Brisket stuffed with peppers and za’atar

You know what’s great? Porcehtta. Now, what if porchetta but beef…

Cool – many of you can now skip the recipe entirely.

What? Nigel Slater got a 400-page book out of one-liners and faint gestures. At least I’m going to give an ingredients list below the fold… sheesh. (Eat is actually great though, worth your time as an idea-sparker)

This is a thing that happened when I wanted to make porchetta, but couldn’t find pork belly without walking across town. It doesn’t have the zingy brightness of a herb-stuffed pork roast, and brisket won’t give you the gooey richness either, but it’s big satisfying flavours and it’s fall-apart soft. Other cuts may push you more in that unctuous direction (looking at you, beef shin) but they’ll be fiddlier to slice and stuff.

The nice thing about this is that it’s front-loaded. Twenty minutes of faffing, then three hours of ignoring it in a low oven and you’ve got an amazing sandwich filling (fresh rolls or pita) or an unusual roast.

Ingredients:

  • Beef brisket, 1kg
  • Red pepper, 1 large
  • Za’atar, 3tbsp (or see recipe at the end)
  • Sumac, 1tsp (If there’s none in your za’atar mix, or you just really like it. I always add extra.)
  • Red onion, 1 large
  • Garlic, 3-4 cloves
  • Cumin, 1tsp
  • Paprika, 1/2tsp
  • Red wine, 200ml (something big like a Malbec)

Za’atar is a kind of middle-eastern oregano/marjoram/hyssop type herb. Cooking-wise, though, it usually refers to the spice blend made up with it. Mixes will differ, but usually include the herbs blended with sesame seeds and salt. Some have other spices, and you often get sumac in the mix. I usually buy Zaytoun, which is a fairly simple one, and smells earthy and exciting.

If you don’t have za’atar to hand: toast 1tbsp sesame seeds, and roughly grind them with 1tbsp oregano, 1tsp marjoram, 1tsp parsley, 1/4tsp thyme, 1tsp sumac if you have it, and salt. It’s not the same but it’ll get you close.

Instructions:

Heat the oven to 150c

Core the red pepper, and slice it into strips as thinly as you can. Peel the onion and garlic, and likewise slice them super fine. Mix these with 2tbsp of the za’atar, the cumin, paprika, sumac, and a little black pepper and salt. Toss this together with a little olive oil.

Lay the brisket out as a flat strip. With a long-ish very sharp knife, carefully slice up the middle of the strip, horizontally, not quite to the end, so that you can fold it open, book-like, to roughly double the strip length.

If you’re using shin, or another cut, you can still do this, and you’ve got two options: try a fiddly zig-zag style cut to get more flat area (I would do this, because Roger), or just accept a looser, chunkier stuffing pocket.

Rub the inside of the sliced brisket with the remaining tablespoon of za’atar, and lay as much of the vegetable stuffing on one side as you can. Fold the other side back over, closing the ‘book’, and place any surplus filling on top.

Roll the brisket back up as tightly as you can, and tie it up with string to secure the filling inside. This is messy, lots of filling will fall out. Poke it back in where you can, but try not to worry too much.

Put the brisket into a large, lidded oven dish or casserole. Pour over the wine, and put it into the oven, covered, for 3 hours.

Check it after two hours or so. It can give off a lot of liquid, or it can run dry. If there’s lots of liquid, cook it uncovered for the final 20 minutes or so. If there’s almost none, add another glass or so of wine at that two hour mark.

When the brisket’s done, lift it out to rest for 15 minutes, and gently reduce any spare liquid to use as a rich gravy.

I like to thinly slice the brisket and serve it as hot sandwiches in fresh crusty bread, with a drizzle of the liquid over the top of the meat.

This is great with mezze-ish salads and sides. Heap up the thinly-sliced beef for piling into rolls or pitas, and present it with some shredded lettuce, and a simple tomato & cucumber salad. Some seasoned sliced radishes and a dish of blanched and dressed green beans with tahini sauce on the side. Splendid.

It works just as well as a roast.

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