pumpkin infused brisket

With fear of repeating myself, I am trying with all my might not to start with post by saying how much I love my slow cooker. But it’s true. As well as using it for soups and stews in the winter, my favourite use of it is for slow cooking brisket.

Brisket is a fatty cut of beef which, while generally quite tough, turns tender when cooked over a long period of time. The flavour is deep, the meat is rich and falls apart at the slightest touch.

Cooked in a smoky barbeque or chipotle sauce, it’s great for Texan-style pulled beef sandwiches. I often drown a slab it in diced tomatoes to make a deliciously moreish Bolognese sauce, but this time I wanted to try something a little different.

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I found a portion of frozen pumpkin soup in the depth of my freezer and thought it was an opportune moment to get some experimentation underway.

The flavour of my soup was fresh and cooling; laced with dried limes and cumin seeds so I wanted the meat to be spicy in contrast. I coated the meat in a dry rub of dried herbs, curry powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger and lots of black pepper and set it to one side.

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Next, I diced an onion into the thinnest slithers I could manage and crushed a couple of cloves of garlic. I threw it all into the crock pot with a glug of oil and nestled my brisket on top, dusting the leftover spices in as well. I coated the meat with my pre-made soup; a little under two cups. As a final touch, I added a homemade stock cube and ½ a cup of water to get the flavours circulating.

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After leaving it to stew all day, I pulled the meat apart with two forks and added half a red pepper, thinly sliced. Starting with a bed of roasted new potatoes, I added a layer of shredded spinach and topped with a heaped serving of brisket and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. The heat of the meat cooks the spinach slightly, without wilting it beyond recognition so the dish didn’t come across as too heavy which is great for any hearty meal when it’s not winter!

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a taste of south america – tamarillo salsa

I can’t sit still for long, I try to stay in one place for an extended period of time and it just makes me feel anxious. I am always thinking of future holiday destinations and daydreaming about where I want to go next.

My current obsession is South America, in particularly, Argentina. I went to an incredible Argentinian barbeque recently and while I was being rolled out the front door, my mind started swirling around ideas of how I could recreate many of the brightly coloured, punchy dishes in my own kitchen.

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As you can imagine, a barbeque joint is going to be packed to them brim with meat so I wanted to dream up something a little lighter but still with that South American kick. Taking inspiration from the vibrant buildings and streets of downtown Buenos Aires, the tropical flavours that come with year round sunshine, and what I could find scrounging around the kitchen cupboards, I whipped up a quick tamarillo salsa.

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Tamarillos are such a wonderful fruit; tart and oozing with dark orange blood, hands stained purple from scraping the soft flesh out of its casing is a sensation that fills me with childhood nostalgia. Their flavour is also a perfect contrast to the sweetness of salsa’s primary ingredient; tomatoes.

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Dice three small tomatoes, or a handful of cherry tomatoes, if the seeds are quite watery then discard them. Dice the flesh of one tamarillo, and ¼ of a red onion for a sharp flavour and an added pop of colour. Add them to the tomatoes. Dice one red chilli or ¼ of a red bell pepper; which you choose depends on how spicy you want it – if you’re not a spice fiend then use the bell pepper as it possessed a similar flavour to the chilli without the fieriness.

Add the juice of ½ a lemon or lime, a drizzle of olive oil, a tablespoon of rock salt and another of raw sugar, add a teaspoon of smoked paprika for an optional extra kick if you so desire.

Combine well and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour – the longer you leave it, the more time the flavours have to combine and meld together – after a day you can hardly distinguish between the tiny cubes of pepper, tamarillo and tomato.

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This is a wonderful accompaniment to steak, lamb or chicken, or even heaped onto a piece of toasted ciabatta for a tropical bruschetta fusion.