This little treat came to me when I was thinking about a 'winter warmer' in The Raven of Bath one evening over a few pints. I'd recently been experimenting with Fennel, since Russell Ham at the Devon and Cornwall in Millbrook, Cornwall had introduced me to the deep flavour that adding Tarragon could give to Beef and Onion Stew. I chose Fennel for the same aniseed like flavour that Tarragon has and the similarity in structure to Celery that would add to the vegetable bulk. When Fennel is out of season I'd use Parsnips and a good quantity of Fennel Seed roasted and ground.
So here it is, Slow Cooked Beef Brisket in a Dark Ale, takes 2 days to produce and serves loads of people.
I bought a piece of Brisket from the butcher In Green Street ready rolled that cost about £16 and at about £7 per Kg must have weighed just over 2Kg which is about 5lbs in 'old money' . When I got it home the first thing I did was untie it and lay it flat; I wanted to see how large a pan I was going to use. What I wanted to achieve was to have the beef cook slowly on top of a thick bed of vegetables and stock. I found it was going to need my largest deep (6cm) roasting tin. I filled the tin to about 4cm with equal parts of Carrot, Onion and Fennel cut to about a half inch (12mm) dice. The tin then took about a pint and a half of rich dark ale, one of the following would suit - Plain Ales, Inncognito; Stonehenge , Old Smokey ; Wooden Hand, Black Pearl; St Austell, Black Prince.
Next I heated my largest frying pan 'til it smoked and placed the brisket fat side down in it and left it to crisp up (ruined the Teflon - getting a Green Pan next). Turning the brisket to ensure that all the edges and the back were partially sealed took 2 pairs of tongs, and it was bit of a struggle to get it into the roasting tin on top of the vegetables. I topped the whole lot of with a liberal quantity of fairly course ground pepper and a scattering of Thyme sprigs.
Now the easy bit; seal the roaster with a double layer of foil and make sure there's a little space above the meat and the edges are crimped tight. Put in a warm oven and cook for eight hours on Gas Mark 'a half' (130°C).
Once the cooking has been completed, remove the roaster from the oven, take off the foil and remove the brisket which will fall apart without care. Place it on a sheet of foil and wrap it tightly and set aside to cool before putting it in the fridge. Separate the vegetables and stock and allow to cool before chilling overnight.
The following day I separated off half of the vegetables and combined them with the stock in a liquidiser to produce a rich sauce. Now that the meat had chilled it can be carefully cut into thick slices and placed in a dish on a bed of some of the remaining vegetables and covered in the sauce for reheating in an oven while potatoes are roasting. There will be loads of beef left and it's great in rolls or baguettes with horseradish sauce. Enjoy, it's well worth the time and effort.