When my favourite butcher (Hampstead Butcher & Providore, I'm looking at you) asked me if I fancied trying out a cut of meat for slow cooking as part of their campaign to encourage people to cook in at home, of course I bit their hand off. Slow cooking is a godsend for anyone wanting a shedload of flavour, without any of the work. I love the fact you can whack something in early in the morning and come home to a perfectly cooked meal, and there's no need to stick to straight old stews or casseroles either; you can go wild. PS I recently read a v interesting article on slow cooking and 'mom food' - take a look if you like a bit of problematic foodie feminism.
But, back to the butcher. What to go for? So many delicious meaty options are good for popping in the slow cooker, and happily they tend to be the cheaper cuts too; think pig or beef cheeks, oxtail, pork shoulder and lots of lamb, but this time some remarkable looking Kent brisket was speaking to me...
Once home, I knew I wanted spice but was torn between going for something Korean, or maybe getting some Caribbean flavours going but in the end, a cut like brisket says Texas to me. Proper beef country, they tend to BBQ big old bits of cow there, but I figured the low and slow with some BBQ-spicy flavours would do the job. Here's what I did...
For the marinade:
3 fat cloves garlic
1 dried chilli (I used a dried peri peri because I had it, but take a look at Sous Chef's dazzling array if you're a chilli fan)
1 tsp mustard powder
Big pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp tamarind
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
A few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
Juice of half a lime
Pound the dry ingredients in a pestle and mortar until it looks something like this...
Then add the sauces and you'll arrive at something resembling this...
Smear it all over the beef then refrigerate overnight.
The next day it's PARTY TIME. Get out your biggest slow cooker or casserole dish because that beast needs to go in for quite a while. My joint was 1.8kg and the butcher suggested at least six or seven hours; I actually whacked him in on low in the slow cooker first thing in the morning and left it there with occasional basting for a good nine.
An hour or so before serving I added a few tablespoons of liquid smoke (which I usually reserve for making Old Fashioneds) for a bit more of that southern style.
Good luck taking it out of the pot without it falling to pieces.
The Texan flavours of the marinade meant I had a sudden urge to make cornbread - I used a riff on Felicity Cloake's Perfect Cornbread recipe - and I served it with a beautiful pineapple chow chow (a southern US kind of piccalilli relish thing) that I stole from the Hang Fire ladies in an old copy of Sainsbury's mag, plus a simple buttermilk dressed salad.
I don't need to tell you how meltingly tender that beef was. My only regret: not being able to eat it all. I've earmarked the rest for tacos ASAP.
** The lovely Hampstead Butcher gifted me the brisket, but look I shop there all the time, ok? ;-)