When seemingly inexplicable events turn our world upside down, and emotions of outrage, fear, anger, sadness and despair are mixed into a kind of burning cauldron in our gut, food can become both sickening and comforting. And when you’re on the periphery of that, and you want to comfort those involved, food can be an amazing vehicle to bring people together around something joyous, nourishing and shared.
Bread has always been something we tear and share amongst friends, family and strangers. As a staple, it’s been emotive. Bread has caused riots through the centuries, and brought enemies together over the same table. So my recipe this month centres around the best garlic bread you’ll ever have, paired with a warm, comforting stew that doesn’t require much fuss. As you knead the bread, push away all the anger and pain, and pull in positivity and energy; you can imbue this bread with the goodness you and your friends need. Watch it grow and change in shape, just as we as humans do, and then slather it greedily with butter and garlic, and place it in the oven to brown and swell into something utterly divine.
In contrast, the stew needs very little attention. At the beginning, sure – you’ll need to work on browning your brisket, and at the end, you’ll need two forks and strong arms to pull the meat – but in between it will sit in the oven or on the hob, happily simmering for hours whilst you work on the bread. That’s part of the joy of cooking with the best quality meat – the qualities are there, so you don’t need to work too hard at making it taste divine. Our brisket is sourced through The Well Hung Butcher, located in Laikipia. Their beef is entirely grass fed, with no nasties whatsoever, making it super tasty. It’s also good for the planet – raised on ranches alongside wildlife, the cattle assist with regenerative farming methods by moving each day, as well as providing an income to these precious parts of the country, where many endangered animals are being kept safe for future generations to enjoy.
Serve with a simple green salad from the garden or if it’s the evening and you feel like cooked veggies, do an easy green bean salad with sesame seeds and an olive oil and lemon dressing. With these bold flavours, make sure you have a large glass of something red and delicious to accompany your taste fest – I recommend Hesketh Small Parcels Cabernet Sauvignon or the Trumpeter Malbec. If you’d like something slightly sweeter try our California Roots Cabernet Sauvignon.
For the bread:
Twajenga whole wheat flour 500g, plus extra for dusting
fast action yeast 7g sachet or 2 tsp
salt 1½ tsp
Eliad olive oil
Brown’s mozzarella 2 x 125g balls
Brown’s unsalted butter 150g, softened
Brown’s Parmesan grated to make 3 tbsp
garlic 5 cloves, roughly chopped
flat-leaf parsley ½ small bunch, stalks discarded
basil leaves if you have some
dried oregano 2 tsp
Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl, and 2 tbsp olive oil with 300ml hand-hot water, in a jug. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix to a smooth dough – first with a wooden spoon, then your hand. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until super-smooth and very elastic (or for 5 minutes in a stand-mixer). Put back into your cleaned-out bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, put the mozzarella balls in a sieve, break them into fine pieces and squeeze out as much water as you can. Leave in the sieve until the bread is risen.
Put the mozzarella into a food processor with the butter, parmesan, garlic, parsley, basil, oregano and some seasoning. Whizz until smooth.
To assemble the loaf, line the base and ends of a 900g loaf tin with one long strip of baking parchment. Using half of the dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface until it stops shrinking back and is
a big square, with each side roughly three times the width of your tin. Using kitchen scissors, cut the sheet of dough into 9 smaller squares – each square should be roughly the same size as the end of your loaf tin – roughly is the key word, the rougher it is, the better the end result will be. (If you end up rolling more of a rectangle than can be cut into 8 small squares, that’s fine too – 8 or 9 won’t matter.)
Keep back a couple of tbsps of the garlic butter, then spread half of the rest over each piece of dough. Stack the pieces on top of each other like a tall sandwich, then lift into the tin so the stack is on its side – it should fill roughly half the length of the tin. Balance the tin against a jar or something at this stage, so the layers don’t fall apart, and stay stacked at one end.
Repeat with the other half of the dough, and lift the second stack carefully in to sandwich with the first and fill the tin. Sit the tin back on a flat surface, cover loosely with oiled clingfilm, and leave for 20-30 minutes at room temperature until the layers have started to rise out of the tin and puff.
Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Bake the loaf in the middle of the oven for 40-45 minutes until the loaf is risen, golden and crisping on the top and sides. Brush the top with the remaining butter, or leave it for dunking when the you serve the bread. Leave the loaf to cool for 30 minutes in the tin, then carefully lift out onto a board, and let everyone tear slices off.
For the brisket:
1kg piece of Well Hung Butcher brisket
2 bay leaves
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
2 grated or finely chopped carrots
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 large tin of tomatoes
1 large glass of red wine
500ml Shamba Culture beef bone broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 squares 90% Absolute Single Origin Congo dark chocolate to finish
salt and pepper to taste, parsley to garnish
Start with a smidgen of oil in your casserole dish or sufuria. Turn up the heat. Place your piece of brisket in (it should be at room temperature) and brown all over. Once browned, remove from the heat and put in a little additional oil. Turn the heat to medium and add your onions, closely followed by the garlic, carrot and celery, and allow to soften. Then add the brisket back in together with the wine. Allow the alcohol in the wine to cook off for a few minutes and then pour in the beef broth or stock, tomatoes, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a very gentle simmer and place the lid on. At this stage, you can keep it on the hob at a very low heat, or you can move it to the oven at 180°C. Leave to cook for around 4 hours, checking on it and giving it a stir from time to time. After four hours, allow to cool before removing the meat from the pan. Put it on a board, grab two strong forks, and shred the meat. Return the shredded meat to the pan with the sauce. As you warm it through again, add in the chocolate for a glossy finish. Serve warm with a garnish of parsley.
Amazing pics below by Peter Ndundu – check him out here.