Home-cured Beef (Bresaola) with Baby Leeks

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Complex

  • About

    a Dozen

    Main – Course Servings

Appears in

This Italian dish is similar to eastern Switzerland’s Bunderfleisch. Lean joints like topside or rump work best. The basis of the recipe was given to me by Franco Taruschio who makes it particularly well in his Welsh restaurant, The Walnut Tree, at Llandewi Skirrid, near Abergavenny.

There is no point in making two or three portions of bresaola at a time. Make plenty; it keeps for ages, hanging, or, once trimmed, in the fridge – treat it like salami or Parma ham. The marinating and hanging times are based on a 4 lb (1.8 kg) piece of topside, the way you would most likely receive it from the butcher. If you buy a smaller or a particularly thin joint, the whole process will take less time, but I would recommend that you consider multiplying the quantities by two or four.

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Ingredients

  • 1 × 4 lb (1.8 kg) piece of beef topside
  • 3 lb (1.3 kg) small leeks olive oil

Brine

  • ½ bottle red wine
  • 1 lb (450 g) salt
  • ¼ oz (7.5 g) saltpetre
  • 4 oz (100 g) brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 8 oz (225 g) carrots, sliced
  • 6 chillies
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Dressing

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) good olive oil

Method

The meat

  1. Combine the brine ingredients with a pint (600 ml) of water, bring to the boil and allow the mixture to cool.
  2. Find the right-sized container – a small plastic bucket or a deep tray. Place the joint in the container and pour the brine over it. Leave this to marinate for 4 days. If the meat isn’t completely covered, turn it every day.
  3. Lift the meat from the brine, pat dry with kitchen paper or a clean dry cloth, wrap in muslin or cheesecloth, and hang in a dry warm place for 2 weeks (3 if a large joint), or until quite firm when pressed with your finger. It is best hanging away from the wall so that air can circulate around it.
  4. The outside of the joint will look awful, particularly if you have not wrapped it in muslin. Carefully cut away the dried outside layer and you will be left with a deep purple block.

The Dressing

  • Whisk the egg yolk with mustard, then whisk in the vinegar and some salt and pepper.
  • Add the olive oil slowly, beating all of the time. This should give you an emulsified dressing. If it is a little thick add a few drops of water. When you taste for seasoning it should be fine unless you have done something wrong.

To Complete

  • Poach the baby leeks in salted water for about 2 minutes. Cut them into 2 in (5 cm) lengths and turn them over in the dressing.
  • Slice the bresaola as thinly as you can. If you don’t have a good slicing machine, it may help to put it into a freezer for an hour or so.
  • Cover a plate with these thin slices. Grind a little black pepper across it, and sprinkle with olive oil. Spoon a bundle of the dressed baby leeks on to this and serve with hot bread.
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