Homemade corned beef potato gratin? Homemade? Yes! Making your own corned beef is a lot easier than I imagined – not as easy as pulling your pork or stuffing your fish taco, but bear with me. If you’re a lazy arse, don’t worry, you can use tinned corned beef, but I wanted to see if I could make a very low syn version – and I succeeded. Of course! No theme for today’s blog post, so I’m just going to rattle off a few observations that don’t lend themselves to a full blog article.
Let’s begin with Naked Attraction on Channel 4. Ostensibly a dating show, it’s a crude little performance masquerading as a serious look at attraction. To put it succinctly, it’s an excuse for everyone to gawk at a few cocks for 60 minutes. Listen, it’s not like I’m averse to that, I love my daily intake of Vitamin D, but haway, on the telly? The only time I want to see an engorged prick when I turn the TV on is when Owen Smith hands in his resignation. Boom: biting political satire. The problem with this show is that there’s really no such thing as an attractive cock when it’s on the flop. If the guy isn’t packing heat, it ends up looking like one of those lugworm piles you see on the beach when the tide goes out. Like a walnut whip left in a slightly warm room. Similarly, if he’s a shower, it just looks like someone’s stuck a googly-eye on a length of intestine. A penis is a wonderful thing, regardless of whether it’s compact, coupe or stretch, and yes, it’s the motion not the meat, but please, erect only.
Damn, I actually should do a full article on the above. So many thoughts.
We had a trip out in the car yesterday to Seahouses, North Northumberland’s premier tat-shop hotspot. It was literally a trip in the car, because, after driving for what felt like eight hours behind some lovely old dear in a Fiat Euthanised doing about 6mph and throwing the brakes on every time the air over her chin-whiskers got a bit much. I reckon it would have been quicker for me to park up, jump into the North Sea and swim up the coast – I’d have done that but I didn’t want a human turd in my 99. By the time we had arrived in fair Seahouses, the car was actually running on the steam from my ears. When will people learn that it is just as dangerous to drive too bloody slow than it is to drive too fast? If I was PM, I’d make it legal to give these tiny, slow cars a gentle nudge into a layby or say, a combine harvester. I can’t imagine she was enjoying listening to Paul and I bewailing our way through We Don’t Need Another Hero that much.
You may not need another hero, but I bet you do need meat. We all do. We were approached by another company to try and shill their healthy seeds and flours and I said no, not my lot. They’re hungry. Here’s a wee deal:
Seahouses was a bust. When I was young it was the go-to place for my parents to take me and my sister – it had the dual advantage that they could furnish us with a few quid and we’d look after ourselves in the arcades for a couple of hours whilst they sat outside and smoked. Sometimes they smoked inside for a change of scenery. It’s a perfect example of a town that should be so much more. For a start, it’s in an absolutely beautiful part of the country – fantastic beaches, amazing castles (Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh, Chillingham – all very different experiences and all marvellous), great food and the majesty of the North Sea.
I remember great places to eat, chips on the pier, rock-pooling, playing that shitty bingo above the arcades where you slid a plastic door over the numbers as they were called and won a packet of J-Cloths for a full house. Now there’s a Co-op, a litany of awful trying-to-be-upmarket gift shops, an expensive fish-and-chips place and a sense of general ennui. I took the jackpot out of a Deal or no Deal fruitie on the seafront and I genuinely thought I was going to get stabbed on the way out. I’d have had less eyes on me if I’d stripped naked and given Paul a rim-job over the Grace Darling commemorative buoy.
There used to be a brilliant arcade full of sit-on-rides and proper funfair type games – that’s gone – replaced by soulless, identikit apartment blocks that no doubt don’t have enough room to nudge-nudge-nudge your lemon in. Yeah, some rich la-de-dah has a sea-view and somewhere to put those awful inspirational-shite-on-a-piece-of-driftwood wall-art that you can see fading in every gift-shop within flying distance from a seaside town, but where’s my chance to win an asbestos-stuffed Sanic the Hodgeheg from a fixed claw machine? Eh?
I should have learned my lesson from the last time we visited – this time with Paul’s severely autistic brother. He disliked the place so much he got himself worked up into a sulk and wouldn’t get out of the car for love nor money. He had the right idea. We should follow his sage advice – my favourite story ever involves him asking his mother to buy that tea-tree and mint Original Source shampoo because ‘it makes my head feel like it’s sucking on a giant mint Polo’. I love that, he’s brilliant.
