This makes a generous meal for a big family dinner, the flavours given a warm glow with seasonal spices and smoky chipotle chilli. It’s a good make-ahead dish for the Christmas and New Year period, an easy way to feed the masses (no pun intended).
Brisket needs to be cooked low and slow but pot-roasted this way it doesn’t need a lot of looking after, just a quick turn halfway through to keep the meat moist and evenly cooked, which is best done a day or two beforehand so the flavours improve and intensify.
I prefer to cook the brisket unrolled as I think the flavours permeate better. If you’re following suit, tell your butcher that’s how you want it, otherwise you could get a rolled joint home and cut through the endless bits of string to find you’ve got a very scraggy bit at one end. If you don’t have smoked chipotle chillies, add a half teaspoon of chilli flakes.
Beef in Mulled Wine
About 2 kg beef brisket
3 tbsp oil
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 or 2 chipotle chillies, to taste
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 or 3 strips of orange peel, white pith removed
1 stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
3 or 4 cloves
6 allspice berries
2 blades of mace
3 bay leaves
A few thick slices of fresh ginger
1/2 bottle red wine
300-400 ml chicken or beef stock
Salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3.
Soak the chipotle chillies in warm water until they soften, then drain, remove and discard the stalks and chop the flesh. Set aside.
If the meat is rolled, unroll it. Trim it of any thick pieces of fat but don’t remove all of it as a thin layer will help keep the meat moist. Season with plenty of salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Dry-fry the cinnamon, star anise, cloves, allspice and mace for a minute or two, shaking the pan to make sure they don’t burn. Remove and set aside.
In your biggest casserole, heat the oil and sear the meat on both sides until well browned. Remove and keep to one aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and fry the sliced onions until soft and golden, then add the garlic and chillies and cook for a few minutes more. Scrape a hole in the onions and add the tomato paste, cooking for a minute to gentle any harsh taste.
Pour in the red wine and let it sizzle up, stirring in any brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the spices and ginger, the orange peel and bay leaves, salt and pepper, then replace the meat in the pan.
Add enough stock to come two-thirds of the way up the meat and bring to the boil. Run a piece of grease-proof paper under the tap, scrunch it up to get most of the water out and lay it over the beef.
Cover tightly and cook in the pre-heated oven for about two and a half to three hours, turning at half-time. Ideally it should be carveable rather than shreddable but it’s better to overdo than underdo this cut. Once it’s tender, remove from the oven, cool in the pot and then refrigerate overnight.
Next day, remove from the fridge at least an hour before you start cooking. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Skim any fat from the surface of the sauce and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the meat is thoroughly re-heated.
Remove to a serving platter and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquor and if you’d like to thicken it, mix a tablespoon of cornflour with a little cold water, put the pan on the hob and stir until it reaches the desired consistency. Check the seasoning and pour into a jug.
Slice the meat thickly and serve. It’s particularly good with a celeriac purée.