Every cook has a dish they make that someone else really loves, and yet are completely unable to replicate, no matter how hard they try.
Nigel Slater’s “Toast“, for example, details his attempts to crack his stepmother’s lemon meringue pie recipe, utilising subterfuge, espionage, and inspired guesswork.
One of my great early cooking mentors, The Rooster, could do things with that most unglamorous of ingredients, corned beef, that seemingly defied not only the laws of man and physics, but probably several divinely revealed commandments, too.
His corned beef hash was majestic, there is simply no other way to describe it.
It seems almost ludicrous to wax so lyrical about leftover vegetables fried with preserved meat from a tin, but it had to be eaten to be believed. The man was an alchemist, a wizard, and he never told me how he made it.
I poured many a pint of fine ale down his kneck-hole during regular disingenuous attempts to purloin the recipe from him in a moment of inebriated weakness, bribed him with expensive cigars, all to no avail.
Over the years my increasingly frantic attempts to re-create his recipe all fell short one way or another. Finally, I had to concede defeat, and admit to myself that my quest was futile.
I created my own recipe.
Yesterday, I decided it was about time for me to take my recipe for corned beef hash and give it a Paleo-style makeover.
Out went the more usual potato, replaced by chopped, cooked cauliflower, and I swapped out the cabbage for Brussels sprouts.
So here it is, my slap-bang up-to-date version of Corned Beef Hash.
While I was cooking it, I thought of the Rooster, and our many cooking sessions in his dark, damp, cramped kitchen, so long ago, and it made me smile.
The Rooster passed on one Christmas Eve several years ago. As far as I know, he took his treasure trove of culinary secrets with him.
I can almost see him, lying there, that old, familiar impish grin on his face, as he peacefully slipped away, refusing to the very end all requests for him to divulge the secret behind the ethereal silkiness of that superb hash….
Corned Beef Hash
- 680g of corned beef (2 tins), cut into cubes
- 280g cubed smoked bacon
- 350g cooked Brussels sprouts, halved
- 350g cooked cauliflower florets, cut into pieces
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 yellow pepper, finely diced
- ½ a bulb of fennel, finely diced
- 1 stick of celery, finely diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp Herbes de Provence
- olive oil
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a large non-stick pan. Stir fry the bacon until golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Set aside.
- Add the onion, carrot, yellow pepper, fennel, and celery to the pan. Stir fry until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes or so.
- Add the garlic, paprika, and Herbes de Provence. Stir fry for a further 3 minutes or so.
- Add the corned beef to the pan. Stir fry until the beef is thoroughly heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Add the Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and the bacon to the pan. Stir fry until they are warmed through, 2 minutes or so.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Serve.