Why is corned beef back on the boil?

Aussies are curious about cooking corned beef.
Aussies are curious about cooking corned beef. Photo: Murdoch Books

COMMENT

Well, my finger is not on the pulse of Australia. Google has released its annual list of the nation's most trending food searches and it turns out Australians are more curious about cooking corned beef than anything else.

Corned beef. What in the what now?

Corned beef didn't just claim gold in the "how to cook" search stakes, it also came home with a fourth position placing on the same list. Fourth! How can this be?

Specifically, it was "how to cook silverside" that weighed in at number four (right behind eggplant and tofu) but I think we can all agree that corned beef and silverside are used interchangeably in Australia. Certainly Google seems to think so judging by the near identical search results for both terms.

Stephanie Alexander's corned beef for sandwiches.
Stephanie Alexander's corned beef for sandwiches. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Here's the full list of trending "how to cook…?" searches:

■ How to cook corned beef

■ How to cook eggplant

Advertisement

■ How to cook tofu

■ How to cook silverside

■ How to cook beetroot

■ How to cook rice in the microwave

■ How to cook corn

■ How to cook cous cous

■ How to cook crayfish

■ How to cook barramundi

I would love – LOVE – someone to explain to me why Australians were so hot for salt-brined hindquarters of beef in 2018. Did the Honey Badger cook his nan's version on an episode of The Bachelor? Was is served with white sauce and cabbage at the royal wedding? Did Barnaby Joyce mention it was his favourite date night dinner in a tell-all interview with Seven's Sunday Night? (That last one is quite possible.)

I loathed corned silverside when I was a kid. The only thing worse than coming home to the smell of beef on the boil was finding a Peck's fish paste sandwich in my lunchbox. My grandmother lived with us while I was growing up and took care of most of the household cooking. Great for my parents who worked long hours but not so great for an eight-year-old boy who dreamt of spaghetti bolognese instead of honeycomb tripe. Grandma was not one for fresh herbs and spices – white pepper in white sauce was as adventurous as it got.

White sauce is Australia's favourite corned beef accompaniment and it has the potential to be delicious gear. For most of my childhood it was a gruel that tasted of grey.

Corned beef can be a wonderful dish the right hands. The first time I experienced a real deal interpretation of the British classic was courtesy of Jeremy and Jane Strode at Bistrode in Sydney's Surry Hills. Served with mustard sauce as the Lord intended, and smacking with star anise, cloves and coriander seeds, the Strode corned beef (wagyu, to be precise) was a revelation.

Do other Millennials have grim memories of corned beef but also know the pickled meat can be a magical time? Is this why corned beef is trending in the age of poke bowls, katsu and quinoa? Perhaps Generation Y really wants to cook corned beef, they just don't want use a family recipe out of fear the end result will taste like boiled bunyip.

I suspect that most of the curiosity surrounding corned beef stems from the fact it's very low in carbohydrates and low-carb diets are very popular. "Keto" (as in the low-carb ketogenic diet) was the highest trending recipe search in 2018. This is a different field than the "how to cook…" query and Google reports that beef stroganoff was the most popular recipe search after keto.

Beef. Stroganoff. The reasons behind the popularity of this monotone Tuesday night dinner are beyond speculation. I'm surprised apricot chicken didn't come in at number three. (Chicken curry did though, so close enough.)

The internet. Bleurgh.