I’m perhaps doing the place a disservice for the sake of a tongue-in-cheek blog entry. It’s still worth a visit. Remember, I have rose-tinted (well, more nicotine-stained) glasses from childhood visits with school and family. As a returning adult, I see all that has disappeared and wince at what has replaced it. Perhaps it was the fact we arrived at 3pm on a Saturday (to be fair, we’d set off at 5pm on Tuesday but thanks to that auld cow in the Fiat…) but it was all very meh.
One glimmer of hope, though: ONE of the tat-shops remains. I think it’s called Farne Gift Shop but don’t rely on that, I saw the name through a red-mist of pure rage as I drove in. It hasn’t changed a jot – it was a relief to find that the giant pencil with ‘SEAHOUSES AND BAMBRUGH’ smeared down the side in lead paint was still tucked away on the shelf where I regrettably left it when I was 8. It’s literally a shop full of tat: tea-towels with a ‘HERE’S TO A HAPPY FUTURE’ message for Charles and Diana, jigsaw boxes devoid of all colour from being left in the sun for eighty-seven years, sticks of rock to prise your fillings up and tonnes of other nonsense. I loved it.
We had a moment of hilarity when Paul discovered something which he’d been referencing for years: a donkey which shits out cigarettes. Apparently his mother had one, along with a toilet ashtray which dispensed a little bit of sand to snuff out your fag – and I’d never believed such a thing existed. Well, here we had one – I wanted to buy one to really class up our living room but Paul pointed out that a) neither of us smoke and b) our furnishings aren’t being paid for in weekly installments. Spoil-sport.
To show that I’m not making it up, click here to view the donkey in it’s full ‘glory’. What I love about that listing is that it’s filed under ‘Cigar Accessories’, as though it’s a classy humidor or a tasteful engraved ashtray like the one that did Saskia in. I can’t imagine ever having a conversation where I’m offering someone a Colorado Maduro and when they gratefully accept, waving their hand away and saying ‘but wait, watch it emerge from a donkey’s arse!’. Actually, that’s a filthy lie. I totally can.
No, do give Seahouses a go. If you’ve never been, have a weekend away on our coast. It’s amazing. I’m planning a proper paean in the future to the wonderful world where I live, so keep an eye out for that, but in short, come see the castles, have a trip out on the boats to Holy Island, enjoy our beautiful beaches and have some cinder toffee. Just understand that if you get in front of me on the roads and your car has dust on all the numbers above 25 on the speedometer, you’ll get three minutes of me smiling at you politely before I drive into your boot and throttle you with my bare hands. I’ll do it, prison holds no fear for me.
Right, let’s get to the recipe, shall we? I’ll do it in two stages. If you want to make your own corned beef – and you should, mind, because it’s really bloody easy, follow the first bit. If you’re going to chicken out and buy tinned, buy decent quality or get the fuck out. Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of the prepared corned beef, but that’s because it looks like a bit of body that’s been trapped in a weir for two weeks. Now, I can’t claim any credit for this recipe – it comes from Manna and Spice – I’ve just tweaked it to make it Slimming World friendly. The process is simple – make a brine, cure the meat, cook the meat. Done!
to make your own homemade cured corned beef, you’ll need:
- 275g of kosher salt (you can buy this in Tesco – if you use table salt, add a bit more – maybe increase it to 350g)
- a decent cut of brisket beef – fat removed – we used 2.75kg which we had cut from a butcher in Newcastle’s Grainger Market – and it was lovely – but you can also get them from Musclefood by clicking here, albeit you’ll need to buy three to get the same weight – which is fine, because it all goes into one pot anyway)
- 50g of sugar (10 syns – and it’s up to you whether to syn this, but understand this – the corned beef probably makes enough for 20 servings, the sugar goes into the brine and well, you’re not drinking the brine, are you? So, per serving, the syns are infinitesimal)
- don’t use sweetener, for crying out loud: you’re making something special, not trying to pretend your options and egg omelette is a fucking chocolate cake taste extravaganza)
- 150ml of cider vinegar
- 5-6 bay leaves
- 10-12 pods cardamom, lightly crushed in your pestle and mortar
- 8 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp black peppercorn, lightly crushed
- 2 tbsp allspice berries, lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp prague powder
- 1 gallon warm water
Now: that’s a big long list. Don’t shit yerself if you haven’t got everything in – we were lucky, we had almost everything bar the juniper berries, but if you want to miss some out, don’t stress. One thing I’ll say though, take a look at your indoor markets wherever you live – there’s bound to be a spice merchant or similar where you can buy small quantities of the ingredients for pennies. It’s what we do!
