Serves 8-10

Once popular all over Britain, now this only seems to be found in Ireland and occasionally the Midlands. It's commonly known as huntsman's beef. For centuries meat would have been preserved by salting, and this method is more than likely a development of that process with some festive spice added. I recommend having one of these around for Christmas, for unexpected guests and family.

The longer the beef is cured, the longer it will keep, though now we all have fridges traditional ways of preserving meat aren't as essential. Saltpetre is used in commercial charcuterie and meat curing but it's difficult to get hold of in small quantities. Try the Natural Casing Company in Farnham, Surrey (01252 713545,

1.5kg-2kg piece of boned and rolled brisket, topside, or thick flank
80g sea salt
10g saltpetre
15g coarsely ground black peppercorns
15g ground all spice
15g ground juniper berries
50g dark brown sugar, like moscavado

Put the beef into a close-fitting casserole, stainless-steel saucepan or plastic container with a top. Mix all the ingredients together and rub into the beef. Cover and leave in the fridge for 10-12 days, turning it once or twice a day.

Preheat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Wipe off all the bits of marinade, then, if you've been keeping the beef in a casserole, rinse it out and put the beef back, or find an oven-proof dish that's a snug fit for the beef. Put a couple of layers of foil over the pot then fit the lid tightly. Cook for 3 hours then remove from the oven and leave to cool for 3 hours. Remove the beef and wipe with kitchen paper. Wrap the beef in clingfilm and put into clean dish with a weight on top and refrigerate for 24 hours. Re-wrap and keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Serve thinly sliced as you would for ham, with pickles, or as a sandwich.