Darina says: "Although spiced beef is traditionally associated with Christmas, in Cork it’s available all year round in the English Market. It may be served hot or cold and is a marvellous standby, because if it is properly spiced and cooked it will keep for 3–4 weeks in the fridge. Butchers often have their own secret recipe. This delicious recipe for spiced beef has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family and is the best I know. It includes saltpetre, nowadays regarded as a health hazard, so perhaps you should not live exclusively on it! Certainly people have lived on occasional meals of meats preserved in this way for generations. This recipe makes enough spice to cure five flanks of beef, each 1.8kg (4lb) approx. in size, and can also be used to spice beef tongues."


  • 1.3 kg–1.8 kg (3–4lb) lean flank of beef
  • ballymaloe spice for beef
  • 350 g (12oz) salt 225g (8oz) demerara sugar 75g (3oz) whole black pepper
  • 75 g (3oz) whole allspice (pimento, jamaican pepper)
  • 75 g (3oz) whole juniper berries
  • 10 g (1/2oz) saltpetre (available from chemists)



  1. To make the Ballymaloe spice for beef, grind all the ingredients (preferably in a food processor) until fairly fine. Store in a screw top jar. It will keep for months, so make the full quantity even if it is more than you need at a particular time.
  2. If you are using flank of beef, remove the bones and trim away any unnecessary fat. Rub the spice well over the beef and into every crevice. Put into an earthenware dish and leave in a fridge or cold larder for 3–7 days, depending on the thickness of the piece of meat, turning occasionally. (This is a dry spice, but after a day or two some liquid will come out of the meat.) The longer the meat is left in the spice, the longer it will last and the more spicy the flavour.
  3. Just before cooking, roll and tie the joint neatly with cotton string into a compact shape, cover with cold water and simmer in a covered saucepan for 2–3 hours, or until really soft and fully cooked. The spiced beef should be covered with liquid at all times. If it is not to be eaten hot, press by putting it on a flat tin or into an appropriate sized bread tin. Cover it with a board and weight and leave overnight. Spiced beef will keep for 3–4 weeks in the fridge.
  4. To serve, cut it into thin slices and serve with some freshly made salads and homemade chutneys or in sandwiches.


Recipe taken from A Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen, published by Gill and Macmillan.