Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Pulled beef

Pulled meat is surprisingly easy to make - all you need is time to shove a roasting joint in the oven and leave it cook really slowly on a low heat for anywhere between 3 and 5 hours, until it literally falls apart when you jab a fork into it. The "pulled" refers to the strands of meat that are produced when the muscle breaks down completely.

Pork is typically used for pulling - this recipe for pulled pork is fairly standard in the ingredients it uses. I prefer to make a massive bed of sliced onions to put the meat on and I don't add extra liquid as the onions generate enough. What is important is a low oven of about 140C and ensuring the roasting tin is sealed with a tin foil cover to keep the juices in.

However, you can pull beef too. The best joint to use is brisket - it's traditionally pot-roasted as it needs a lot of cooking. And I do mean a lot - even after 3 hours, brisket will still be tough. On the plus side, it's ridiculously cheap. A slab of about 750g will rarely cost more than a fiver and it will produce 4 decent portions.

What you need: 
750g joint of brisket
Cooking liquid
What to do: 
Heat the oven to 140C. Put the brisket in a roasting tin with a handful of unpeeled baby shallots. Season the meat and pour in about an inch of liquid. Cover with tin foil, making sure it's sealed tight round the edges of the tin. Pop it in the oven.

Check it after 3 hours - the meat won't be nearly ready but you may need to top up the cooking liquid. And don't be alarmed by the meat shrinking.

Put the meat back in the oven for at least another hour - I find 4.5 to 5 hours is about right. It's ready when you can shred it with a pair of forks.

Lift it out carefully on to a plate to shred it, then enjoy a portion with the vegetable and carbs of your choice. You can eat the shallots too if you prise the flesh out of the skins.

Cook's tips:
Choose a piece of brisket that has plenty of fat round the edge and also marbled through the meat - it helps to keep the meat moist and tender as it cooks.

If you use stock for the cooking liquid go for something not too salty. I usually make up some Marigold vegetable bouillon, but there's no reason not to use beef stock. Or you could throw in some cooking wine. If you use plain water, then toss in a couple of bay leaves and a bouquet garni, plus a few sprigs of fresh thyme if you have some.

What to do with the leftovers? From a 750g joint, you should have enough for 3 more meals. Pulled brisket is great in a sandwich for lunch with some horseradish sauce. It's also excellent in a fajita and as the meat in a small cottage pie (make enough mash for leftovers if you're having it with the brisket straight out of the oven). Cheap eats for half a week...

Brisket will dry out quickly after cooking - cover the plate of leftover shreds with some tin foil to keep the juices in as it cools. Then split it into portions and pack it into containers - the meat will keep 3 days in the fridge and it also freezes well. I usually add a little of the cooking liquid to each portion for extra moisture at this stage.