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English Spiced Beef

Spiced beef was an old English dish, revived in this century by writers Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. Once cooked, the spiced beef keeps 4 or 5 days in the refrigerator.

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
5-pound top sirloin roast, rolled and tied
1/2 cup whole peppercorns
1/2 cup whole allspice
1/2 cup juniper berries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup salt

Rub the sugar into all exposed parts of the beef. Place it in a stainless steel pan with a lid and refrigerate. Leave it for 2 days, turning the meat and pouring the sugar, which will become liquid, over it 2 or 3 times a day.

In a spice grinder or mortar, coarsely grind the peppercorns, allspice, and juniper. In a bowl, mix these spices with the cinnamon and salt. Rub about a third of this mixture into the beef. Make sure you rub spices into all outer surfaces. Repeat this every day for 8 days. When all the spice mixture gets used up, simply rub once more with the excess that has fallen into the pan.

To cook, set the oven to 300 degrees. Quickly rinse off any spices adhering to the beef with cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place the beef in a baking pan with a tight lid. When the beef is in the pan, there should be little space to spare, so choose accordingly. Pour in 1 cup of water. Cover the pan with 3 layers of foil, fitting it tightly over the pan to prevent evaporation. Place the lid on top. Cover this with foil also, pressing it over the edge. Place it in the oven and cook for 4 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for a couple of hours.

Take the beef from its broth and wrap it in plastic wrap. Place it on a chopping board or plate and put another board or plate on top. Add 2 to 3 pounds of weights. (If you have no weights, use 2 or 3 unopened cans of food.) Refrigerate and leave the beef under the weights for a day.

To serve, unwrap the beef and carve it thinly. It is good with potato salads or other salads, makes excellent sandwiches, and can top crostini or rye crackers for a party. Sliced avocados, mustard, chutneys, and cornichons are among the many accompaniments. The broth from cooking will be full-bodied but salty. Dilute it and use for soup.

By Claire Hopley, Globe Correspondent

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