Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

On the crest of a Mexican wave

It was in the air last week, that subtler than subtle suggestion of summer that we’ve waiting on for so long.

Rather than being a particular scent of one thing or another, this hint – for me at least – was more a sense of something, a promise of things to come.

Memories of hot sand, warm stones, ice-cream, flowers, cut grass, new freckles, birdsong, briny air, sunlight through trees… this flickering slideshow all but flooded my mind, triggered it seemed, by the sight of the yellowest of yellow blossoms on the gorse.

And such weather we had at the weekend too! I wore my sunglasses for the first time in an age and as I drove home from work on Friday afternoon – the tunes pumping, the windows down – on more than one occasion I caught the sweet breath of barbecue in the air.

It was enough to make even the grumpiest curmudgeon crack a gap-toothed smile, not to mention make his or her stomach rumble.

Later that evening, I sat for a long time watching the sun slink slowly through the haze towards the opaque green hills on the cooler side of my kitchen window.

Ribboned and indistinct, it looked as if it was melting into a simmering pool of rusting bronze and crimson.

You’d be forgiven for thinking, what with all the talk of long summer days to come, I’d be in salad mode this week.  Well, I’m not and on the contrary I’m in ardent carnivore form.

Mexican-style beef brisket is marvellous stuff, especially if you have any to hand when the sun’s going down. But even if the weather gods have failed to clock that memo for clear skies and baking heat and it’s the greyest day in existence, Mexican brisket tacos with crunchy slaw, crema, sharp red onions and maybe even some jalapenos, will heat your soul through in no time.

My oft-ignored slow cooker churned out the brisket on Sunday evening (I had been fairly hopping with anticiaption for the last hour of the cooktime) and with some spicy beans, a shower of tangy cheddar and guacamole, all loaded into soft tacos, I was officially the King of the World.

A friend of mine likens Mexican food to painting by numbers. I suppose he means if you have the right ingredients, it’s as easy as painting by numbers.

Admittedly, Mexican beef brisket is very easy, despite the fact that it’s a fairly time consuming project. The upside, the right ingredients here mix together for a veritable Kracatoa of a taste explosions.

It’s even good the next day for breakfast, quesadilla style. But don’t just take my word for it.


1kg lump of beef brisket
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
1 red onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic 500ml of light beef stock tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp of Cholula or a similar amount of chipotle paste
1.5 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of chilli powder
1 tsp of smoked paprika
1 tsp of oregano pinch of salt black pepper the juice of half a lime


Start by heating the oil in a large frying pan and then sear the brisket, which you have cunningly cut into large chunks.

Lightly sear the beef on each side and then retire to the slow cooker.

Add the rest of the ingredients to a blender and blitz until smooth.

Pour all of this over the beef, stick a lid on and cook on high for six hours approx, or until the beef falls apart at the slightest touch.

Remove said beef and shred with two forks, trying not to eat too much (if you’re like me) as you go.

If the liquid in the slow cooker is too thin or too much, pour into a saucepan and reduce for a few minutes.

Return the shredded beef to the slow cooker and pour on the reduced liquid and mix.

Check the seasoning and it’s done.

Other than bite sized tacos, you could also load this beef into a burrito with all the associated accoutrements (guacamole, peppers, cheese, crema, red onions, pico de gallo etc) but whatever you do with it, you’ll feel like King/Queen of the World.

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