I’d been wanting to make this dish ever since I first picked up a kilo of brisket from Ivan’s Butchery & Smallgoods in Chester Hill, my favourite Croatian food shop in Sydney.
Slow cooked brisket is the best. The flavour is incredible and it just melts when it’s had decent oven time.
I may have bought it from a Croatian deli but the flavours are far from European. I’ve taken the same formula I used when making my Mexican pork tamales, using beef brisket of course, and topped it with a bready cornmeal crust that’s perfect to mop up those richly spiced juices.
I also had a bunch of spring onions sitting in the crisper so I brought them to the party by simply giving them a rub-down with achiote, oil, salt and roasting them.
There may seem to be a lot going on here in the preparation stakes, but believe me, it’s really straight forward and very easy. Did I mention it’s freaking delicious?
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Rub the oil over the brisket. Heat a large frying pan over high flame, brown the brisket and place it straight into a casserole dish that will hold the meat snugly.
Scatter the garlic, onion, chilli and pimento over the browned meat. Combine the oregano, achiote, cumin, stock, maltose and honey and stir to dissolve and incorporate well. Pour this over the brisket then season with salt and pepper. If the meat isn’t covered with the liquid, just top up with a little water. Put the lid on the casserole dish and cook in the oven for 4 hours, stirring once or twice. At the start of the third hour, remove the lid and continue cooking uncovered. When the brisket is cooked, remove from the oven and take the meat from the cooking juices and place on a large plate. Keep the juices.
Now start to prep the spring onions and the cornmeal batter.
Increase oven temperature to 190°C. As soon as it comes to temperature put the onions in to bake.
Tear the meat apart into chunks and place them into individual ramekins, distributing evenly. Discard any bones and pimento seeds. Spoon over the cooking juices, filling to just 5mm below the rim.
Roughly drop about 3-4 tablespoons of the polenta batter onto each filled ramekin. Place them onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, or until golden.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt, cheese and green onion in a mixing bowl and set aside.
In another bowl whisk the yoghurt, eggs, oil and then pour this over the dry ingredients, stirring until blended.
Wash the spring onions well and trim off any dry bits. Dry with a towel, cut a deep slit in the side of each onion and set aside.
Combine the achiote paste and olive oil and mix well until the paste is dissolved. Pour this over the spring onions, coating well. Place in a shallow baking dish and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 190°C for 30-40 minutes, or until lightly golden. Turn once during cooking.
*Achiote is a paste made using ground annato seeds, a bunch of spices and a liquid such as orange juice or vinegar. Annatto is native to Central and South America and has a deep burnt orange colour and sweet, nutty and peppery flavour. I picked up the paste from my local spice providore, the Fiji Market. Or grab my recipe for it here.