Pat Whelan is a fifth generation butcher who has been immersed in the world of meat since he was a child. His family business in Clonmel and now with two branches in Dublin (Avoca Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole) James Whelan Butcher’s has been running since the 1960s and they supply much of the meat directly from the family farm at Garrentemple.
He was with us today to talk us through their festive spiced beef recipe which they have been making since they opened their first shop in Clonmel in the 1960s and also to give us a few tips on how to cook this truly unique dish and to suggest some simple one pot beef dishes from his new cookbook written with Katy McGuinness, The Irish Beef Book, that will feed the influx of extra family members over the busy days of Christmas.
James Whelan’s traditional Spiced Beef
2.5–3 kg eye of the round, topside or
silverside of beef
75 g brown sugar
25 g black peppercorns
12 g allspice berries
25 g juniper berries
12 g ground cloves
12 g sea salt
12 g saltpetre
Trim the beef, then rub it all over with the sugar. Leave it in a bowl in the fridge for two days. Crush the peppercorns, allspice and juniper berries together in a pestle and mortar. Mix with the cloves, salt and saltpetre. Rub the beef thoroughly with the spices. Cover and keep in the fridge for 6–7 days. Turn the beef in the mixture daily.
Preheat the oven to 140° C/fan 120° C/gas mark 1.Place the beef in a deep casserole dish as near to its size as possible. Add 250 ml water and cover tightly. Cook the beef in the oven for 5 hours. Leave it to cool in the liquid for 2–3 hours, then remove and wrap it in tin foil. Store in the fridge.
This is our version, but feel free to play around with it and make it your own. As with all slow-cooked beef dishes, it will be even better on the second day. Allow it to cool
before refrigerating it overnight and reheat it the next day.
a few tablespoons plain flour
freshly ground black pepper
1 kg chuck or shin beef, in large pieces
about 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or
Irish rapeseed oil
knob of butter
around 20 shallots or small onions, peeled
300 g button mushrooms
2 medium onions, chopped small
200 g streaky bacon, cut into short strips
4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig of thyme
1 bottle red wine
200 ml stock
Put a few tablespoons of flour in a bowl and season generously with sea salt and black pepper. Toss the meat in the seasoned flour. Put a couple of tablespoons of oil and a knob of butter in a heavy casserole dish over a medium heat.
Add the pieces of meat in batches, leaving plenty of space between the pieces. Don’t move the meat around much; just turn it occasionally until it is all browned on all sides. Browning the meat is key to the flavour of the final dish, so it’s important that the meat is not crowded — if it is, it will steam rather than brown. Add a little more oil and butter as necessary.
As each batch of meat browns, remove and place to one side. When all the meat is browned, add the shallots to the casserole and brown lightly, then add the mushrooms and cook until golden. Remove the shallots and mushrooms and set to one side. Add the chopped onion and streaky bacon to the casserole and cook until the onions are softand the bacon lightly golden.
Return the beef to the pan with the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, wine and stock. Season.
Simmer, uncovered, over a low heat for at least an hour and a half, then return the shallots and the mushrooms to the casserole and cook for another 30 minutes.
Multi-tasking Rich Beef Cheek Ragù
You could use this sauce with pasta, on top of a baked potato or simply with mashed potatoes and green vegetables. It is rich, unctuous and entirely wonderful.
1.8 kg beef cheeks, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or Irish
120 g smoked bacon, chopped into cubes
4 carrots, chopped
4 onions, chopped
4 sticks celery, chopped
3 x 400 g tins chopped tomatoes
375 ml red wine
1 litre chicken stock
a few sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons aged balsamic or saba vinegar,
or vino cotto
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas mark 3½.
Cut the beef cheeks in half and season with sea salt and black pepper. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a heavy frying pan and fry the beef cheeks in batches, allowing them to brown and caramelise. Do not overcrowd the pan, or the meat will steam rather than brown.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy-bottomed casserole dish, fry the bacon until golden, add the chopped vegetables and fry until softened. Add the tomatoes and then the beef cheeks. Pour the red wine into the frying pan and scrape away any crispy bits, then add to the casserole dish. Add the chicken stock, cover and cook in the oven for about 3 hours, by which time the beef cheeks should be falling apart.
Remove the lid and cook for about a further 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until some of the liquid has evaporated and you have a rich, thick sauce. Break up the meat with a wooden spoon. When the sauce has cooled slightly, add the balsamic or saba vinegar or vino cotto, which adds richness, and check the seasoning.
This will be even better if you allow it to cool, refrigerate it overnight and use it the following day.
Taken from The Irish Beef Book by Pat Whelan and Katy McGuinness, published by Gill & Macmillan and priced at €22.99. www.gillmacmillanbooks.ie.