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Corned Beef with Cabbage

by Affluent Magazine

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Corned Beef with Cabbage

Although this dish is eaten less frequently nowadays in Ireland, for Irish ex-patriots it conjures up powerful nostalgic images of a rural Irish past. Originally it was a traditional Easter Sunday dinner. The beef was salted or brined during the winter to preserve, and could now be eaten after the long Lenten fast, with fresh green cabbage and floury potatoes. Today, corned beef and cabbage is the top dish that's synonymous with St. Patrick's Day and all things Irish in the U.S.


  • 4 lb corned brisket of beef
  • 3 large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 6 to 8 small onions
  • 1 teaspoon dry English mustard
  • large sprig fresh thyme and some parsley stalks, tied together
  • 1 cabbage
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
Put the brisket into a saucepan with the carrots, onions, mustard and the herbs. Cover with cold water, and bring gently to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in quarters and add to the pot. Cook for a further 1 to 2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are soft and tender.
Serve the corned beef in slices, surrounded by the vegetables and cooking liquid. Serve with lots of floury potatoes and freshly made mustard.

Cooking Tips and Serving Suggestions

Choosing the Right Piece of Beef
When buying corned beef, be sure to get "ready-to-cook" not precooked meat. Meat should be nice and firm and not bright pink. If it's too bright pink they've used too many nitrates. Brisket is the most common cut of corned beef you'll find at the grocery store (get the leaner flat-cut brisket if you can find it). Some Irish butchers also sell "silverside," a lean cut from the round.

Cooked to Perfection
To keep your carrots, onions, and cabbage from turning to mush, be sure to use large pieces. Use carrots that are two inches in diameter and cut them into chunks three or four inches long. Cut large onions into quarters or uses whole small onions, and quarter a whole cabbage and add it after the meat and other veggies have stewed for a while. If you'd like, you can also add white turnips, rutabaga, or celeriac. To stop the meat from getting tough, keep it covered with water at all times (add more hot water if it cooks down), and once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot, and let it simmer. Don't have it at a mad rolling boil all the time. Once it comes to the boil, it can just simmer along gently then. That will keep it nice and tender and won't toughen the meat.

When's It Done?
Here’s an excellent tip for telling when the meat is cooked…Before it's cooked, if you put a skewer or carving fork in the meat, you will be able to lift the piece of meat up on the carving fork, but when it's cooked, the skewer will come straight out of it without lifting it up.

You Say Potato
Serve the corned beef and cabbage with potatoes boiled in their skins or champ (recipe follows). For either, use Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, which are about as close as you'll get to Irish potatoes in the U.S.

Getting Fresh
Since all of the vegetables with the corned beef are cooked for a long time, you need something lovely and fresh-tasting as well. Serve some finely shredded and very lightly cooked buttered cabbage (recipe follows), such as savoy, alongside the corned beef and cabbage, and add a simple salad of organic greens and wild garlic scapes after the meal.

A Condiment with Kick
To serve with the meat, make fresh mustard in a flash by mixing dry mustard powder with water. Real mustard is the thing to serve with this meal.

And to Drink?

Champ Recipe
Yield: Makes 4 servings

One of the best-loved ways of cooking potatoes was (and is) to mash them with boiling milk, add chopped scallions or chives and serve this creamy, green-flecked mixture with a blob of yellow butter melting in the center. Leeks, nettles, peas and brown crispy onions are all delicious additions.


  • 6 to 8 unpeeled baking potatoes, e.g., Russet or Yukon Gold
  • 1 bunch scallions (use the bulb and green stem)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk 
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons butter
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets. Finely chop the scallions. Cover the scallions with cold milk and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and, while hot, mix with the boiling milk and scallions. Beat in some of the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve in one large or four individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the center.  Champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven at 350°F. Cover with foil while it reheats so that it doesn't get a skin.

Parsley Champ:
Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley to the milk, bring to a boil for 2 or 3 minutes only, to preserve the fresh taste and color. Beat into the mashed potatoes and serve hot.

Chive Champ:
Substitute freshly chopped chives for parsley.

Dulse Champ:
Soak a couple of fists of seaweed in cold water for an hour or more. Drain and stew in milk until tender, about 3 hours. Add a good knob of butter and some pepper and beat into the mashed potato. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve hot.

Pea Champ:
This special champ could only be made for a few weeks when the fresh green peas were in season. Cook the peas in the boiling salted milk with a pinch of sugar until tender. Add to the mashed potatoes and pound together in the usual way.

Buttered Cabbage Recipe
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings
This recipe for quickly cooked cabbage has converted many an ardent cabbage hater!


  • 1 lb fresh Savoy cabbage
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons butter
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • an extra knob of butter

Remove all the tough outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut the cabbage into four, remove the stalk and then cut each quarter into fine shreds, working across the grain. Put 2 or 3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan, together with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, add the cabbage and toss over a high heat, then cover the saucepan and cook for a few minutes. Toss again and add some salt, freshly ground pepper and the knob of butter. Serve immediately.

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