I’ve been meaning to take on a brisket for some time and would like to take a moment to thank Geller’s for being open late on a Friday and enabling me to do so. Early hours at most of the butchers in my town plus an unfriendly policy towards raw meat in the overpopulated office fridge mean that it’s rarely easy to make an impulse meat purchase on a school day.
Not that you should really cook a brisket on impulse for the first time- this is a slow cooking cut that takes the best part of a day, at a bare minimum, to do justice to.
There are a million brisket recipes out there- slow roast, casserole, BBQ, smoked, brined, pulled beef (ghastly phrase) and many more. One day I’ll go on the BBQ trend but barely prepared as I was, I decided to give my slow cooker a chance to redeem itself from past disappointments. This is a simple but slow recipe, mostly using things I would guess you either have in the cupboard or can get from a local shop, meat notwithstanding. The sauce is wonderfully rich and would serve as an extra special french onion soup if you find yourself not wanting to drown your dinner in it all at once.
Points also to this recipe for having massive taste to pennies ratio- three pounds of meat shouldn’t cost you a lot over £10 and will make at least 4 hearty plates of dinner. Like many tougher cuts (such as shin, my favourite stew cut), brisket gets the wow factor from a long time at a low temperature and when it shreds effortlessly on to your plate you will know that time was worth it before you even get to tasting it. I might even dare to say that any leftovers (?) will improve over night.
Boomboom Brisket with Onion Gravy
All times and quantities assume a 4l slowcooker
3lb rolled brisket
2lb white onions
2 sticks celery
5-8 cloves garlic
1 pint beef stock
3Tbspns Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce
1tsp soy sauce (optional)
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper
Butter & oil for frying
Give your brisket at least half an hour out of the fridge before you plan to begin cooking. This is a good time to very roughly chop your onions, then separately very finely chop the celery and mince the garlic.
Next chuck some butter and a glug of rapeseed oil into a large, heavy based pan. Now cover a dinner plate in a mix of fresh ground black pepper and sea salt (Maldon salt if you can!). Roll all sides of your brisket over this plate to season. When the pan is hot, gently place the brisket in and seal on all sides (including the ends) until the meat just begins to brown. This should take a couple of minutes only for each turn, no more than ten minutes to do the whole thing.
Remove from the pan immediately and place into a cold slow cooker.
Add the uncooked celery and minced garlic plus bay leaves to the slow cooker pot.
Use the pan you sealed the beef in to now fry the onions (add a little more fat in needed). You may wish to get on with this but be patient and continue to cook the onions until they are translucent and just starting to caramelise- this give your gravy a rich, comforting substance upon serving. Now add the onions and the pan juices into the slow cooker.
If you are using a liquid stock then warm this up and add the Lea & Perrins’ and soy sauce. If you are using a (good quality please) stock cube then you may wish to forego the soy as it may tip the salt balance. You can always add later if the seasoning needs adjusting.
Add the stock to the pan, get the lid on and cook on high* for at least 7 hours. Check periodically after the first 3 hours, baste the meat if necessary. Try not to drool into the pot as you take in the heavenly aromas.
With regards to cooking, you are looking for the meat to be soft enough that you can pull it into thick shreds with very little pressure from a fork.
Serve on a chilly night covered in lashings of the gravy with some buttered greens and mashed potatoes and a chunky glass of red.
*please note that the ‘low’ function on my slow cooker basically means ‘off’. It should take 4+ hours to get up to a low simmer