A foodie family's diary of travel, food, and photos

Salt Beef Croquettes

October 28th, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Starters - (Comments Off on Salt Beef Croquettes)

It started with a Salt Beef croquette – simple enough I thought.  Of course I didn’t want ready cooked beef – I wanted to cook my own salt beef, also my thinking was that if I buy enough salt beef I can use the remainder for a couple of other dishes.  I visited the local butchers and supermarket meat sections – nothing.  Not to be deterred I then travelled a bit further, still no salt beef.  Then even further – still no luck.  At which point I began researching recipes to make my own salt beef from scratch – well at least from a piece of raw brisket.

The key to salt beef is saltpetre (potassium nitrate) this gives the beef that pink colour even when well cooked.  Saltpetre has been used as a preservative and additive since the middle ages, as well as for medicinal purposes, although I was a little alarmed to discover it is also used as a rocket propellant, and is an ingredient in gunpowder.  As I was determined to make the real thing this ….didn’t put me off – I went shopping for saltpetre.

I tried the most obvious places first – the local pharmacies and kitchen stores – then a few more places – specialty spice shops, again nothing.  Then onto Amazon – where I found it and immediately placed my order.  In due course the saltpetre arrived and I could now progress to making salt beef.  Back to the recipe – ah, I need pickling spice so off to the butcher for a good piece of brisket and then to the supermarket for pickling spice.  Success at the butcher but total failure at the supermarket.

Then onto the pickling spice hunt that lasted for 12 assorted supermarkets, stores and stalls.  All the more frustrating knowing that I have a packet in the kitchen in Paris.  Oh well, finally discussing my problem with Cheri she asked why I didn’t just make my own pickling spice.  So back to google and start researching the ingredients for pickling spice.  A lengthy list later and 4 different stores and I had the necessary ingredients.  Not just for a large jar of pickling spice (probably enough to keep me in pickles for the remainder of this decade, but also enough of the individual ingredients to spice an Arabian nights wedding for 300 …..

Whoopee!  I was finally ready to start actually preparing something in the kitchen.

First the pickling spice….

Then the brine and meat altogether in a ziploc bag and into the bottom of the fridge for 2 weeks.

Now the cooked and shredded beef….

And once done I could start preparing my croquettes…


and finally….

The result

And so the verdict…

Were they great, were they fantastic, were they worth all the effort and long wait?

Well they were good, maybe even better than good, but definitely not worth all the effort.  Maybe next time round they will stand up to well to the expended effort.

All in all a good learning experience and I will definitely use the excess ingredients for other recipes.

See previous blog for the recipe for Pickling Spice

Then the brine – here’s what you need:

2 litres water

½ cup salt

½ cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon pickling spice

1 kg brisket

Put the water, salt, sugar and spice into a large saucepan and bring to the boil.  Allow the liquid to cool and then put the brisket into a Ziploc bag along with the cooled liquid.  And then place it in the bottom of the fridge for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks drain the liquid off the brisket, put the meat into a large bowl covered with cold water and leave for 24 hours, changing the water every 3-4 times.

Then drain the liquid off the meat.  Place in a large pot covered with cold water, a carrot, stick of celery, onion halved and some black peppercorns.  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 4-5 hours. Once the meat is very tender, drain the liquid and allow to cool.


and the Recipe for Croquettes

Shred the meat or blitz in the food processor until you have about 4 cups of finely shredded meat. Prepare a batch of thick white sauce (about 1 cup) and mix the shredded meat into it.  Leave in the fridge until set fairly firmly.

Prepare 3 shallow bowls in a row, 1 with plain flour,  1 with a beaten egg and 1 with bread crumbs.  Then shape the mix into croquette shapes to a size that suits you, dipping each firstly into the flour, then the egg, then the crumbs.  Lining up your ready to cook croquettes on a plate until you have finished the mixture.

Now either shallow or deep fry in corn or groundnut oil till golden.

Serve with a rocket, sorrel or dandelion salad and some homemade mayonnaise, with a touch of horseradish added if you like.


House hunting in Costigliole D’Asti

October 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Favourite Places | Italy - (Comments Off on House hunting in Costigliole D’Asti)

We’re recently returned from Italy where Jacques and I spent a week house hunting in the Asti province, mostly around Costigliole D’Asti with a few around the Moncalvo area which is a little further away. (I wrote about this a little while ago)

So what are we looking for – well we need something that has the potential to develop into 3 separate homes but probably within a single physical structure.  A space big enough for Cheri and her family, a space for Trish, and a space for J and I. Each of us needing our own living space while still being close enough to enjoy the extended family life; and develop our joint projects together. We also need space for chickens, goats, orchards and growing vegetables.

I expect that we will not find anything remotely close to our needs that is affordable and we’ll have to do a lot of renovating and improving to get it just so.  With budget constraints this is going to be a multi-year project.

Here are some pics of Costigliole D’Asti and the properties we looked at.

We looked at 10 properties in all and shortlisted 2.  The plan is to pursue our first choice and only if things don’t pan out will we pursue our second choice or possibly even do another round of viewings.   With a list of questions our property advisor is helping us get answers to that will hopefully lead to us making an offer.

Why make your own Pickling Spice

October 12th, 2012 | Posted by Ruby in Condiments - (Comments Off on Why make your own Pickling Spice)

You may wonder why anyone would want to make there own pickling spice when it’s easy enough to buy ready made – only problem is it s not always that easy to find.  And of course when you make your own you can adjust each of ingredients to suit your own palate.  So here it is.

I’ll be posting some recipes that use these pickling spices shortly.

Pickling Spice Recipe

2 Tablespoons mustard seed

2 Tablespoons black peppercorns

2 Tablespoons coriander seeds

2 Tablespoons whole allspice

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6-9 bay leaves crumbled

1 cinnamon stick broken (about 2 inches/5 cm)

2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger



1.  Lightly toast the mustard seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns then smash with a rolling pin

2.  Mix all ingredients together

makes about 3 small spice bottles