Christmas Spiced Beef

This is a Buckinghamshire recipe. The meat must marinate for about 12 days before it is cooked. It is an unusual recipe because the spiced and salted beef is not boiled, but roasted. It requires plenty of basting. The meat has a subtle flavour and is extremely tender but crisp outside. It should be served with cranberry sauce or red-currant jelly and accompanied by candied potatoes, brussels sprouts with chestnuts and a good brown gravy. The dish was often served on one of the later 12 days of Christmas.


  • 4 lb (2 kg) topside of beef
  • ¾ cup (180 g) sea salt (table salt will do)
  • cup (180 g) demerara sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • cup (90 g) cooking fat or good dripping, just melted
  • 3 lb ( kg) potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter


Rub the beef with the salt and sugar. Lay it on a large dish and pile any remaining salt and sugar on top. Mix the pepper, cloves and turmeric and pour all over. Put the dish into the refrigerator. Turn the beef and spoon the marinade over it daily for 10 to 12 days.

At the end of this time, wipe the meat with a clean, dry cloth and discard the salt and spices. Put the meat on a rack in a baking tin, pour the melted fat over the meat and bake at 350°F (180°C, Gas Mark 4) for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to the boil in salted water and cook gently for 10 minutes. Drain and put into a lightly buttered baking tray.

In a small saucepan melt the honey with the butter. Stir and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Put the potatoes in the oven when the beef has been cooking for 30 minutes. When the beef is ready the potatoes should be candied and golden brown.