"Boiled beef and carrots,
Boiled beef and carrots.
That's the stuff for your "Derby Kel"
It makes you fit and keeps you well.
Don't live like vegetarians,
On food they give to parrots.
From morn till night, blow out your kite,
On boiled beef and carrots!"
Although I'm a massive music fan, you wouldn't see English Music Hall classics from the early 1900s on my MP3 player. But despite his obvious loathing of the food of our vegetarian friends, a gentleman called Harry Champion was a man after my own heart.
Harry apparently was obsessed with 'hilarious' songs about food which often brought the house down. Who else do you know who would sing a song about 'A Little Bit Of Cucumber' and make a career out of it? Whether it was meat pies, pickled onions, pig's trotters or a sheep's heart, Harry would sing amusing ditty's about them and always get a laugh. How grateful we should all be that humour has moved on so much.
He obviously had great taste in British food, hence the reason why I am waffling on about the author of 1907 'classic', Boiled Beef And Carrots. For it is this very meal that is an absolute classic and, quite ironically, we simply do not sing enough about it. The French have their daube and tell everybody how fantastic it is. We have essentially exactly the same dish and prefer to stick it in the 'embarrassing foods of yesteryear' cupboard. When was the last time you saw it on the menu of a good restaurant?
The list of ingredients below may seem long. But if you can find a local supplier of great beef and take a rolled brisket, a shin or any cut of slow cook beef you can make a very easy to prepare meal that tastes amazing, sustains and gives pleasure on lots of levels. Put it in the pot with some seasonal root vegetables, leave it to fall apart and create its own broth which needs nothing more than a spoonful of English mustard and perhaps a few fresh herbs. Make some suet dumplings and pop them in for the final 20 minutes to make an even more filling meal. Sensational.
Because he decided to sing a song of celebration about this fine dish, I would have Harry Champion as guest of honour at my celebrity table of choice, regaling us all with songs about food and probably making us laugh. I think.
Boiled Beef and Root Vegetables
Feeds 4-6 people
1-1.5kg of rolled brisket, shin or any good slow cook beef
2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 glass of white wine
A few black peppercorns
4 carrots, peeled
1 turnip, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and halved
8 small onions or shallots, peeled
2 celery sticks, cut into chunks
2 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 savoy cabbage, sliced
2 tomatoes, halved
1 bay leaf
A sprig of thyme
2 tbsp English mustard
Fresh parsley chopped roughly
Salt and pepper
1 - In a large casserole dish, heat the rapeseed or olive oil. Season the beef and then brown quickly on all sides. Pour in the wine and scrape off anything stuck to the bottom. Put in the herbs and pour in enough water to just cover the beef. Bring to the boil,cover then simmer for 1 hour, skimming regularly.
2 - Add the vegetables except for the cabbage, bring back to the boil and simmer for a further hour. Add the cabbage after 30 minutes.
3 - When the vegetables and beef are tender, remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. It will need a little salt and you may want to spice it up a bit with pepper and English mustard.
4 - Serve chunks of beef and vegetables with hot broth in large bowls with a sprinkling of herbs and perhaps some bread to soak up the juices.