Spiced Beef

Although this recipe comes from Yorkshire, beef was cooked in this manner all over England from the Middle Ages onwards. In earlier centuries the beef would have been put into brine to preserve it through the winter, so extra salting would not have been required.

Buy the beef two or three days before the dish is to be served. It is essential to have a very large cooking pot with a lid and a large meat dish for serving.

The beef may be served hot or cold; if it is to be served hot, dumplings and vegetables cooked in the stock should be served with it. If it is to be served cold, it should be glazed with its own reduced stock and garnished with gherkins.


  • Skirt of beef, about 8 lb (4 kg)
  • 1 lb (½ kg) salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 lb (1 kg) carrots, scraped and sliced
  • 2 lb (1 kg) onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 head celery, cut in 2 inch (5 cm) lengths
  • lb (¾ kg) leeks, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) lengths
  • Dumplings or ½ lb (240 g) gherkins


Ask your butcher to bone and trim the beef and to give you the bones and trimmings. Lay the beef out flat, skin side down. Rub in most of the salt, then sprinkle a snow of the remaining salt over the meat and lay it with the bones and trimmings in a dish. Leave in a cool place overnight.

The next day, drain off all the liquid and wipe the meat, removing all the salt that has not penetrated. Mix together all the herbs and spices and rub them into the meat, particularly into the slashes where the bones were removed. Roll the meat up tightly and tie with string in 3 or 4 places.

Put the reserved bones and trimmings into a very large, heavy pan. Place the beef on top, pour in cold, unsalted water to cover and bring to the boil slowly. Remove the scum, cover the pan and simmer gently for 1½ hours.

To cook the dumplings: if there is room, they can be put into the stock at the time the leeks are added and removed before the meat is lifted out, to avoid breaking them. They should be arranged on the vegetables around the meat. If the pan is not big enough to hold them, they can be steamed separately.

Remove and discard the bones and trimmings. Add all the vegetables except the leeks. Bring to the boil again and simmer for another 14 hours. Add the leeks and cook for a further 25 minutes.

To serve hot, lift out the meat on to a very large flat dish. Lift out the vegetables with a perforated spoon and put them around the meat. Keep hot in the oven while you strain, taste and season the clear golden stock. Pour a little of the stock over the meat and serve some separately. Any stock that is left over will make an excellent basis for a soup.

If the beef is to be served cold, remove it from the pan and drain well. Lay it on a board or large dish, place another board over it and put weights on top. Leave the meat to get completely cold.

Meanwhile, strain the stock, return half of it to a clean pan and boil briskly until it reduces to a strong glaze; there should be about 24 cups (6 dl) of stock left. When the beef is quite cold, remove the string, decorate with sliced gherkins and pour the glaze very gently over, so that the decoration is not disturbed.