl and once baked, you prick holes in it then pour-in a homemade lemon syrup for tangy-taste heaven.

I used to bake this cake a lot for our West Country Childbirth Group cake stall in the 1980s until I overdosed, vowing I would never bake another fundraising cake again.

We were aiming to improve maternity services. In 1982 we invited the water-birth obstetrician, Michel Odent, to give a talk and over 1,000 turned up. This demonstrated parents’ wishes for a gentle birth and led, eventually, to the UK’s first birthing room in the Royal United Hospital, Bath.

So maybe all that cake baking was worth it.

Put in one bowl: 100g softened butter + 150g caster sugar + 150g self-raising flour + 4 Tbs milk + grated rind of one lemon + two large organic eggs.

I substituted the self-raising flour for plain and used an extra egg instead, on one occasion  – it worked well.

Line the bottom of an oiled loaf tin or 15cm square tin with oiled/greased greasproof paper. Evelyn Rose says this extra insulation from the greaseproof paper is important. So heed the cooking maven (Yiddish for expert).

Put the oven on Gas 4/350F/180C to heat up.

Beat all the ingredients in the bowl with a wooden spoon or electric beater, then turn the smooth mixture into the well-oiled baking tin.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Watch the animated movie, Flushed Away, while waiting, as Yael and Maude did.

Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool, still in its tin.

Now make the lemony syrup. Heat the 75g icing sugar with the juice of 2 large lemons (about 4 Tbs) until it gets all-syrupy.

Prick the cake’s surface with a fork then gently pour the syrup over it.

Once the cake is cold, turn out and dust with caster sugar. Share with friends.

Thank you, Yaelski.

Fay’s pavlova and the Real food festival

Fay\'s pavlova

Fay’s pavlova is legendary. How does she get the meringue so light on the inside yet crispy on the outside?

Piled high with strawberries (out-of-season but hey, only g-d is perfect), imbedded in whipped organic double cream, the delectable concoction is hard to resist.

Fay and I both rely on the late Evelyn Rose’s recipe for a perfect pavlova. It’s worth buying her book just for that, although (I promise), you will find a ton of other indispensable recipes there too.

Whip four egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold in double the amounts of caster sugar (that makes eight ounces. Sorry, I am so unmetric when it comes to cooking although I am trying, I really am). Fay uses half of white caster sugar and the other half golden caster sugar.

The secret Evelyn Rose ingredient is one teaspoon of vinegar (plus one teaspoon of vanilla). The vinegar seems to ensure that crispy outside and unsticky inside although I am not sure how it works scientifically.

Then spread the mixture on a greased baking sheet and bake in a low oven for two hours.

Being such a purist, my mum (for that is who Fay is) is no freezer-cook but she does (to my surprise) freeze egg whites.

I want to take my mum to the Real food festival on Thursday 24 April as she so appreciates fine raw ingredients.

“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” she says. You have to buy the best (be it organic, free-range, fresh, seasonal, local and/or artisan) to make a good meal, she says.

If the ingredients are good, no need for complicated recipes (as her mother said before her).

Ingredients, ingredients, ingredients. The only three words you need to know when it comes to cooking.