ALSO, important: that prague powder on the list. I bet you’re wondering what the fuck that is. It’s a curing salt and it stops the meat going a bell-end grey. It’s what makes corned beef pink. You can buy it from Amazon right here for a fiver.
I can’t stress enough that if you change the weight of your meat, change the amount of prague powder accordingly. If you use less meat, use less powder!
to make your own homemade cured corned beef, you should:
- make a brine by pouring the liquid into a nice big pan, adding the salt and the sugar, dissolving them over a low heat, add everything else bar the meat, warm through and then tip the meat into the brine
- cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave somewhere cool for five days, but preferably ten – making sure the lid is airtight and that there’s enough liquid to completely cover the meat throughout the ten days
- once you’re ready to cook, simply take the meat, give it a bit of a rinse under cool water to remove the brine and put into a slow cooker with enough hot water to cover maybe a third of it
- cook on low for about eight hours
- once it’s done, allow to cool completely and then slice against the grain of the meat into nice thick chunks
Now I’m not daft, I know most of you are going to read all that, think fuck that for a game of soldiers, and go open up a tin of Arseholes and Eyelids Special from Fray Bentos. Can’t blame you, but really, it takes no effort to cure your own once you have all the bits you need, and it tastes that much nicer, trust me. If you choose to use tinned corned beef for the recipe below, remember to syn it! Right. Aside from a tonne of sandwiches and whatnot, I decided to make the corned beef into a tasty gratin – essentially a fancy layering of various delicious things. Again, I’m not claiming the idea for this recipe either (though I’ve adapted it considerably to make it Slimming World friendly) – all credit goes to Kevin at KevinIsCooking. His photos look better than mine, but to be fair to me, I was too concerned with getting it into my big fat mouth to fart about taking pictures. Right, let’s do this. Oh! Before I DO start, look, this recipe uses a few syns. It’s worth it. I’m sure you could replicate it with a Muller Yoghurt strained through Mags’ hair and mixed with Splenda, but don’t bother.
to make homemade corned beef potato gratin, you’ll need:
- lots and lots of lovely sliced homemade corned beef (syn free) or tinned corned beef (synned, and what price dignity)
- two or three large potatoes (preferably something wet – the extra special potatoes from ASDA are perfect for this recipe)
- 500ml of semi skimmed milk (250ml is a HEA and this serves four – so two people’s HEA or 12 syns)
- 2 tbsp of corn flour (2 syns)
- four sliced shallots
- a big bag of brussels sprouts
- 30g of parmesan (a HEA, or 6 syns)
- lots of salt and pepper
Right, so, if no-one uses a HEA, this is 4.5 syns per serving. If you decide to use a HEA for your milk or cheese, knock some syns off. Let’s go!
to make homemade corned beef potato gratin, you should:
- put that oven up to 220 degrees and give a nice square casserole dish a bit of loving with some spray oil
- now listen: the one thing that is going to make your job easier today is a mandolin slicer with a guard – get one, you’ll get perfectly uniform slices and, used correctly, you’ll not take off your fingertips – you can click here for one – stop being a cheapskate, especially now it’s on sale!
- using the mandolin or a knife, slice the potatoes into 1/8th inch thick slices
- do the same with the shallots
- do the same with the sprouts
- do the hokey-cokey and turn around
- that’s what it’s all about
- put the potato into a pan and cover with milk, simmer for eight minutes or so just to take the crunch out of the potatoes and then allow to cool
- layer the potato into the casserole dish – not all of it mind, then add corned beef, then shallots, then the sprouts – then repeat with the rest of the ingredients until you’ve used it all up
- whisk (quickly) the flour into the milk, add a pinch of salt and pepper and pour over the layers – add the parmesan on the top
- bake for around fifty minutes until the top looks all crunchy and delicious
- wait: don’t rush in, allow to cool and firm up – then serve with peas!
This isn’t a thick, creamy sauce – that’s because you’re a bad person and you’re on Slimming World and most thick sauces tend to split – but it is very, very tasty and filling. Don’t like sprouts? Why not, don’t you like farting for England and smelling like a discarded settee? Swap them out for peppers or cabbage or anything. Sweet potatoes could be used instead of normal potatoes, though simmer them for less time. If the top of your gratin is burning but the rest isn’t done, just cover it with foil and cook for a bit longer.
Christ, am I tired now. If you’re looking for more delicious beef recipes, click on the button below and get yourself ready for a hot beef injection.
Enjoy. I’m off to wrap my fingers in gauze.