Corned Beef Hash by Sally Kevill-Davies

Now the book is out I have a little time on my hands I am spending my time indexing all the recipes I have gathered on my pedal powered escapades so they can easily be accessed here on The Hungry Cyclist. While trawling my archives I stunbled across this American gem written by my mother for the parish magazine. 


Has anybody ever noticed how much work men are? It starts in babyhood with giant nappy fillings (what Queen Victoria euphemistically referred to as “the disagreeables”), and goes on through childhood with muddy football kit, malodorous socks and Airfix models which deposit glue and paint all over the kitchen. 

Men provide much more washing than women – large handkerchiefs full of the products of ostentatious trumpetings, the need for clean, ironed shirts every day, (even sometimes twice a day), and more of those malodorous socks than seem possible for a creature with only two feet. It is the same with food. Women graze from the fridge – a cherry tomato here, a leftover cold potato there – but men demand to be fed properly. Breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea and dinner with meat and two veg.


My latest task in satisfying the cravings of the three males in our family has been to provide Tom, our eldest son, with food fit for a cyclist, A HUNGRY CYCLIST. This should consist of carbohydrates, protein and a little fat in order to maximise the energy to be delivered into bulging calf muscles. And Tom is going to need all the energy he can get. On the 14th May he is due to set off on an epic bicycle journey down the west coast of America. He will fly to New York, and cycle up to Buffalo, across the Rockies to Vancouver, and thence south to Patagonia. The whole trip will take him the best part of two years, and he will stop along the way to sample, and write about, the food which he encounters, hence the name The Hungry Cyclist. Hopefully a book will follow.

One of the myths which he is anxious to dispel is that American food consists only of hamburgers and hot dogs. Because of its wonderfully mixed population, America is home to the ultimate fusion food, with influences from almost every country on the Globe, and many recipes go back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Frontier food, the food of the early pioneers is another favourite theme which Tom is keen to explore, and through his website he hopes to be invited into people’s homes to sample real American home-cooking.

One of the feasts which I romantically imagine him knocking up in his billy can over a fire of gathered twigs, twanging the strings of his guitar under the stars and thinking of The Old Folks At Home, is Corned Beef Hash. I know that corned beef is not fashionable now, and ranks with Spam and Luncheon Meat as gastronomic no-nos, but it is tasty and sustaining, and travels well in its tin, even though the ‘key’ supplied usually ends up in a tangle of twisted metal and a cut thumb. 

Most corned beef comes from Argentina, where the best beef is reared, though the tin in my cupboard is from Brazil, and it contains no corn. The ‘corns’ referred to are pieces of salt used in the curing process. ‘Hash’ has much older origins, dating back at least as far as the eighteenth century. My heroine, Hannah Glasse, whom I have frequently quoted in these Notes, lists no fewer than 12 recipes for hashed hare, duck, woodcock, calves’ head, calves’ feet, lamb, sweetbreads and tripe in her great book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, published in 1747. 

On October 29th, 1778, the inimitable Parson Woodforde dined (at midday as was the eighteenth century custom), on ‘a Leg of Mutton roasted’, and supped later in the day on ‘hash Mutton’, thanks to the providence of the cook, who always made use of leftovers. The word ‘hash’, of course, comes from the French verb ‘hacher’ to chop finely, and has given its name to a key on the telephone which is indicated by two downward slashes intersected by two horizontal slashes. You may use your hash key now!

  • 1 tin of corned beef
  • A few peeled cold cooked potatoes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • Oil for frying
  • Chopped parsley for sprinkling

1. Chop up the corned beef into smallish chunks, and do the same with the potato. Add the onion to the mixture, and mix together in a bowl. 

2. Pour some oil into a large frying pan and allow to get hot. Add the mixture in the bowl, turning until it is browned nicely on all sides. 

3. Tip onto kitchen paper to remove the excess oil, serve and sprinkle with parsley. You could add some ketchup, or some spicy tomato salsa for extra oomph


Corned beef

This entry was posted on Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 12:03 and is filed under American Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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