This isn’t really a recipe, it’s too simple to call it that. Think of it more as an idea. An idea about where you buy your meat, what you buy and what you do with it. Way back when I was a country kid, a supermarket was not the place one sourced meat. In fact, I can’t even remember whether the OK, the only supermarket in town, had meat on its shelves. Nope, for meat one went to the butcher.
I remember the wooden swing-door with its gauze to keep the flies out. I remember the large squares of snow-white paper used to wrap our purchase. But most of all I remember patiently waiting while Mum had long conversations with the butcher. What did he have today? What was the best way to cook it? I should have been bored; I was utterly fascinated.
Over the years I’ve witnessed the demise of many butcheries. We all head for the supermarket these days and I find that so unfortunate. Yes, it may be convenient. But the quality is largely rubbish and the cuts so incredibly basic, unimaginative and samey. Chops. Steak. Ribs if you’re feeling really exotic. And little blocks of stewing beef or lamb, from heaven knows which part of the animal.
I too am guilty of slipping something anaemic-looking sandwiched between polystyrene and cling film into my shopping basket on occasion. But meat is expensive, so I really want it to be a feast when it is on my plate. And for that, folks, you need to find yourself a good local butcher and have a conversation – about something like brisket.
You’ll find brisket in your supermarket to be sure – sliced thin and meant for soup and stews. How dreary. This chesty part of the cow is such a treat when cooked low and slow. I ask my butcher to make me a brisket roll, and I pot-roast it on a layer of root vegetables. What emerges after three hours is juicy and soft enough to eat with a spoon. Mash works well with pot-roast rolled brisket. But I have a fondness for samp with rich beefy cuts, because that’s how we did it way back in a small country town.
All you need is…
1kg rolled brisket
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
6-8 large carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
2 unpeeled whole cloves of garlic, smashed with a chef’s knife to break skin open
salt and black pepper
parsley, finely chopped
cooked samp, for serving (or mashed potatoes)
Brown the brisket all over in a splash of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Place onions, carrots and garlic in a large roasting dish (with a tight-fitting lid), drizzle over a tablespoon of olive oil, toss to coat and give it a few turns of salt and black pepper. Place rolled brisket on root vegetables, give it a few turns of salt and pepper, pop the lid on and into a 160 degree Celsius oven it goes for 3-4 hours until seriously soft. I never add water, the moisture in the meat and vegetables is sufficient when roasted at such a low temperature and will make the most intense beefy jus.
Spoon samp into shallow bowls and sprinkle over parsley. (If you’re feeling extra fancy, give it a dusting of seriously fine lemon zest too.) Spoon root vegetables on samp, cover with a thick slice of rolled brisket and spoon over plenty of that beefy jus. If you like thicker gravy, give the pan juices a bit of Maizena and Bisto love. I know many a chef will screech in horror, but there is a place in my kitchen for Bisto.
I know this is simple food. But simple is so often best, and it’s what I crave in the middle of a fairly icy winter. Open a bottle of good red with this brisket. See my Cape Blend choice lower down.