Why eat it at all, you might ask? Nobody knows how to cook it anyway etc etc. I hear you. Corned beef is a Nana thing and many of us do not have our Nanas on hand to advise, sadly; like humus, it seems to drive everyone into an angsty flap. Dry your tears. I've made this stuff my bitch and so can you.
Properly cooked, it is economical, nutritious, nostalgic, versatile and delicious. You can drive it in whichever direction you prefer, from stolid British pepper and mustard all the way over to virtual Thai, infusing it with kaffir lime leaves and star anise- I kid you not. Look upon it as a blank canvas awaiting your culinary artistry. The only other caveat being that this is not a dish to rush or whip up on a whim. If you're aiming to eat around 12.30, start at 9.30 am if at all possible, meaning you should get this underway after breakfast if you're at home and for most peeps this is probably a weekend meal. You need 2 1/2 hours no matter what with conventional cooking methods. I won't discuss the unconventional because I have never owned a microwave or any kind of slow cooker and never will, because of a stubborn addiction to flavour and texture. What? Microwaves are the slippery slope to heinous shit like microwave popcorn and a bunch of other evil crap that should be fired into space (if I didn't have so much respect for the interstellar void.) They are culinary autotune. They baste your innards with their invisible waves. They always look greasy. I could go on.
Personally, I come down somewhere in the middle on the flavouring spectrum, as you can probably see below. Gather your spices etc before you get the meat out of the fridge- you almost always discover you're short of something vital and either have to rush off to the bloody shops or abandon the project til whenever.
The brand shall remain nameless but 'Traditional' here means infused with nitrites (a major constituent of gunpowder, no less) which, we are repeatedly assured by scientific types, will kill us cemetery dead if we put our tongues on it more than once a week or so. We don't eat this more than once every two months, so we'll roll that particular dice but the evidence stacking up against heavy consumption isn't looking good. Bacon fiends take heed.
Nitrite-less corned beef is an inoffensive silvery grey colour which is perfectly acceptable. But anyways, let's clear our minds of that little doozy and get on with lunch, shall we?
You can remove the fat, but there is little point since there's not a huge amount and so much flavour resides there that you're better off just not eating meat if it offends you. A wee bit of fat does you good anyway.
It seems to me that there's no real rainbow connection between meat volume and cooking time; as a rule, I cook a largish piece like this for around 2 hours, then leave it to sit in the stock, heat turned off, for another half an hour, chillaxing. This is the secret to tenderness; allow the meat to rest. Don't rip it out and hack it up immediately, as I used to do while wondering why it had the texture of linoleum. The corned beef will shrink by about a third, depending on the amount of liquid pumped into it during the pickling process.
Take a half a cup of the cooking stock from the meat pot and add it to the vegetable water, but not too much- we've found that the vinegar can do something strange to some kinds of potato, making them hard and weird even when fully cooked. I usually make a white mustard sauce to go with, but today it's creamed leeks and purple kale plus pink fir potatoes (not impressed with this variety so far) and carrots.
This lot will do today and tomorrow, two big winter meals for myself and a partner who's innards are a passage to that magic land where Anna Wintour's head appears on the bodies of fawns and prances in an endless rapture amongst people who never gain weight ever.
The biggest problem I have with this meal is assembling all the components in a timely manner, so I cut the meat ahead of serving time and drop it back into the stock to keep warm and stop it drying out, which works a treat. Corned beef will go all parched and puckery at the drop of a hat so keep that in mind when reheating- it really does need some sort of sauce or wet condiment such as relish.
I highly recommend the fascinating Wiki link at the top of this piece; I had no idea corned beef had had such an impact on my own geographical destiny, its production being one of the main drivers of Irish impoverishment (particularly in the south). Landowners turned their farms over to beef production, marginalizing their tenants and dependents and forcing thousands of families to emigrate. I knew corned beef was a big colonial thing with devotees in Asia and the Caribbean as well as being a traditional kosher dish, but hell's bells! If it wasn't for this stuff, my father's family might still be boosting livestock and starting bar fights in Kerry. Trés ironique.