Salt beef and green bean salad

Serves 4
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A few months back I was in Chez Georges, a delightful little old brasserie in rue du Mail, Paris. Their menu is classic and extremely simple. Order ox cheek salad and what you get is a bowl of sliced salted ox cheek, enough to feed at least four people, in a good vinaigrette with shallots. They give you an empty plate and you just help yourself. No fuss, no pretence and bloody good.

Salted ox cheeks are tricky to get unless you order them specially, so if you fancy trying to recreate this dish, use salted brisket as a substitute - it has layers of fat running through it, which makes the meat melt in the mouth. Silverside is too lean.

This is a dish you can prepare ahead when you've got people for lunch and dinner - you'll need to start at least the day before anyway, soaking the beef overnight. I've added green beans as guests probably won't get why you're giving them a bowl of sliced salt beef and vinaigrette. If you want the real Parisian effect, though, give it a try.

700-800g salted beef brisket, or salted ox cheeks if you can get them, soaked overnight in cold water
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and trimmed
10 black peppercorns
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
A few sprigs of thyme
100g French beans, trimmed
2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped

for the vinaigrette

1 12tbsp good-quality tarragon vinegar
2tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, peeled
3tbsp olive oil
3tbsp vegetable or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the vinaigrette. Put all the ingredients into a clean bottle or jar. Shake it and leave to infuse overnight at room temperature. Rinse the salt beef and put it into a saucepan with the onions, carrots, peppercorns, garlic and thyme, cover well with water, bring to the boil and simmer for about two hours, topping up the water if necessary. It's difficult to put an exact cooking time on cuts of meat like this, so check it after 2 hours and if it's not tender cook for another half an hour or so. Leave to cool in the liquid, but don't chill the meat.

Cook the beans in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender, then drain. Remove the beef from the cooking liquid and carve into 12cm-thick slices, breaking them up into bite-sized pieces. Mix with the beans and shallots, season and dress well with the vinaigrette.

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