In the lowlands of Scotland, spiced beef was often prepared in large households as a standby which could be served to unexpected visitors at Christmas or New Year. Skirt of beef was generally used, boned and rolled by the butcher, but topside or silverside, though more expensive, can be used without rolling if more convenient. With these, there is, of course, no waste.
Lay the skirt of beef out flat, skin downward and rub in most of the salt. If using topside or silverside, cut 3 slashes about 1 cm deep into the top and rub in salt in the same way. Leave the meat to stand in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, drain off all the liquid and wipe the meat, removing any surface salt. Mix together all the herbs and spices and rub them into the meat, particularly into the slashes in the topside. Roll the skirt up tightly and tie with string in 3 or 4 places. (Topside needs no tying.)
Put the reserved bones and trimmings into a large, heavy pan. Place the beef on top, pour in enough cold water to cover and bring slowly to the boil. Remove the scum, cover the pan and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove and discard the bones and trimmings. Add all the vegetables, bring to the boil again and simmer for another 1 1/2 hours.
Lift out the meat and put it on a large flat dish. Put a board or a plate on top of it and weights on top. Allow to cool in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
Measure 600 ml (1 pint) of the stock and boil, uncovered in a small saucepan until reduced by half. Allow to cool and reserve for garnish.
Skim the remaining stock for soup. Strain the vegetables and put them through a sieve or food processor. Stir into the stock and taste for seasoning. add 2-3 tablespoons of whisky if liked.
When the beef is almost cold remove the weights and plate and garnish the meat with finely sliced gherkins. Pour the reduced stock very gently over the beef so that the pattern of the gherkins is not disturbed. If the stock has already begun to gel, melt gently until it will pour. refrigerate the garnished beef for at least another 2 hours. The beef will keep well in the refrigerator for 4 days.
Instead of Skirt of beef try 1.75 kg (4 lb) topside or silverside