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Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards Bronze Medalist

SPICED BEEF

Tom Durcan, craft butcher of over twenty five years experience, is a master of spiced beef. It has won him honours in Blas na hEireann in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 including numerous gold medals from the Craft Butchers of Ireland.

Tom's Cork Traditional Spiced Beef is famous. Starting in October, he mixes his secret spice cure. Success, he says, comes from the infusion of the salt and spices, including pimento, in boiling water, before cooling and adding the meat. Joints are left in the cure for at least a month, and preferably two months, stirred every day to ensure the marinade infuses throughout. Tom chooses his meat from the eye of the round cut, next to the topside, but he also spices rib of beef, brisket, and ox tongues and sometimes lamb's tongues too. At Christmas, over six tonnes of Durcan's spiced beef goes across the counter into the hands of happy festive shoppers. And his own personal favourite way of enjoying it? Served cold and sliced, with caramelised Spanish onions, on crusty buttered white bread. Simple.

Durcan's award winning Spiced Beef is available cooked and sliced in Centra and Super Valu supermarkets nationwide.

SPICED BEEF TOP TEN FACTS

1 The secret of cooking is slow simmering over low heat to make the meat moist and tender.
2 Some recipes call for stout in the cooking liquid. Tom says it's not necessary if the spicing mix is right to begin with.
3 During the Christmas period, twelve tonnes of spiced beef is sold across the counter at Durcan's stall in the English Market.
4 Spiced Ox Tongue is a real favourite in Cork. It makes a great addition to a cold meat selection, served with Christmas pickles or chutney.
5 A kilo joint of spiced beef will cut enough slices to serve six comfortably
6 Tom prefers the natural sweetness of Spanish onions for his open sandwich recipe. But you could use red onions, cooked with a little sugar and a splash of white wine vinegar to add a sweet sharp slant.
7 Leaving the meat to cool in the cooking liquid help preserve its moistness for slicing.
8 Spiced beef can be served warm, with rich gravy made from the cooking liquid. Simply mix equal quantities of cooking liquid with good rich beef stock and reduce down, stir in a knob of butter to enrich, then pour over the warm sliced beef.
9 Durcan's Spiced Beef is on the menus of many of the city's famous cafes this time of year. Visit the Farmgate Café, situated in the upper gallery of the English Market, or Nash 19 in Princes Street - to name two great places to eat this favourite festive speciality.
10 If you are planning on eating spiced beef this Christmas, wherever you are in the country - make sure you order your chosen joint well in advance!