Ah, slow-braised brisket – could there be a more quintessential culinary expression of Jewish motherly love?
For me, sadly, Jewish food has always been the forbidden fruit of world cuisine, but considering I grew up in a country which doesn’t recognize the state of Israel, it is hardly that surprising that my knowledge of Jewish food isn’t as intimate as I would like it to be!
Unfortunately, like so much in life, what little I do know about Jewish cuisine has been gleaned from that most dubious window into the world: 80s television. As a youngster, I loved nothing more than watching my weekly staple of disapproving 5th Avenue matriarchs and their well-heeled families. Aside from their wonderfully mordant sense of humour, I was always most drawn to the food they ate, marvelling at the mysterious treats they dished up at their vast family gatherings. Matzah balls, brisket, lox and latkes – to my ear they all sounded wonderfully exotic and the characters’ enthusiasm for the food was infectious. Of course, given my complete lack of exposure to all things Jewish at the time, I had no idea that these delightfully brisk people were anything other that well-to-do Americans. The fact that they (and their food) were Jewish was utterly lost on me. I simply assumed that all New Yorkers invariably had amazing apartments, a psychologist in the family and almost always wanted to marry their daughters off to “good boys” and doctors. As a child I did, however, know one thing for sure: more than anything else, I desperately wanted to know what brisket tasted like.
Some 30 years later, I am pleased to say that I have finally tasted the allusive dish and damn it, brisket is as delicious as I had imagined it would be! I was so excited the first time I made brisket, I could scarcely contain myself – 3 hours in the oven is an eternity to wait to taste a childhood dream. Meltingly tender, wholesome and served with a richly flavoured sauce, this is essentially the ultimate pot-roast, but made with a very special cut of meat.
Simple, classic and worthy of its iconic status: whether you know its Rosh Hashanah or not, a good brisket is always worth the wait!
Slow Braised Brisket
- 1.5kg beef brisket (with a good layer of fat)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 onion, quartered
- 3 celery stalks, cut into chunks
- 1 head garlic, cut in half
- 1 tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
- 1/2 bottle red wine
- 500ml beef stock
- Bouquet garni consisting of 2 bay leaves, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 sprigs fresh rosemary & 4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Preheat the oven to 160 deg. Celsius
- Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. Drizzle brisket with olive oil
- Select a suitably sized casserole, baking tray or Dutch oven and place on a medium-high heat. Add the seasoned and oiled brisket and brown on all sides
- Once thoroughly browned, remove the brisket and set to one side. Add a splash of olive oil if needed and then add the carrots, onion and celery. Sauté the vegetables until slightly soft and then add the garlic, tomatoes, red wine and bouquet garni. Bring everything to a boil
- Return the brisket to the pot, cover and take off the heat. Roast in the oven for 3 hours or until the brisket is fork tender
- Once cooked, transfer the brisket to a cutting board, lightly cover with some tinfoil and leave it rest for 10 minutes
- In the meantime, strain the sauce to remove the vegetables and herbs. Spoon off some of the excess fat, then return the sauce to the pot. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Over a high heat, bring the sauce to a rapid boil and cook until it thickens slightly
- Slice the brisket across the grain and then pour over the sauce