Corned brisket beats boring silverside

A cut above: Corned brisket with horseradish cream.
A cut above: Corned brisket with horseradish cream. Photo: David Reist

In my quest to corner the jersey cream market at the Canberra regional markets these last few weeks, I've had to get there nice and early, while the stalls are being set up so I'm first in.

It's not that I need four litres of cream a week, as lovely a cream as it is. I said yes to the task of providing cultured butter for the ribbon-cutting at the new Citroen showrooms in Phillip. Long story, but they have the idea of handing out bacon and egg rolls with truffle butter.

My involvement is to make the butter and required dose of black truffle. It is a great way of preserving and disseminating some fungus love.

A tip though to making truffle butter, you have to peel the truffles first. We celebrate this fungus but need to be mindful that it grows in soil with lots of other less friendly micro-organisms. Use these peelings in a dish that is cooked like broccoli soup, turning the potentially dire to the magnificent.

In making cultured butter you add a live culture to cream.  Once fermented, this is called creme fraiche - hold that thought - the butter is then churned. Time consuming but another of these joyous tasks, like sour dough bread making, that reminds us of how good things are when made.

So now that I'm at the markets, I grab some caffeine and reacquaint myself. As always there's a good feel here, lots of country folk with dirt under their nails, uncombed locks and raucous laughs. No airs, graces or pictures of Jamie Oliver. Just people selling stuff they grow to a slowly emerging populace who thrive on this connection to the land and the region.

My only problem coming here is getting home and having way too much food to get through in a reasonable time. I am energised though, reflecting that I really should head to these markets each week, rather than at the last minute on Sunday ending up at a supermarket and the dire fresh food selection.

A good haul, with my cream I unpack: one beautiful brisket that was my side mission today; a bag of fat king brown mushrooms, 200g truffle for my project; three yellowfin tuna steaks plus a few fillets of black snapper belly to try, an interesting deep-sea fish that I hadn't seen before; freshly pulled Dutch cream and kipfler spuds; a huge bag of oranges for juicing; half a dozen south coast flat agassi oysters; a pasture-raised chook plus a variety of roasting and juicing vegetables.

And that was just scratching the surface from a 15 minute shop, so I can get out and head home before the family awakens to their usual Saturday breakfast: Fresh juice, pancakes, poached eggs with truffle, coffee machine warmed with fresh beans in the grinder, some music playing from my sons Spotify playlist, to set the mood. Wonder what the music of A$AP Rocky is like…"I love bad bitc…"?

Well, maybe not the music.

So getting back to the brisket, a cut you don't see too often away from good markets or butchers. This is from the breast of the cow, that lump that they use as a cushion when lounging around.

One tough piece of meat, lots of connective tissue and randomly directioned muscle fibre. We here in Australia tend to generally use the equally tough but so much more boring silverside. However in Britain, the brisket is the cut for corned beef and it's dead easy to pickle (corn) the meat yourself, rather than use the nitrate-laced product cryovaced in the supermarket aisles near you.

It takes about five days to pickle, so this brisket will be ready for cooking next weekend but it will keep well now as it is preserved. However, not using nitrates means that it doesn't have the shelf-life of a corned silverside, which can be measured in decades I presume.

The beef needs to be rinsed to remove excess salt to use. Hard to be exact as the size will vary, rinse and then soak it in two changes of fresh water before proceeding. The great thing about the brisket is the shape – wide and flattish – so you drape it over a mixture of aromatic stock vegetables then add some white wine and chicken stock and slow braise in the oven for four to five hours. The texture of brisket is what makes it so much better than silverside, more a gelatinous feel, softer and certainly more flavour. Serve with mashed potatoes and horseradish cream. This is also easy to make, being based on crème fraiche and as I have a fridge full of it now this makes sense. You can buy this or just add extra lemon juice to thickened cream to give it the tang. Leftovers are magnificent. with corned beef on sandwiches with hot English mustard or as hash for a robust breakfast after an early start at the markets.

Corned brisket with horseradish cream

2-2.5kg brisket, pickled Butter
2 leeks, halved
2 onions, sliced thick
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
1 head garlic, halved across the bulb
1 cup dry white wine
Chicken stock

Soak the corned beef in two changes of cold water. In a roasting pan, lay the vegetables in an orderly arrangement, dot with butter, drap the brisket over the top. Add wine plus enough stock to half cover the brisket. Bring everything to a simmer, cover tightly with two layers of foil and place in an oven set at 130C. Cook until tender, turning the brisket carefully over after two hours. Slice thickly and serve with mashed potato, vegetables of your choice and lashings of horseradish cream.

Pickling brine

250g salt flakes
125g white sugar
2 star anise
10g black peppercorns
10g coriander seeds
1 bunch thyme
4 cloves garlic
2 lt water

Bing to a simmer for five minutes and cool completely before adding beef. Brine for 5-7 days.

Horseradish cream

1 cup creme fraiche
15g grated fresh horseradish
Juice of one lemon
1 tbs hot English mustard

Mix together, no need to season for this dish.