Preparation time: about 30 minutes
This is one of those dishes where you can hack the recipe about mercilessly and it’ll still come out delicious, so this is just the way that I do it and have found that it produces a dish that my family & guests have raved about. So hopefully, yours will do the same about what emerges from your slow cooker (which I also call a crockpot).
One beef joint, preferably brisket, around 2.5 Kg (for a 6 litre crockpot). Silverside can also be used and cooks quicker.
4 medium parsnips
6 medium carrots
2 large onions (one red, one white, if available)
a dozen medium sized mushrooms, whole.
150gm coarse cut, strong-flavoured Italian or German smoked salami or equivalent amount of chorizo (not too spicy – or reduce the amount of cayenne)
750 ml boiling water.
1 vegetable stock cube, preferably with no MSG or salt.
8 cardamom pods, whole
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (reduce accordingly if stock cube contains salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
small handful herbes de Provence
One star anise (or 1/4 teaspoon ground green anise)
4 whole garlic cloves
12 black peppercorns, whole
1/2 bottle strong-flavoured red wine – a good plonk is ideal.
Olive oil or pomace
Put the boiling water in the slow cooker and switch to high. Add the stock cube, garlic, peppercorns, star anise and cardamom pods. Put the lid on.
In a large frying pan/skillet (or whatever you have that’s big enough to hold the joint of meat) put about 20 ml olive oil, the herbes de Provence, turmeric and ginger (also the ground anise if using); mix it all up & coat the cooking surface with it. Allow to heat over a low light whilst you peel the parsnips and, if necessary, the carrots. I prefer to just top & tail the carrots if they’re clean enough as so much of the nutritional goodness is in the “skin”.
Cut the carrots and parsnips into pieces around 5cm long by 2cm square. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t square! The idea is to get them roughly the same size so they cook evenly – so you will probably have to split the thick ends of some of them into 2 or 4. If they’re shorter, make them thicker.
Peel the onions and cut them into four pieces each, longitudinally. Peel the shallots and cut them in half longitudinally.
Turn up the heat in the pan and drop the carrots, parsnips, onions and shallots into the pan. Fry them over, turning often, over a medium heat, for around 5 minutes. Lower the heat and tip the veggies into the crockpot, being careful not to splash yourself with boiling stock 🙂 Replace the crockpot lid.
Cube the sausage – around 1.5 cm a side is good but again, don’t sweat the precision. Turn the heat up in the pan, add a little more oil if the veggies have sucked most of it up, and add the sausage. Fry, turning often, for around 5 minutes or until the pieces look fairly oily. Tip the sausage pieces into the crockpot and replace the lid.
Score the meat between the strings with a very sharp knife. If you can do this all the way round, good. If not, no matter, two sides will do. Rub cayenne into the meat, especially the slits you’ve just made and put it into the pan on a medium heat.
Go and wash the cayenne off your hands before you forget and rub your eyes!
Turn the meat every few minutes until it’s browned on all sides; I use a couple of turkey forks (those 3-pronged very wide ones that normally only come out at Christmas) to hold the meat up on each end to brown those ends and seal them. Again, don’t worry if you can’t do this – it does carry a real risk of dropping the meat on the floor and watching it going skidding across the floor leaving a trail of grease you’ll probably slip on whilst chasing it.
Once the meat is as browned as you are going to get it, place it carefully in the crockpot. If you can get it resting on top of some of those bits of veg, all the better. Leave the lid off the crockpot for a minute: pour the wine into the pan and deglaze it (incidentally heating the wine) then tip the oily, spicy wine into the crockpot. I use a silicone-bladed spatula to scrape as much as possible off the pan and into the stock, helped by using a non-stick pan.
Put the lid on the crock pot… and rest. After an hour, turn the crockpot heat down to medium, take the lid off for a couple of minutes (allows alcohol vapour to escape) and cook for another 4 hours or to low and cook for another 5 to 6 hours. Probably the shorter time is better for silverside, the longer for brisket. During cooking, more liquid will be liberated. After that first hour, if the joint is not completely immersed in the liquid, turn it over. Turn it over again a couple more times at roughly 2 hour intervals. This turning isn’t essential – it’s just one of those tiny things that edges things towards perfection 🙂
When you can no longer stand the perfume, remove the meat from the crockpot and leave it rest for a short time before trying to carve it (or pull it apart, as appropriate). Carefully remove the vegetables from the soup and strain the soup to get rid of the peppercorns, star anise and cardamom pods. You can optionally remove the garlic at this point. Re-unite the veggies and soup.
Serve in deep, wide dishes on rice (I prefer brown rice and I think it suits the dish). Around 130-150gm meat per person is usually enough. Add some of the vegetables and enough soup to soak the rice and then some more.
Serve with Italian Mostarda di Frutta in a side dish.
Some people prefer to cook this without any kind of sausage. The sausage is there for two main reasons:
- Add smoke flavour! Obviously, you can just add smoke flavouring instead 🙂 Or use anything else suitable – or just leave it out. It’ll taste different but I’d guess still very good.
- The fat from it helps prevent the joint drying out, something which one would not expect but can still happen – i.e. all the fat leaches out of it and despite it being immersed in liquid, when you eat it, it seems dry.
You can probably counteract this by simply adding more olive oil to the pot – about 50 ml maybe? Some kind of meat fat would probably work better I suspect but some experimentation is needed here… 😉