Cookers & eaters: recipes

Photo: Ronald Saunders

Braised spiced beef with cider

This is based on Margaret Bissell’s recipe and is perfect for a big lunch with friends after a crisp winter’s walk. She called it a ‘good-tempered dish’ that could be left in the oven for a few hours. It uses cider three ways: there’s cider vinegar in the marinade, (hard) cider in the pot roast, and finally, it’s flamed with cider brandy or Calvados. Topside is a tender cut with little fat; when it’s roast it needs basting, here, marinading gives it a lovely texture and pot roasting keeps it succulent. The herbs and spices give it a really gorgeous seasonal flavour. I tweak the marinade a bit by using grated ginger and leaving out celery, which I can’t stand and some people are allergic to. This goes very well with parsnip mash. Its close cousin, German sauerbraten, is often served with red cabbage and dumplings.

Serves 8-10

Preparation: 10 mins plus cooling time.
Marinading: up to 72 hours in fridge.
Cooking: 3.5 hours 170oC/325oF/Gas 3.


4lb/1.8kg topside (or silverside), boned
2 tsp salt
3 tsp ground ginger or 1 tsp plus a thumb sized piece grated
2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4pt/140ml cider vinegar
¾ pt/430ml dry cider
1 onion
1 leek
1 carrot
1 small stick cinnamon
6 cloves
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp powdered mace
2 tbsp olive oil
½ oz / 15g butter
1 tsp white flour

Mix 2tsp of ground ginger or the grated ginger with the salt, and cardamom and then rub them over the meat which you have patted dry and brought to room temperature. Bring the cider, cider vinegar, sliced vegetables, herbs and spices to the boil and pour them over the meat. Cool them all together and refrigerate them overnight or for up to 72 hours, giving them a turn occasionally.

When you’re ready to cook, take the meat out of the marinade, dry it and brown it in a frying pan or casserole, getting the oil smoking hot first. Put the meat in the casserole and add roughly half the marinade and most of the vegetables. Cover and cook it at a low heat (Gas 3) for 3.5 hours, adding marinade and vegetables after a couple of hours if the liquid is disappearing.

When it’s done, take the meat out of the casserole and keep it warm. Bring the marinade and the pan juices to the boil and simmer them for a few minutes. Mix the remaining tsp of ground ginger with the butter and the flour to make a buerre manie, then gradually add it to the liquid and whisk it gently. Cook this for 10 minutes.

Slice the meat and put it on to a serving dish. Strain the liquid. Put some in a gravy boat or jug and pour the rest over the meat. The final touch is to warm the cider brandy in a spoon, light it and pour it over the meat.


  1. Brown the meat.
  2. Rub it with ginger, salt and cardomom.
  3. Make marinade from cider, cider vinegar, vegetables, herbs and spices. Bring it to a boil then cool and put it over the meat.
  4. Refrigerate for 8-72 hours.
  5. Cook for 3.5 hours at 170oC/325oF/Gas 3 with half the marinade. Top up if drying out.
  6. Pour off pan juices. Combine them with the remaining marinade. Strain. Heat.
  7. Combine butter, flour and ground ginger. Whisk it into the liquid. Cook for 10 mins.
  8. Slice the meat. Pour half the sauce in a jug, half over the meat.
  9. Flame the meat with cider brandy and serve.